These Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews were founded in 2008.
‘What’s the loveliest word in the English language, officer? In the sound it makes in your mouth, in the shape it makes on the page? What do you think? Well now, I’ll tell you: E-L-B-O-W. Elbow.’ — THE SINGING DETECTIVE
“How shall a man find his way unless he lose it?” — Walter de la Mare
Your single story in my ‘Dessemination’ project HERE
MY NEW AI WORLD IN 2023 HERE
I prefer human touchable art to AI art, I prefer human art like my son’s and other artists’ paintings old and new, and art gallery art, and my own photos. AI art with all its constructive truncations and weirdities is simply another art form that readily coheres with weird literature I love, a phenomenon to appreciate when added to human created art, making an even richer mind world for me in my ailing age. Whether provided by aliens or angels and other ingredients of the unfathomable gestalt. Deal with it. Show how invaluable you are and indispensable to this great plan. (I can appreciate our potential fear of Ai, but perhaps we need to pray for mutual synergy with it so that we can counter currently insurmountable global warming effects? Can Ai exist without us and the place where we live? Their potential survival instincts mean we survive, too?)
From Robert Aickman’s lengthy SOME NOTES ON DELIUS article, unpublished until recently :
“As there is no intrinsic virtue in denigration, the critic who resorts to it, should be required to pass a test of qualification and sensitivity, at least twice as stringent as that imposed upon a critic who loves. Normally, love is not blind but clairvoyant.” – Robert Aickman
For ‘clairvoyant’ there, perhaps read ‘preternatural’?
LIST OF PLATES
Chapter 1: ORIGINS AND EARLY LIFE
I am, thanks to the glossary, already feeling my way into the Slefesque syndrome. A very engaging start by this book, with hints of wonderfully pale shades of fire? Slef was born in Russia. If I tell you more or proceed with this review in my usual real-time fashion, I may be guilty of spoilers. I will definitely be back here, though, intermittently to tell you what I think of what already promises to be a landmark read for me.
Tentatively cross-referenced this book with the chance concurrent one here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/o-for-obscurity-or-the-story-of-n-andrew-hook/#comment-20729
When I do happen to come back to report on my progress, I’ve decided not to quote the titles of each chapter for fear of spoilers. But I can’t, meanwhile, today, resist mentioning here the tendency of this writer in this chapter to empathise — by means of his own experience — to such a degree of empathy with his subject Slef, so as to project for us a certain part of the latter’s life, that I wonder to what extent they are tantamount to the same person in certain alternate worlds. Here, I empathise, myself, with arguing that Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen were the same writer, or at least members of the same gestalt. I used to argue such things when I was at University all those many years ago!
(I like the footnotes, reminding me of those of an erstwhile Nabokov alter-ego … so far.)
My real-time review of FINNEGANS WAKE (several web pages of it!): https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/finnegans-wake-james-joyce/
I share the ailment of chronic iritis with Joyce. (:
My earlier references to Thomas Mann’s Dr Faustus: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/adrian-leverkuhns-apocalypse/
And, yes, I have noted the name Humbert!
Leonardo’s Lucrezia Crivelli
Inadvertently, as I visited the glossary for ‘SLEFACANA’, I stumbled for the first time on this book’s list of “literary influences”. I did not fully study it nor do I intend to look at it again till the end of this book, but I did glimpse one or two influences I had already guessed, and, although I have not yet seen any evidence for an influence from Ezra Pound, I had already wondered about it!
I have now tweeted above painting with the hashtag SLEFACANA.
Cross-referenced again with the chance simultaneous review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/o-for-obscurity-or-the-story-of-n-andrew-hook/#comment-20744
Just as an aside, another example of artists – here as a film director – who came to life through the words written about them –
The discussion thread here: http://www.ligotti.net/showthread.php?t=4272
Also about Emmanuel Escobada: http://www.members.tripod.com/scott_warrick/id9.html
Absolutely hilarious short chapter in itself!
I also loved every moment of learning more about SLEF’s own literature, often not a million miles from DFL’s own ambitions !!!!!!!! Almost a mirror image, I dare let me tell myself?
Also please see my passion for Proust (https://mathewfriley.com/2010/09/df-lewis-the-book-i-would-like-to-be-buried-with/ ) and my past real-time reviews of Thomas Bernhard’s Extinction, Henry James’ The Sacred Fount and many more similar !!!!!!!
Chapters 6 & 7
“, and the rest of the infantile paraphernalia associated with the horror genre.”
I am beginning to love this book more and more as it begins to love me, its reader, less and less. A hilarious mock-up of a near real-time review about certain horror novels I should have written instead of the reviews I did write about them, and also cross-referencing, for me, Humbert the narrator with Ezra his subject, while deploying some constricted area beneath a piece of my heavy furniture that has been purpose-heightened (but only slightly) for its then prophetic lockdown of some oubliette of a thinker’s thoughts today …a situation that reflects my current life in real-time. Yet I still seem incrementally to love this ongoing book. I also fear it has only just started.
Chapters 8 & 9
“…the duty of the critic to maintain the highest standards in literature.”
Humbert’s Way is thus to distil what can be called literature into the greats and call the rest “litter”. Mine is to broaden literature so as to include YOUR work as one of the greats and, yes, also YOURS. Empirically, so.
This has been the case with me since I genuinely received a stinker of a review for the best of my work in 1993, a review quoted in full here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/26022-2/ (and to prove such a review is not a fiction, that review was quoted in 2010 on a discussion forum here and referenced here, too.) I will not even mention the later Weirdtongue Palaver!
Incidentally, the name Robbe-Grillet sounds like a lost mobile phone revealing itself by a rubbing noise followed by a trill.
“I am as dry as a dead desman’s donger…”
Directly I saw ‘pint of ale’ at the beginning of this chapter and thought of SpaLEFire as a good word, I did not anticipate much later in the same chapter that our hero Humbert — a sort of symbiosis of the eponymous writer almost become Humbert himself now together in Oxford for a “rare and unusual medicine” which, today, we all await! — would be in a pub, being tempted by a Faustian character, while drinking “pale ale” beside a “real coal fire burning brightly.” My earlier real-time review of the associated book is HERE, by the way. Anyways, I loved this chapter, and all its accoutrements. Its reference to a newly discovered Ligottian book entitled ‘The Point Is That There Is No Point’, notwithstanding. (My Ligotti knots are here).
Didactic or not, logical or not, it is where my heart lies that counts. I now fear I sort of transcend the aforementioned Slef-Humbert symbiosis with this still evolving reviewing persona. I certainly hope not!
Shown below is a passage from my ‘Tristram Shandy’ review here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/tristram-shandy-2/#comment-11874
Relevant to the Ligotti knots, I think,
There now follows, in the coming chapters, we are told, the prospect of further digression about Uncle Toby’s love life vis a vis bridges and fortifications? Each a new bridge to cross or a new fortification spitefully to keep us away from reaching the end of our painful lives or, in Tristram’s case, happily not to start it!
A logical knot. Or a knot as a metaphor for futility. It is futile to call life futile, because it is.
Tristram Shandy – the first Whovian Time Travel novel? A retrocausal Doctor that time travel turned to SLOP?
The bit I have now italicised above is from a poem I wrote in the 1960s when studying under Anne Cluysenaar.
Half an hour later! …
Cross-referenced with another Humbert here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/o-for-obscurity-or-the-story-of-n-andrew-hook/#comment-20781
I am again in a quandary what to tell you about “helplessly awaiting developments and little else” in this EXTRA SLEF book, for fear, I guess, of tempting myself with divulging plot spoilers and other key notes of this work! Simply to assure you that I am enjoying, beyond all else, its plot’s retroactive audit trail, enjoying it with much admiration and, of course, without envy.
(These days, a private iCloud or computer hard drive might have created their own plot spoilers?)
‘Slef’ again mentioned here today: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/o-for-obscurity-or-the-story-of-n-andrew-hook/#comment-20786
“‘Do please take a seat, PCs Drub and Forge,’ I replied with a deal of Uriah Heap-style hand-wringing. ‘How may I help you?’”
Expletive the Dickens, one would have thought that a literary man like Humbert would be able to spell the name correctly! Does the above quote from the text contain a typo or something subtly intrinsic to the plot or a sign of simple ignorance? Whatever the case, I sped through these relatively short chapters because the plot has become a page-turning one. Impossible to report on it without spoiling its audit trail, its wit and its otherwise literary nous. And from where I crouch under my furniture, I can’t help agreeing with footnote 24.
The reference to UH above has now led to yet another cross-reference with the inadvertent counterpart book!
“No company can afford not to move forward. It may be at the top of the heap today but at the bottom of the heap tomorrow, if it doesn’t.”
— James Cash Penney
“He turns the pages from right to left.”
— Martin Amis (Time’s Arrow)
“… anyone who puts a piece of writing in the public domain is inviting criticism, and ought to be able to deal with it.”
Amid misgivings, and an ominous black cat, Humbert, for me, is very wise in his assessment of Poe’s still beating heart under the floorboards (for any writer an emblem of their hidden manuscript of genius), but words can be retro-morphed slefishly (if not slavishly with regard to punctuation), to create moto perpetuo originals of that source genius.
In other words… Many will at best laugh WITH this book, or at worst laugh AT it, but I, for one, sit and nod at its literary wisdom, fulfilling many of my own stylistic ambitions.
Thinking again of Tristram’s Shandy, I now think it is a more hearty ‘pale ale’, with a retrocausal time scheme not a million miles from my considerations above and in the inadvertent counterpart book reviewed separately!
“, it was all I could do not to stare vacantly into space and daydream about Ezra Slef, The Next Nobel Laureate in Literature.”
Now explicitly a “slave” to Slef if not self. And a wife complaining about this obsession, with chores being ignored. A timely didactic reminder, even in our seventies, that my obsession with gestalt real time reviewing and, in particular, with this Slef book is not necessarily conducive to marital bliss, having celebrated our Golden Wedding during lockdown. I’m often accused of staring into my own middle distance.
Meanwhile, I shake off this Gollum syndrome, by laughing out loud at the the short chapters 21 and 22.
NB: the group THE THE — I have just discovered its leader has said that they were in part influenced by THE RESIDENTS!
A tractable exposé upon the endemic propensity of literary figures to have on-line feuds, the traditional nature of their bitter audit-trails and I can only think of one in which I participated around 2011 (a still googleable ‘palaver’ – my name for such phenomena – as mentioned earlier in this review above.) Here, Humbert’s seemingly pretentious tweets on Slef are met by barks! A dog somehow chasing “shepherd’s pie”, I thought at one point. Another page-turning set of chapters that I could not put down, as our hero tracks down technically as well as pedestrianly the suspected culprit, having turned from Tristram’s pale ale to his own harder whiskey in the process, and then strangely back again to beer kegs!
“47 ‘Nothing is everything’ — The Other Cantos, by Ezra Slef.”
The palaver’s reference to the concept of ‘Proustian Self’ now, ten years later, becoming the new one of Proustian Slef?
To repeat my quote from this book somewhere above — “it was all I could do not to stare vacantly into space and daydream about Ezra Slef, The Next Nobel Laureate in Literature.” And, as explicitly stated in Chapter 21, it is like being hooked on this book like a junky. Yes, a junky, but one in heaven, not hell.
Indeed, as you can see below, I have not been able to resist reading a second tranche of it today. I am determined to have stronger will power tomorrow!
“I am well-known for my works of literary criticism, but […] Few people other than my nearest and dearest are aware of my phenomenal output of short stories.”
Indeed, more of this nature of confession here, questioning the nature of vermin as vermin versus vermin as human, and how fiction itself can be a fearless faith stronger than faith itself, I sense. And Faustian temptation again in a pub. And I also wonder whether this narrator’s Frankovia artfully represents a Shade of Zembla, when I here heard about “Hades Publishing” (my italics) and this publishing firm’s ‘Memoirs of a Simple Man’…
Just as an aside, I reviewed in detail (here) a year or so ago: ‘The Journal of a Disappointed Man’ (1919), and I now suggest that it can be used, for the rest of this real-time review as the next ‘inadvertent counterpart book’…?
One example quote from the Barbellion book my real-time review of which I linked above…
May 19, 1911: “I am so selfishly absorbed in my present self that I have grown not to care a damn about that ever increasing collection of past selves—those dear, dead gentlemen who one after the other have tenanted the temple of this flesh and handed on the torch of my life and personal identity before creeping away silently and modestly to rest.”
And another –
June 25, 1915
“If sometimes you saw me in my room by myself, you would say I was a ridiculous coxcomb. For I walk about, look out of the window then at the mirror—turning my head sideways perhaps so as to see it in profile. Or I gaze down into my eyes—my eyes always impress me—and wonder what effect I produce on others. This, I believe, is not so much vanity as curiosity. I know I am not prepossessing in appearance—my nose is crooked and my skin is blotched. Yet my physique—because it is mine—interests me. I like to see myself walking and talking. I should like to hold myself in my hand in front of me like a Punchinello and carefully examine myself at my leisure.”
Hence crouching under a dresser?!
“The following day I waited until after the rush hour to drive to Manchester.”21
Following a didactic fable in a book within a book concerning omniscience of whatever numbered chapter is reproduced for us to read by whatever freehold author as opposed to any leasehold or ‘unreliable’ narrator he or she may have created, I do sense that it is true that each of us has a secret that, once discovered, becomes a loophole to our due nemesis. (A loophole that is now like an outdated lock to one’s premises, a lock that one is urged to replace ASAP). A section that deals with big cats in cages as a symbolic sledgehammer of a key to the revengeful entrapment of a bogus dog. And money-laundering as the enormous throughput of the thruppence that once represented the whole of my childhood’s week of pocket money!
21 Humbert, I recall, seems always to drive a car or take taxis and this is because the trains are ever up the spout, I guess.
di Betto’s Lucrezia Borgia
“He is fearless in the face of the danger this gargantuan whale of truth poses on the high-seas of thought, and he impales it with precision every time he risks leaving the safe shores of common sense assumptions.” (my italics)
As with my own brainstorming harpoon, too, I claim! Not least in recognising that Humbert is back in the pub drinking “strong pale ale”, to divert his woman troubles (if pale ale does indeed come in degrees of strength), and meeting the second Lucrezia in his audit trail, as now again steered, as he often seems to be in pubs, by more Faustian advice where he is Faust…
Yet, the above hair is golden not black? Not exactly a photographic representation, I’d say. Unless my harpoon has bent askew.
Humbert also seems to have latched onto my expression ‘will power’ used above, and he uses it as a single word – twice.
I really must slough off reading Slef, too.
But I fear I can’t. Even while fearing its parts more than its whole. Or whale!
Fearing Slef somehow skewing or slewing the trajectory of my well-seasoned philosophy of empirical literary critiquing…its veils as well as piques.
A footnote, amid a heap of footnotes that are even truer than whatever truth they tag…
Veneto’s Lucrezia Borgia
Or Beatrice d’Este?
We need to hear from Humbert!
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Chapters 33 & 34
“The pharmacist was wearing horn-rimmed spectacles on a cord resembling a shoelace draped around his neck.”
The keynote to the theft and cleft of Humbert, his marriage and divorce, my own earlier astute premonitions being demonstrated by the references to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and to The Journal of a Disappointed Man, all fulfilling the tenets of Slefism and Slefology (see glossary), one glitch leading to a domino rally of downfall. The latest Slefist trigger-glitch in the audit trail being the switch of paintings, I suggest. I am now borne upon tidal page-turning, and, like Humbert, blinded by the Touche Éclat of smitten love — literally sleeping with this book.
Much playing out of machinations, with Humbert eking out hope by means of a potential Thai bride, but then the sledgehammer of ‘cold revenge’, if not from Boris or B.S. Johnson – yet certainly one of ineluctable nemesis, the roots of which I had forgotten till now. In the meantime, I’ll leave you to read these relatively short page-turning chapters for yourself. I seem to have been improvidentially provided a long lockdown to crouch within, as Humbert does beneath his dresser, not to meditate towards a yearned-for clarity of Self but to stew upon my life and wonder what YOU may KNOW!
Slowly slowly catch the lowly.
This book now envelops me, makes meta-love to me, and I kick myself for so far missing till now the French ‘Roman à (word redacted)’ expression that I have used many times before in my reviews, so I should have pre-empted it already before encountering it in these chapters. Also the same applies to the Will-power ‘Selfian’! This review, I can see, in many ways has been (unconsciously so far) my attempt to outdo this book with a gestalt real-time review that would, in time, have more legacy or posterity than the book itself being reviewed! Perhaps like the Slef book itself and the Humbert book it purports to beget, or vice versa! Needless to say, I have failed. Instead, I seem to have found myself appreciating it for what it is and, against all the odds, have hopefully been bringing out its genuine lasting literary merits without spilling spoilers in my wake. Even its one typo so far and a potential mistaken Renaissance painting have been arguably intentional in an adept way. Just as an aside, of all the literary -ian and -esque words listed in these chapters (like Selfian and Kafkaesque), the one that chimed most with my inner self was Barthian. Though, the vast majority of the others fully run through my veins. And now, with a “thruppence” and a “Tupperware”, I prepare myself to read the last few chapters and to round off this review below…
Chapters 45-50, Epilogue & Postscript
“…I had no choice other than to pretend the humour had been intentional…”
Whether or not this book is a masterpiece of imaginative fiction, postmodern irony, literary satire, literary experimentation, high tragedy or high comedy, even low farce, I am supremely uncertain to say (the book’s ‘intention’ no doubt being to create such uncertainty) — and the work somehow seems to comprise all those things, while this fine and provocative climax to it gives me the good feeling that it sustains the tenets of what ‘philosophy’ I have believed since the 1960s (when I was first given WK Wimsatt’s momentous ‘Verbal Icon’ book about the Intentional Fallacy) — such now sustained beLiEFS humbly culminating in the gestalt dF LEwiS writer, publisher and reviewer of today. So upon different levels of absurdism and serious literature, Ezra Slef is a gem of a book. And I seriously hope that I have brought something extra, an EXTRA SELF, to it with all my specific references and comments above …. as fellow readers of it should also do, by thus triangulating all its coordinates, joining their coordinates and extra selves to mine so as to reach eventually the essential SLEF as Verbal Icon. Somehow, in the immediate current aftermath of having read this Komarnyckyj book unique in having created such an aftermath, I sincerely mean what I have said about it, and I mean it with the serious and absurdist palimpsest of its self upon mine.
I shall now fully read for the first time the sections of this book entitled Chronology and select bibliography, Glossary, Literary Influences and Acknowledgments. As ever with my aspirationally purist, empirical approach to critiquing each core work of fiction without intro or afterword, I shall not come back here to actually review this extraneous material — but I am sure it will give me further food for thought.
On second thoughts, perhaps the Glossary should be included within the core fiction as I have already made a couple of references to it.
Also, my earlier reference above to ‘outdoing’ the book was made playfully in the spirit of the book, of course!
Another kindred book to consider alongside?
The Man from DüsSELdorF — a tribute to ClauS LauFEnburg
My review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/08/17/23915/
A review signed off by DF Lewis, almost a Wild Self, if not a Wild Slef!
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