29 thoughts on “Tony & Susan by Austin Wright

  1. Hopefully no spoilers. Just emotions.

    Pages 1 – 12

    “Come on, let’s begin.”

    And that quote is from where, in real-time, I have just finished reading this book temporarily, tantalisingly just BEFORE Susan starts reading her ex-husband Edward’s unpublished novel the one that she has received from him so that she can comment on it at his request and suggest to him the vital keystone addition that might clinch its gestalt, as he hopes and expects, based on his past knowledge of her skill of critique. Ironically, she has delayed three months before starting it, but now seemingly fearful, after the event, about being jolted by a secret message of hate or whatever else in it that is potentially volcanic! We already know she has already started reading it before we are allowed to do so, unless I misunderstand the freehold author’s control of these leaseholded events … and she has even failed to envisage what Edward looks like now after so many years. And the reviewer himself may be equally unreliable? I somehow hope not. I, too, not unlike Edward, gave up writing in the main after I started my working life in the Insurance industry. It hints that Susan won’t be able to stop reading his novel once she starts it. Her current husband Arnold, by the way, is a heart surgeon, presently absent from home at a conference. I am so tantalised, I feel all satisfyingly pent up, and so will you be. This, no doubt, is a book I should have deemed unmissable had I known about it before a few days ago.
    E & OE

  2. I do not wish to be tempted to take more than one daily bite (if that) at this book’s cherry. But today I will break that rule, perhaps to celebrate that there seems to be two novels running at once, or running into each other, an all-nighter reading trip for some? Sporadically, I look up from reading it to see what else is happening around me — also as I write this and intermittently amend it.

    Pages 12 – 29

    “fiction is fiction”

    I have, so far, decided not to share with you the nature of Edward’s novel, other than it is about aptly named Tony Hastings and his wife Laura and his daughter Helen — a novel already, for me, that is highly suspenseful, ominous, one that is now being read semi-episodically by Susan in her broad ‘first sitting’ with its pages, while she is looking up sometimes to watch her kids and their friend Mike play Monopoly and her cat Martha stalking itself, at least in its mind, I guess.

    “protocol is protocol”

    • No doubt, in future, I will try to be more abstemious with my comments upon this book and upon the unpublished novel within it, and to merely express my thoughts and emotions as felt or affected by the real-time unfolding of the passionate reading-moments’ otherwise expressively lean author-assisted journey. A fearlessly mutual faith in the reader’s mind to and from each fiction stream. Stalking each other and me?

  3. Pages 30 – 49

    “This is a deliberate interruption of her reading, for she didn’t really have to go to the bathroom.”

    In many ways, my being deliberately pent-up away from this book for at least the length of the day ahead, instead of for the mere length of a bathroom break, is somehow a great relief. This is a deliberation I make but I also find it hard to fight the parallel irresistible attraction of keeping within this book without any break!
    This disarmingly lean freehold narration possibly represents horror meeting horror for the first time on two potentially parallel levels of narration where the blend of them creates truth in BOTH. But which level has the ‘Monopoly’? I ask, and I also keep saying to myself something that is said in this section: “But this is fiction,…”

    “Sure I’m scared. I’m scared as hell.”

  4. Pages 49 – 68

    “More questions followed, which he had not known were there.”

    More disarming innuendos, too, as the Monopoly scenario develops in the reader’s world, aka Susan’s world. I ask, somehow, still not understanding, when is a child still a child, when is it a grown up? Also, does everything remain an anticlimax without a disaster to clinch its gestalt?
    But this is fiction.

    “His life was a scenario of disasters that never took place.”

  5. Pages 68 – 92

    “He saw a broad net spread under the trees hung from several treetrunks to catch whatever might fall…”

    A dreamcatcher net, a turning pear-shaped in the course of perceived events, or girl children who grow up “soft-breasted”, later making love in fields, the Monopoly game having just broken up, & there is indeed something for me very co-vivid about the novel Susan is reading or HOW she is reading it and interpreting it, the seeing of trees and glades through the eyes of the main protagonist in agonising suspense at what has or might have happened to him and his wife and daughter, seeing the woods anew now in broad daylight, and the paranoia of fiction being real and seeping into your own world, and this is possibly the best example of my own feeling about some fiction when I happen to apply my method of real-time reviewing to them. Page-turning and paranoiac. Susan apparently can’t resist moving straight from Part One of the novel to Part Two where she had intended to pause for the day, I think. Hoping that anti-climax will continue to pile on anti-climax without eventual disaster, I somehow NEED to resist this irresistible impulse upon each sitting of my reading the novel that dreamcatches the novel that she is reading!

  6. Pages 93 – 112

    “How terrible for mankind if all the labor of centuries were destroyed.”

    I think Susan comes here to the end of her first sitting reading Edward’s novel. The veneer of civilisation, the hope for eternal anticlimax – all threatened at least. Makes her think of her earlier days with him, his character in hindsight, and today living with Arnold and her family. As Tony in the book she reads also thinks through such matters from a different, more disastrous angle…
    Never before has fiction seeped into fiction like this to reveal a truth.
    But when two negative numbers are multiplied…. what do you get? But here they are probably added together, I guess.

  7. Pages 115 – 118

    A strong prophecy of a co-vivid dream deploying Susan’s forbidden thoughts now seeping from the lockdown area beneath a trapdoor. Now unlocked by the osmosis of Edward’s novel? — as a new day dawns…
    Both novels — Susan’s ‘unwritten’ novel (yet essentially written for us to read) and Edward’s literally written one via the ‘unwritten’ one — are similarly a co-vivid dream of each other, creating truth from dream?

  8. Pages 119 – 129

    “To be heartbroken means to have a story, and their stories brought them together,…”

    This book, for me, now takes on an unlean leap into a new league of complex but understandable sophistication, as we consider, alongside Susan, the backstory from childhood of her relationship with Edward before they got divorced, their youthful attitudes, and complexes of behaviours, sexual and otherwise. Her discovery of other things such as his ambition to be a writer. These pages are absolutely fascinating and revelatory. This book is surely subject to huge underrating by its posterity.

    “The plot summary of Susan’s memory… […] …an unbearable excitement of the present tense,…”

  9. Pages 130 – 148

    “Start over, undo this thing. Change one moment, that’s all I ask, then let history takes its course.”

    …although Edward’s book about Tony is already crystallised by being written down, as we follow Susan’s further thoughts of her marriage to Edward, and on her current husband Arnold – is he as clever a surgeon as she always thought he was? Is Edward a better writer that she once thought? And now she embarks on a new day of reading Edward’s unpublished book, her second sitting and Tony’s wish expressed above to change things, still talking as it were with his wife, going away with friends and their children to a beach on some dream archipelago, I guess. What I wrote earlier this morning here about other fictional evidence now seems even more relevant – ‘I am now judging my own priorities in spending most of my time studying and semi-explicating or half-answering books by other writers instead of writing more of my own books. Perhaps I am instinctively tempted by the alchemy provided by islands of external reality as projected elsewhere by elsewho … and factoring those ‘dreams’ with the gestalt of some inner reality that I am developing?’
    I wonder if Edward’s future ability to rewrite his unpublished book might change things, as all writers can revise their books before they are published, change those dreams of reality that might otherwise change other people’s realities and realisations of truth in their own lives?

  10. Pages 149 – 170

    033C2177-D91F-4D96-887C-8DBFC4EA15B2”She hopes the novel does not prolong his depression, for who wants to read about a depressed protagonist?”

    These pages end with Susan somehow hearing in the distance my favourite opera, Parsifal. Tony’s depression, that is, meanwhile, in the above quote. And only writers talk about ‘protagonists’ in the context of fiction, I guess. And the earlier Monopoly in the novel describing the woman reading an actual novel, albeit an as yet unpublished novel, briefly turns to Charades in the inner novel. And it is as if the characters in both ‘novels’ are playing out characters or tropes concerned with the diminishing figures of their respective spouses, Susan with Arnold’s career and other suspicions, and Tony with his bereavement but still talking to his wife and considering her interests, whatever the state of his independent ‘cock’. Still utterly compelling for me, Tony’s story takes the turn of his duty to identify or crystallise other characters whom he can remember as if darkness on the night and memory loss are concomitant (cf the sense of mutability in ‘The Evidence’ elsewhere in the review of which I again, this very morning, linked — as part of my own detective work — to this ‘Tony & Susan’ work.) An attempted identification-link in my real-time reviewing…

    “I understand. Here’s my advice. If you’re unsure, pass. Because if you recognize someone it comes with a click, gestalt, do you know that word?”

  11. Pages 170 – 189

    “Perhaps the pariah with the turban and the castaway goat was something he forgot to revise.”

    Literature containing revisable fictions is not a science but a rough-edged preternaturalism of slouching miracles toward some ‘Bethlehem’ of resolution or clinched gestalt. The interaction between the two novels is a revelation to me of the intentional fallacy, after years of studying the intentional fallacy in this context, viz. how Tony slips down the gears of self-worth, Susan, too, and what bespoke message is being whispered to each by the other – to each reader, too, with his or her own discrete life and belief system. The inward impulse to resolve things, to make unclear matters clearer, whatever the rough-edged identity parade. Yet, intentions, those of the freehold authorial and leasehold characters alike, still remain clouded. But whatever the rough edges, this seems to be a clear-sighted work of entertainment that is compelling and page-turning, whatever the ohm resistor I deliberately apply, with will power, to its flowing circuit through my filters and baffles. Character charades amid paradoxically multiple monopolies of viewpoint. Even transcending death itself?

  12. Pages 189 – 217

    “Susan Morrow reads on, no pause here,…”

    No pause for me, too, in reading Tony’s story, no pause where I originally intended to pause. I don’t know what that says. A crucial moment, that I could not by-pass till tomorrow, in some clearing of the wood. An ‘angry joy’, or ‘good rage’, reading a book is not mere gaping as at a screen, but a rough justice in itself. This book of two books somehow transcends its own didacticism. Beyond Wagnerian. A righteous monopoly over other or different interpretations, notwithstanding. An impulsive slam of a bat against the base-ball of fundamentals. Now for this book’s second explicitly official intermission in reading. More on the Morrow, I hope, yet still I am hasting not towards its end. I insist.

    • ‘thinking into Ray’ as a symbol of expression for the new way to transcend authorial intentional fallacy by playing with the characters themselves as if they are outside the book, outside the author’s control?

  13. C6200863-DA75-4064-B07E-AFE46CDF35D4Pages 221 – 247

    “…where everything is connected, Edward, Tony, Susan’s various minds, one leading to another and back, the same and interchangeable.”

    Another interlude from reading for Susan, if not for me! Still, each of my day’s turning is my own abeyance, I guess. Bed rest, then reading again. Now with Susan almost writing her own enveloping book with the memories of her own backstory with Edward, then with Arnold after the institutionalisation of the latter’s wife and her carving knife. A foursome that literature can feed on forever. Don’t go there!
    Seriously, a section of this book’s gestalt that is as complex and satisfying as a Henry James novel, and indeed it actually mentions an unnamed heroine in a Henry James novel in the body of the text as some sort of hidden cipher. This old book of Austin Wright here also remarkably prefigures today’s ’Trumpish’ or populist syndromes… “She creates a clear sentence by lopping, exaggerating, distorting, and sealing over what’s missing like paint. This gives her such an illusion of clarity or depth that she’ll prefer it to truth and soon forget it’s not truth.”
    Deals also obliquely with Edward’s obsession with writing and the Art of Fiction in general, “the spell of the wilderness angel”, the use of candles, inter alia, in marital quandaries, the strange poetics of gongs and penis-hunting, the double meaning of “cleave”, the mutability of ‘narrative’, leading to a continuing mistrust by Susan of Edward’s unpublished yet somehow now ‘published’ book that she is about to start reading again, an ominous fear for us all that will have to await my own next reading of this book as a whole. Can reading change life itself? Even I somehow doubt it! Tomorrow may change my mind. Writing is indeed words used for later use.

  14. Pingback: “the spell of the wilderness angel” | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  15. Pages 251 – 269

    “The space in the text is not a chapter, but Susan Morrow pauses, blocked by something.”

    Fearing a sex scene, Susan resumes reading these pages of Edward’s manuscript, the new ready pages a much smaller pile than that of those already old and read. Tony’s bereavement afterMATH, sounding off about the Event with his students, his cock released from its prison, a woman once his ‘child’ student now a woman*, with all the ghostly guilts, almost like a bedroom scene from “Oh, Whistle…”, crowding in, following his earlier violent impulse of catharsis punching the Ray who had kicked it all off on that trip to Maine. *A woman aptly labelled “GERMANE.” Here, such a sophisticated return by Tony to civilised interaction as if after a personal pandemic represented by the Event on the car trip to Maine, a sophistication explicitly here called ‘play-acting’, the Monopoly of obsession atomised by life’s Charades once again… “, or they are the nude scene itself getting out of hand in front of the stage crew. Or they are political leaders on the sly after the summit protocol, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.”
    A Tony Novel shuffling its pages like playing cards between the pages of Susan’s own imagined or projected novel already here in words. Tony, teacher of Math as the polar opposite of Edward his creative writer creator, Susan’s Arnold an exponent of bodily science as surgical but equally forensic foil? Can writing fiction ever be forensic? Only spontaneous stabs at trying to reach truth can actually reach truth itself, a truth beyond the crude populism of lowest common denominators as symbolised usefully in Tony’s Math?

  16. Pages 270 – 282

    “Tony thought, It’s not just Ray. He was afraid of Bobby Andes.” (my italics)

    Andes has a cancer death coming up, too. And indeed I try to bend the rules of book reviewing as Andes now wants to bend rules in his police procedurals (cf the Priest book I am currently co-reading-reviewing and its examination of similar police procedurals for its own plot as well as for crime fiction in general) — bending such police procedurals and rules in the pursuance of ultra-legal revenge.
    And words as nocturnal animals?

    “, how print fastens ephemeral words to the page like flattened animals on the road, so that you can go back and inspect them in their non sequitur,…”

  17. Pages 282 – 309

    “Assert the present.”

    A crucial scene of rough justice in Tony’s story, one of illegal police methods, torture and possible express execution, I guess, as characters come and go in a clearing, almost a drugs commune, where the drug is uncertainty outside the control of any freehold author or even of any freewheeling reader, a gathering in the wild beyond the rules of Monopoly or even Charades. Including a new gratuitous character deliberately called ‘Susan’ in a red miniskirt, “the girl called Susan who had no last name”. And Andes.

    I am leaving this sitting of reading it today at the most irresistible page-turning impulse in the whole book so far! Asserting the present moment. Establishing the germane.

  18. Pages 310 – 339

    “Whatever went wrong, he insisted, he was only a witness, not an actor.”

    The ironic way to involve the reader, too, giving him or her carte blanche to be detached? Always against the grain again, the Andes to be climbed, amid death and purpose. And this is the start of the exciting dénouement of this suspenseful parallel of books. Taking the reader out of him- or herself, allowing suspensions of disbelief and escapism, as well as equivocal involvement. Tony is grappling with a sense of rough justice and loyalty to those who had bereaved him by letting themselves be killed, failing to fight against the grain of fate’s inevitability. Now he fights against the grain of himself with a gun in his hand, leaving the “ninny” called Susan reading it and and who is failing herself by not preventing its sense of “dread” from subsuming her. But surely it is Teddy that is an affectionate shortening of Edward, not Tony.
    Death as opening one’s eyes for the last time and seeing nothing via such staring. The essential cynicism of victim as well as culprit, the former’s sense of righteousness in fury ever wavering this side of fulfilment. The cynicism of authority itself paid to catch criminals ever on the edge of a “funnel towards some disastrous end”, violence like the brass noise in a symphony, prosecutors searching for “active conspiracy” as a fulfilment of their job, and thus of their career? Who the hunter, whom the hunted? So many loose ends and grey areas, means justifying ends, the quest for “joyful uncorrupted rage”. Crime of passion versus a discipline like Math. The fun of killing, facing the fate of killing or being killed. You gotta get over the hump, I think it says. As the book suddenly explodes, like the author is a terrorist. But which author? Which of the competing facets of a single author? — questions still to be answered, if they can be answered at all. We still seek Evidence in the soul not only of Crime Fiction but in the Crime of Fiction. Camus as Priest.

    “a treacherous and dangerous power”

  19. Pages 339 – 374

    “He wanted to know, am I in the darkness or is the darkness in me?”

    3A912B39-480F-4A22-B6CC-58F1096506B7This momentous ending to Tony’s story, and shall I be my usual self and make all the preternatural projections and connections that a gestalt real-time-time reviewer should, thus comparing the complex “allegory” – of rough justice and at least metaphorical blindness – with the life of Susan as its first critical reader knowing, as she does, the author himself — “She’ll gather her critique together, trim into tight clear sentences and send it” or just a cursory note? Certainly she will not share most of my own continuing resonances with the whole Wright book itself, much of which is, of course, beyond Susan’s omniscience… Tony’s arrival at last in Maine for the promised idyllic family holiday, or reaching not Maine but Germane? Or whatever really does happen to him. The ‘AFTER’ of Susan’s final appearance in the freehold author’s book, become an afterMATH where things echo onward forever in the independent reader’s mind? Whatever the case, there is much here to dwell on, viz. all our bodies being similar to each other making the surgeon Arnold’s job easier, even the Devil’s body having an identical geography of innards! The eyelid dome of darkness or an art installation of just blackness on canvas? A headache like Zeus. Do we see what Tony saw, “neither the crime nor the punishment”, a reconstruction without eyes, “but the book is dead and will never be seen the same again.” Whatever else has been planted in Susan’s mind, our mind, too. “: what tale did Bobby [Andes] finally tell…” [My square bracketed interpolation.]

    end

    PS:
    And words as nocturnal animals?
    “, how print fastens ephemeral words to the page like flattened animals on the road, so that you can go back and inspect them in their non sequitur,…”

    Thanks so much to whatever ‘wilderness angel’ out there put me on to this significant work of fiction, thus strengthening my fearless faith in the passion of each reading moment.

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