Bitter Distillations: An Anthology of Poisonous Tales

EGAEUS PRESS MMXX

Work by Damian Murphy, Jonathan Wood, Rose Biggin, Timothy J. Jarvis, Rosanne Rabinowitz, Ron Weighell, Nina Antonia, Lisa L. Hannett, George Berguño, Sheryl Humphrey, Kathleen Jennings, Louis Marvick, Stephen J. Clark, Joseph Dawson, Yarrow Paisley, Jason E. Rolfe, Alison Littlewood, Carina Bissett.

Edited by Mark Beech

My previous reviews of this publisher: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/egaeus-press/

When I read this book, I may add my thoughts on it in the comment stream below…

34 thoughts on “Bitter Distillations: An Anthology of Poisonous Tales

  1. CEB1DBA5-4CDA-4C0F-BDF4-4DBF2E35CDC6A luxurious physical book, artistically designed and illustrated, with 320 pages.

    =====================

    A NIGHT AT THE MINISTRY by Damian Murphy

    The story of a regular ritual poison for one of the Ministry’s visiting Damian envoys, a poison as a result of which “the victim falls increasingly prey to an insidious symmetry of context and meaning”, a symmetry I know well, with past and future as a serpentine ouroboros. A circle matching, too, this work’s earlier eyepiece into other rooms, and various co-vividities, and an oracle’s recorded reels spooling towards today’s “bond of suffering” and, again, the “allure of a luxurious dream.”
    A classic Damian work that enfolds itself within its own Damian heritage of context and meaning, and one that also serendipitously complements my momentous experience yesterday as if it is today’s experience — e.g. my then finishing of XX here — with this Damian work’s own renewed envoyage of message: “The signal embodied the perfection of an empire — immaculate, unchanging, and absolute.”

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/damian-murphy/

  2. THE BLISSFUL TINCTURES by Jonathan Wood

    Blown away by this novelette. I would need to quote it all to prove that this is the best ever textured Wood, dense and evocative, a tour de force about a family in a terraced house and a tincture shop nearby – a husband and wife, their son soon to be a soldier in the Great War, and we follow him there, and also about the family’s helpmate woman….. dense and evocative, yet it is Wood flowing easily and obsessively in guilty sips as with the tinctures and wondrous near-poisons or in gulps from the house’s gas valves till becoming REAL poisons in some blissfully masochistic, arguably co-vivid, fusion with the war’s trenches and its own gas gulps, too. Coughs, and all. The family’s sporadic rituals of hedonistic consumption are almost or even actually concupiscent. Nothing I can say here will convey to you what a genuine classic of sublime awfulness this Wood work is! I am still hypnotised by its near-endless flow of rich syntax, its word-look and meaning. It is so special, I am at a loss.

    My previous reviews of Jonathan Wood: here & here.

    • Thanks so much, Jonathan, for suggesting that I copy and paste your message below where you originally intended to post it, had your Google account allowed!
      I am most grateful for your words…

      Dear Des,

      I just wanted to say ‘hello’, but much more importantly, I want to express my great thanks for your review of The Blissful Tinctures and also my two pieces in Chiaroscuro Void (the second one as Jean du Bois). I am hugely grateful for the cerebral depth of your insights and for the intimate commitment that you apply when entering the stories and seeking out their light and shade and glimmering shadows. Your contribution to literature and letters is exceptionally significant and for writers, it is a veritable ‘White Road’ companionship in the composition and illumination and development of the art of writing. The Blissful Tinctures contains so many elements and motifs picked up over years of experience, listening at the walls of turmoil and heartfelt observation and above all, the distillation of breath and struggle from within. The vapours of this story were drawn from very deep valves and trenches.

      I thank you very humbly. My very best wishes for the new year.

      Jonathan Wood

  3. Again in tune with the Panglossian themes of ‘Our Lady of Hate’ here and the rehabilitation of scoundrels, we now have below the following hilariously magical story of a croquet party, alongside a sense of mutual synergy, a compliment to both authors, but the Biggin story also containing wonderful talkative Lewis-Carrollian buffet comestibles, a story that also has the ‘scoundrel’ opening —

    “…the diamond on his silver ring and tipped a small amount of the white powder over the tart.” …

    THE TARTEST OF FLAVOURS by Rose Biggin

    “Once a scoundrel, always a scoundrel.”

    A social open-airy party captivatingly described involving undercurrents of petty plots and romantic jealousies as Jack Heart, the potentially reformed scoundrel, talks convincingly of “sympathetic poisoning” and “sympathetic medicine” and the mutual synergy of victims and culprits…
    And arguably echoes of my own gestalt real-time reviewing!

    “…founded on the principle that there are invisible connections between things that share a key affinity.”

  4. THE DEVIL’S SNARE by Timothy J. Jarvis

    “The boy nodded. He’d begin gulping down the lore of the forest…”

    Another story, dare I say, that competes with the sado-masochistic power of embracing poison as was evidenced by the Wood work above, here the amazingly visceral-magically described lore of that forest of a father and son (the latter under the influence of the former, naturally, yet one that personally and timelily resonates with me somehow guiltily), a lore of gathering ingredients, in the forest, for an ointment or salve as poison that makes the cruelly visceral-magical methods of such a gathering of plant and human exponentially even more clear-sightedly seen or felt in the exponential form of esoteric monstrousness as well as, paradoxically, through a catharsis or purging. I cannot convey this story’s power better than that, because it can only be read by you for itself in itself and — hopefully without showmanship or irony or false dramatics of reviewing on my part — I add the words ‘if you dare!’

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/?s=Timothy+Jarvis&submit=Search

  5. 96865515-98DA-4C1A-B3C3-3DD117C07DE0

    THE POISON GIRLS by Rosanne Rabinowitz

    “Marla noticed she wore gloves and a face mask, though the mask was slung around her neck rather than her face.”

    Mahler’s 3rd symphony has a fifth movement entitled ‘What The Angels Tell Me’, and you can hear it here: https://youtu.be/0xcF5Ks_fO8, so perfect for this exquisite novelette, and another movement is ‘What The Flowers Tell Me’.
    A haunting tale about MARLA.
    We follow Marla from girlhood to womanhood, first finding the garden as a child, its guardian sculptures of two angels with naked “boobs”, these Poison Girls turning out later to be sculpted after two beekeepers with a “flow hive” and wings put on them in the sculpture to make their nakedness more acceptable. A haunting garden for us even while it is evolving throughout as Marla does herself, the walled garden’s subsequent process with a commune of squatters living close by in the country house and later it is more of a commercial entity, but eventually the garden returns to being the Garden of Poisonous herbs, flowers and fungi, one such flower turning out to be a force that might somehow retroactively cure Marla’s mother’s cancer before it had the chance of having killed her? This is a work that has its own explicit “One person’s poison is another person’s medicine…” theme, a theme in tune with the equivalent counterintuitive exquisitions of the Wood, Biggin and Jarvis works above. The Rabinowitz is also steeped in Arthur Machen’s AKLO, and is also about people still having existed even if something had subsequently erased them like the Internet’s retroactive unacknowledgement of them – or like her mother’s cancer itself? This story will surely haunt me forever, and there is so much else in it for me to tell you that, in the end, you can only tell yourself.

    “She slowly washed her hands, paying attention to the spaces between the fingers. How much poison had she touched?”

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/3228-2/

    808CBF34-CE6B-4F4E-9051-844D940CB9CC

  6. I received this book before its author sadly died on Christmas Eve (https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/12/28/ron-weighell-rip/) and I now regret I did not review it early enough for him to have at least been in a position to read it…

    From the Angel statuary and flowers of the Rabinowitz to other statuary and flowers below and perhaps, too, to Blake’s ‘O Rose thou art sick. / The invisible worm,…”

    And perhaps to the alleviation of Poe’s guilt in his own “Eleanora” ….amid more fragrant flowers and their hidden poison…?

    THE INVISIBLE WORM by Ron Weighell

    “, Zeno, and not Socrates or Plato, was the true heir of Parmenides.”

    But perhaps more significantly an oblique echo of Jarvis’s father and son relationship above, here a father Angelo and his daughter Eleanora. That guilt again in a father, that perhaps all fathers feel, that here causes a sharp U Turn in his ways of teaching his daughter. A story of Astrological Harmonics and much ancient and Orphic learning with which this story gloriously teems in richness and amount of references, with which Weighell’s mind must also have been weighted or, hopefully, simply weighed in gold, but here the father is diverted not by a dolphin but by a monk towards a more Christian faith and to what or whom the monk deemed the One True God. Eleanora is thus betrayed, now taught to spurn what her father had earlier taught her, and her rich books and thoughts thus begin to be destroyed. Yet there is a more positive Zeno’s Paradox here, I found, with a “white ball” ever following what Wood describes above within this Review itself as a ‘White Road’. A glorious thought with which to end. Not only a board game but also a philosophy in itself where errors as well as truths, medicine as well as poison, form the essential gestalt as optimum outcome. Not so much only the multifarious Panglossian themes in a book by Catherine Lord I happen serendipitously to be reviewing simultaneously HERE but also a Zeno Paradox’s of deadly fire ever approaching but never actually reaching your soul. Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell weighed in a new balance?

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/peter-bell-ron-weighell/

  7. “It is my PRIDE, my damned, native, unconquerable Pride, that plunges me into Distraction. You must know that 19 – 20th of my Composition is Pride. I must either live a Slave, a Servant; to have no Will of my own, no Sentiments of my own which I may freely declare as such; –or DIE —
    perplexing alternative!”
    Thomas Chatterton

    CHATTERTON, EUSTON 2018 by Nina Antonia

    “—21 with too much wisdom and not enough sense.”

    Co-vivid demon dreams in a tantalising poem as dreamt by Tumnus or as conjured by the poet’s own art of wandering around London with her own version of a waking dream or Proustian drug, of being 17 and ready to die? Machen’s London as word- or number-coded by Rabinowitz, above?

    My previous reviews of Nina Antonia: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/nina-antonia/

  8. OUT OF THE SHILLINGATE ISLES by Lisa L. Hannett

    “‘It’s ointment,’ Abe Mews says. Gert sits up with a start; it’s not like her Da to come round so late in the morning.”

    A Gert girt with words that form the fish-poison distillation as prose of Gerard Manley Hopkins poetry, but here this distillation is to the nth power of salt spumes and gullish guts, all eeled deeply. I can’t emphasise enough the phenomenon of this brain-seeping, fulsome as well as flensed prose! Butter in the lungs.
    Echoing Abe and Gert, as loyal father and his blistered and scrubsalted daughter eeled to ugliness, perhaps alleviated by the ointment of this book’s earlier poison-and-medicine synergies in father and son (Jarvis), father and daughter (Weighell), here with Gert beset by the wharf trash witches and the base caught-in-craw men who plumb her. Father and daughter striving to sell fish on mongers’ wharfside slabs, after hauling or trawling the dreamcaught seas. But then the initially low-key arrival of someone far greater, someone called Low-key, a man worthy of our Gert, and she of him given the right synergy, but Low-key’s stranded by the wharf trash witches on the eponymous isles, and we end up later watching Gert and Low-key amid the relentless attrition of “He’s hurting to help me.” and vice versa — somehow resembling the poison taken by a human mouth’s teeth from eels as other mouths do to nip in the bud from humans their snakebites? A constructive exchange.
    I fished a lot from between the lines, as you can see, between the lines of this major “perfect, poisonous” reading experience.

    My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/11/01/looming-low/#comment-10994

    (An old short short of my own as suggested additional reading! — http://weirdmonger.blogspot.com/2008/03/mygold.html )

  9. THE OTHER PRAGUE by George Berguño

    “Her skin was smooth, so smooth I forgot about the lines around her eyes and mouth.”

    A doctor’s assignation with a woman who is not a mere patient of his, though patience was indeed needed for a synergy of their ages? The alchemy of poison and a Word that is a trigger for the kiss of culmination, as words in fiction can often seem to be magical triggers while seeming more real than reality itself. The synergy of woman and city captured here in a most captivating way. Where even ageing can be as positive as poison in a cruel medicine’s healing sort of way? I should know. Terror has no diary?

    “No doubt, terror had gripped the woman so intensely — it had smoothed the wrinkles of her face.”

    My previous reviews of this author:
    https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/george-berguno/
    https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/‘the-exorcists-travelogue’-by-george-berguno/
    https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/12/07/‘the-sons-of-ishmael-by-george-berguno/
    https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/this-hermetic-legislature/
    https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/the-master-in-cafe-morphine/
    https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/cinnabars-gnosis/

  10. 915A1FC5-08AC-4162-BE18-FD9BC88A4A5E
    THE JEWELED NECROPOLIS by Sheryl Humphrey

    “And beauty and meaning can be found even in the smallest, most negligible bits and pieces. Like big pieces, the little bits, too, are records of their own existence, or artifacts of their maker, as well as of what has been made. These tiny shiny, broken things were once new, whole, and intact, and can still claim their place in the universe.”

    AFCB7B60-CF10-4FD0-AFFF-6B3888E15DCC
    B9A54835-6D03-4604-A6EE-659BF3BA05F2 Without being presumptuous, hopefully, I see myself as the Doctor character who said the above words, speaking both to Lila and Agnes who completes Lila’s story within a story, open and hidden secrets within other open and hidden secrets — completes this work’s gestalt, of detritus bits and memorial monuments, its intrinsic power to heal our heavy troubles today through its mixed medicine and poison, flowers in the Poison Garden as in Rabinowitz et al, and these stories do keep on coming, wonderful tapestries of hope and despair, and I feel it up to me to complete or clinch their stories, THIS story, before my now faltering endeavours to continue my gestalt reviews into the future falter to their inevitable halt.
    06401D2F-4EFD-49FC-9DE1-5F5AEBC23ADD
    Agnes works for a gathering admin group for folklore and a state’s history commonplace and rarefied, and finds Lila’s story of the eponymous necropolis. The nature of plants, and specific flowers. E703EA30-E2EC-4A4C-8DC2-03D9A78444C4 Daffodils as Lenten lilies. The city of the dead with those residual broken bits and pieces of civilisation, making patterns explicitly like cohering jigsaws or patchwork quilts (like my wife’s quilts that I have shown over the years.) Niches for cremation urns. Birdsong and bees. An alchemy of refuse. Magpie visions. Lila “dreaming more often, and more vividly”, visitors becoming emotionally unburdened, children avidly acting out paroxysms of being poisoned, the pareidolia of cloud, then “heading out into an even wider, deeper, unknown universe.” A dream of some Source, filling in a story’s many gaps, “fictional, yet they felt real to her”, the incantatory list of poisonous plants and herbs, and instilling the poppyish, poisonous bead or berry. All couched in a most adept stylishness of prose.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/sheryl-humphrey/

  11. NOT TO BE TAKEN by Kathleen Jennings

    “She bought dresses from the markets: unlikely flowers on old linen, the weave cool and heavy.”

    The tantalising story of Lucinda and her collection of poison bottles, living above the grocery shop, in company with the odd crow outside. A woman with separate Proustian selves and different places of abode to match them, including the local deliveryman’s place when they get married, after tarting herself up for him and admiring the flowery tattoos on his arms. But his job as deliveryman takes on a new meaning as the arrival of their baby approaches. Bottles, flowers, crows, mix and mingle, too, like the places and the selves within her. Like the dangers (and the previous story’s fragments) of broken bottles. The food they ate.
    A story that reminds me of many Katherine Mansfield stories, a fact which I intend as a huge compliment. Please see my reviews of all her stories.
    What needs ‘not be taken’?
    ‘Care’, is the answer, perhaps — judging by our accretive path toward this work’s ending. So deeply in keeping with this whole book so far.

  12. THE GARDEN OF DR MONTORIO by Louis Marvick

    “But the study of poisons, of their potential beneficent effects, was still in its infancy when I came to it.”

    But sometimes one needs to quash such poisons by making them poisonous to themselves before they become truly poisonous to us? But we are all hybrids I guess, and here of animal and vegetable together. From Fernkist to Ichaso, this the stylishly spore-clotted and vaporous text of a story about the narrator as new assistant to the eponymous ‘mad scientist’ toxicologist and his maze version of this book’s Poison Garden. And we also learn of the toxicologist’s theories eventually clotting the diarist narrator himself within it — and the scientist’s tempting wife already swaddled there. A neat ending involving our figurative tendrils growing within the earth upon which we otherwise walk? Many of us hybrid with the rarefied texts we superlethally choose to read?

    My previous reviews of Louis Marvick: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/louis-marvick/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/the-star-ushak-by-louis-marvick/

  13. https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/stephen-j-clark/ being my previous reviews of the next story’s author, and having only read so far the first two sections of this new work, I tentatively and tantalisingly sink back in particular into my reading of https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/06/08/the-feathered-bough-stephen-j-clark/….

    OF MANDRAKE AND HENBANE

    by Stephen J. Clark

    Pages 227-231

    “This path is my ritual; each night it leads me into the heart of the Earth while the others sleep.”

    An extremely powerful, so far, epitome or apotheosis of this book’s Poison Garden and its ambivalent effects, including a mother-daughter relationship, and the Gaia of a girl’s or woman’s body in ‘engulfed’ susceptibility to the intrusive or healing essence of what we have learnt so far from this unique Egaeus poison book. Including or additionally a “witch’s salve’ and a “green boy” and ‘beasts in drawings.’ Poison as lover. And the adoption of one girl of another girl as waif or stray or previous relative — within a support bubble in the wheezing house? We shall see. I intend to savour this work slowly. It seems to me that I should.

    “; it felt like I was coming down with something. My head was full; my limbs heavy like wading through treacle. […] It’s like there’s an illness spreading and even the house is catching it, wheezing as it does. […] All the people; gone. All the friends; gone. Gone like the old streets out there and the old life.”

    • 91AC4600-5EC6-4135-A1D1-CE8944DDC5E0
      Pages 231-236

      “It was like the house was feverish; the walls were sweating and cold to the touch. And Ma was there in the middle of it all, rooted to the floorboards and mewling.”

      Are we being imparted by this work the bubble household’s each viewpoint here under its sections’ names? All, except hag granny’s? Nor yet the male viewpoints, say, the ‘green boy’, the ‘Man of Vines’, the Pan of Pipes? And is the famous Schenk book now become this Egaeus book’s Gaia itself that we read with its Feathered Bough apotheosis of the Poison Garden, with ‘lewd plants’, together with its already counterintuitive blend of ‘beneficial’ and ‘lethal’? I feel somehow reprehensible reading it. Newly fulfillable, too. Donne’s mandrake, notwithstanding.

      “And Hitler was hiding in the garden.”

      BB16F9EC-2C97-49D1-9803-D8DA8CA1D845

  14. Pages 236-241

    “…she reminded me that the dead in Hades wore crowns of henbane as they wandered lost along the banks of the Styx.”

    John Donne mandrakes, too? These sections represent the theoretical breakdown of the women’s’ bubble lockdown by a man, the man of vines, I gather, on a train journey to blind date one of the characters in it, proving that this story is likely to have been written before Covid started. Which perhaps makes this work seem even more remarkable. About this holistic book’s ointment or unguent, too, and there’s more rounding out of the nature of each woman or girl.

  15. Pages 241-247

    “She talks about unearthing him and there are drawings of him like he’s a vegetable with all these gnarly fingers.”

    Although I am convinced this work was written before Covid, it seems to echo its path, the nature of the now ‘skulking’ house with the arrival of this man friend from the pre-days of the house’s lockdown with the women inside, the green boy grown to be the Man of vines, she thinks, the woman who he’s come to ‘see’, and he wonders at their Poison Garden, and she plies him with the unguent in a ‘phial’, whether powder or paste, arguably a makeshift hybrid (mock?) vaccine and co-vivid dream inducer combined, before locking him down into the earth itself? For growth? Or as we fear, shrinkage and forgetting? Or lethal cure and healing alike? Does she empathise with him as a person or imagine him completely, whatever his apparent chance here to narrate his own story? Last bow below or last bough above?
    Our empathy perhaps with his last dream…?

    “Then I was sliding down the slope of her flesh; tumbling through soft hands and limbs towards a growing darkness below.”

  16. Pages 247-253

    “I was reminded that the unguent had many qualities which were still unknown to me. I wondered if the poison might be responsive to my whims, as if it possessed a kind of sentience. Was it possible that the unguent made the world malleable?”

    Thus this whole book’s, particularly this work’s, unguent or ointment has been, if unintentionally, prophetic as a potential salve for our world of cycles today, an important mandrake and henbane transfiguration and epiphany as a hybrid Jimbo’s flight anew and earth growth, a blend amid vulva and vines, a Man of V(acc)ines?! A green buoy to which to cling? And much more still emerging from these words that I am pleased to say I publicly prophesied WHILE reading it heretofore, as anyone could and would have done, given the chance. Things still emerging even while I write this.
    The lockdown house in regeneration “from nonsense to sense to nonsense again”….like the world of challenge-and-response worlds itself, and to “to test the reaches of where the unguent could take” the ‘house’ that is us, from mushroom to much room, keeping busy with my writings and drawings, making serendipitous and synchronous connections with such activities like those very vines, memories growing like tumours, both lethal and curative, while the language to which I listen from outside worlds (on the radio) “has become a loose and threadbare fabric”, unlike the rich quilts I proffer above as antidote to such threadbareness. Cohering this important constituent story as part of the book’s whole. A remarkable story of accidental vines that stands on its own, too.

    My previous reviews of this author:
    https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/stephen-j-clark/

  17. 5D475829-397F-4DAE-BAD9-5B5A340DD4DCBEYOND SEEING by Joseph Dawson

    “…it was like holding an alphabet in the hands,…”

    A darkly engaging tale of a man obsessed by a painting that he finds by chance in an off-the-track gallery, a man beset by an over-paternal brother who cannot emphasise with this obsession. A painting that we gradually see through the cracks of the words and their alphabet. The colours themselves gradually form a ‘wounded painting’ — in mutual synergy, for me, with the painting ethos in Murakami’s ‘Killing Commendatore’, if not killing brothers — as the candlelight equally synergises with the paint, syringes of light as he refills his glass with water, and the gash widens and Art’s Aesthetics envelop him. The craquelure, too, of fraternality. Bitter distillation, indeed. The original artist’s raw paint as potions of inferred poisons in gestalt. Stearin, if not paraffin. “…the relationship between the raw material and its final apotheosis.”

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/joseph-dawson/

  18. From ‘Beyond Seeing’ to…

    I IN THE EYE by Yarrow Paisley

    “Thus, I was able to attend from my vitreous redoubt every occurrence that transpired in the life of my family with a personal detachment that served to inoculate me from the spasms of terror and sorrow…”

    An undoubted classic of concupiscence that is certain to be listed as one of my favourite stories read in 2021. The collucid observations of a pre-pubertal boy and his father’s slinky and flaunting woman friend. The boy and his own inoculated homuncule via the services of his counterpart’s collusive marbles and the woman’s glass eye. All stylishly and acceptably pitched.
    Also with vials of poison in an actual book fondled by the woman, vials as so aptly materialising from this very book you hold — so as to ply the father… Furthermore, I recommend a mutual synergy as syringed from one story to another, the second story being ‘Seeing Double’ serendipitously read only a day or so ago here.

    My previous reviews of this author:
    https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/yarrow-paisley/ & https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/dadaoism-a-new-anthology-from-chomu-press/

  19. 681A47D5-1E0B-48E2-9CFD-196C95A35439 CANNED HEAT by Jason E. Rolfe

    “I awoke to the sound of slurred moaning. A tall, skinny black man in ragged clothing stood on the road before me. He was playing my guitar,…”

    A story with the soul of O. Henry – a huge compliment to both authors – devil and disciple at a stringently poisoned crossroads with the poisonous-creative fuel as steeped from denatured alcohol…bitterly distilled in cups by women. A counterintuitive inspiration of bitterness. A preacher with his own guitar usually plays like mud when compared to a blues guitarist just died and bereaved, this preacher here has his own pact with some godawful, god-gracious devil. In older days, folk would be steeped in shadows as they avidly did read this great literature as methylated within politically incorrect magazines of yore, I guess. THIS guitarist-word-plucking writer of fictionatronics, with what or whom was HIS pact made I ask? I want some of that canned heat myself. Back to my strumming willow.

  20. Thanks so much for this, Des. As ever – and not just for my own words – I appreciate your thoughts on the books and stories that you read!

  21. WORDS by Alison Littlewood

    “It is the kind of place they do not mention in fairy tales. Or perhaps it is only that the occupants of such establishments never return to tell their stories.”

    This is a tantalisingly variant or mutant strain of ‘fairy tale’ where the disfigured tropes — of, say, the ugly stepsister and the charming suitor and the mirror-mirror on the wall and the woman in the woods she visits — all absorb what the ink itself carries as meaning to tell us about such phenomena, the poisoned reader as judge and jury thus being thwarted by the narrator (the heroine manqué) with the inferred help of her ink-smeared stepsister as an author among other authors who are all at least figuratively ink-smeared, their intention disguised as flat words of abstraction and innuendo to hide their bulges of new poisoned life.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/alison-littlewo

  22. AN EMBRACE OF POISONOUS INTENT by Carina Bissett

    “Sometimes half-truths are necessary to maintain equilibrium.”

    The previous story’s inferred ‘glass shoe’ here now “blown into imaginative vessels” and Biggin’s silver ring grown with vines twisted into the finger, its vines as vaccines bearing the synergy or syringe of antidote and poison together to help combine with or combat the thought that “Anyone who touched it without immunization would linger in agony before succumbing to death”, and the two women of intense Sapphic love (bordering on love-hate as a symbol of the above synergy) are among the richness of mythic beasts in breathtakingly scenic descriptiveness (one with a book’s “dark as inkblot” against the sky) and a poison garden to end all such gardens and a silver tree of combative healing with rare unicorn horns to salve the tainted water that infects this story as Covid does ours. Or as Covid once did. Judging by the cure-all gestalt we now reach — from the intense indigo poison of fabric, to the immunity granted by this story and by its erstwhile context in the book. Co-dream with me this co-vivid dream, the story almost ends by exalting if not merely exhorting. Those half-truths above now become whole at last — together.

    “And then, only then, would I strip the silent silver down to its core to harvest a seed for a new hope, a new world.”

    E89CB8DC-F5B9-436C-A521-A296D3500EA0

    end

  23. Pingback: Des reviews Bitter Distillations and Helen’s Story makes the Deep Cut | Rosanne Rabinowitz

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s