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From Robert Aickman’s lengthy SOME NOTES ON DELIUS article, unpublished until recently :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’?
I am not eccentric. It’s just that I am more alive than most people. I am an unpopular electric eel set in a pond of goldfish.
The fascinating editorial preambles to the poetry and other items make me feel that this might be a significant book, with regard to an author whom I have only vaguely heard of before and who is overdue for rediscovery. I anticipate the rest of this book will need to be slowly savoured.
Vampires with Fairy Wings
Great unique poem, and if read aloud properly will also take on the wonderful ambiance of the ‘songs’ in Sir William Walton’s FAÇADE.
If this were indeed written years and years ago, then it should honestly now be a regularly anthologised classic!
Stemming from the above poem and linking to the music angle* that I have already noted, there is now more background editorial material (including details on the author’s life and marriage), then introducing a series of “morbid prose poems”, starting with…
THE PHOENIX MONKEY
A both striking and engaging example of I know not what, and, given previous knowledge of it, would probably have been an influence on this book’s editor as well as on writers such as myself, Lovecraft and Ligotti, and other avant garde so-called horror genre and fantastika writers, although Lovecraft was more her contemporary, I guess, rather than a follower. The vaguely erotic nature of this short piece in such a context, however, is pretty unique.
*is Chump Rumple a version of Walton before the latter took things into his own hands? Meanwhile, I have been reminding myself of the various lyrics in FAÇADE and feel I am on to something!
”I absolutely refuse to be taught my job by people who know absolutely nothing about it. I have devoted my whole life to writing poetry, which is, to me, a form of religion, and I’m not going to be taught by people who don’t know anything about it. I think it’s very impertinent. I mean, I don’t teach plumbers how to plumb.”
Two more prose poems, JABBER BISCUITS and THE METRIC GRAVEYARD, plus further explicatory editorial material, demonstrating the work of a woman who is paradoxically both ahead of her times and essentially OF her times. We kindred spirit writers can all now be duly influenced in hindsight — and instinctively I am also going to drag out some of my old books by Ronald Firbank into which to factor this discovery that feels even more as if it had never seemed undiscovered. Reliving Osbert Sitwell and Robert Aickman, too. And I feel like being scolded by a domineering Ivy Compton Burnett again, if not by Elizabeth Bowen and Katherine Mansfield, too, whose souls somehow seem to fit with this book. Not linear influences in hindsight so much as constant, if not yet fully plumbed filters, pipes and baffles of concentric and eccentric literature of which this editor himself is also an important part. Much more to think over, and I look forward to the next poem, judging by its title at which I have already taken a sneaky glimpse.
Possible spoiler or googly below…
‘Dracula: Batting for the Other Side’
A poem that I found constructively hilarious. A saying of a gothic Grace.
I also imagined it chanted to the backdrop of Sir Arthur Bliss music. Or Peter Warlock’s as a foil to his darkly sad Curlew suite. A mutual foil.
…followed by some interesting editorial material about this poem’s context, including … “The reasons for Victoria’s abandonment of monsters, ghosts, werewolves, zombies and vampires will probably never be known for certain.”
GHOSTS ON TOAST
Another nifty Plumjob poem. An example, it seems, of her still writing gothickly when research says she should have stopped. Not sure of the chronology here, but I have found a separate quote that may have been inspired by Plumjob, or vice versa, a quote from a writer of the same nation as this book’s editor …
“The crisp path through the field in this December snow, in the deep dark, where we trod the buried grass like ghosts on dry toast.”
Dylan Thomas (1945)
A RHINO WOULD
A Rhino rhyming trick of a poem more than worthy for inclusion in FAÇADE or a play by Ionesco. Last night, meanwhile, let me tell you, I genuinely dreamt of Victoria Plumjob and whom I believe to have been her constant companion in her middle years, and the name with which this individual was addressed sounded to me like Jo Bullace.
PS: we had a bullace tree in our back garden in my childhood that I used to climb. My mum and dad referred to the tree with that specific name. It did bear fruit from time to time.
A bullace is in the plum family.
Three more ‘animal’ poems by our poet, and the zoo that preceded zoom, I guess!
Interested to see even in those days there must have been a confusion between ‘stationery’ and ‘stationary’ which has continued to this day despite Victoria’s useful mnemonic on paper here.
Some important intervening editorial material by Rhys Hughes follows, about the custard syndrome attached to Victoria, and a dubious posterity-line as represented by the horror writer Lamblake Heinz.
Then my favourite Plumjob poem so far in this book …
CHAIRS FOR GLUE
Read it. You will never be a able to forget it. As if memory is akin to something gooey sticking to your posterity. I once had a bunion boil on mine that needed surgical relief in 1993. Seriously.
I also seem to remember my parents volubly congratulating me on my ‘plum jobs’ when being potty-trained around the turn of the decade from the 1940s to the 1950s.
THE RUBBER BICYCLE
A perfect absurdist prose poem, presaging the work of Rhys Hughes himself, if indeed he is not already a reincarnation! He is the perfect person to have made this overdue book possible through the spirit of his editorship.
[I have long been a genuine believer in the interconnection between authors by preternatural means over the centuries as well as by more direct inspiration, even mutual inspiration back and forth in time! My gestalt real-time reviewing has, at least in part, had the aim to prove this empirically.]
LIFE AND FORK
“When I was a man before I became what I am my only passion was hats.
Or custard that mimicked the architecture of wonder, advanced, collapsed.”
Potentially, this near-rhyming couplet by Plumjob from the end of this landmark-in-hindsight poem is, with oblique force, germane to the seminal synergy involved in this book, an observation that I now seem to have earlier preempted above.
I was into electronic music in the 1960s, trying to create it as well as listen to the pioneers around that time. Do we know when Victoria died, and whether she would have known Anne Cluysenaar who helped me with some of this music by allowing it to be played, in the 1960s, alongside her reading aloud some of her poems to a live audience.
As to a theremin, I prefer an ondes martenot.
Now You Know What You Never Will
A prose meditation that may have been inspired by Auden’s Night Mail poem. Only literature can contain the secrets of the universe, as long as you treat reading it like being a Dreamcatcher….or with fairy wings outstretched.
An amazing poem. How philosophically possible is it for such a poem to remain dormant till now? Self as elf.
….followed by some more editorial material giving us a glimpse of Victoria’s wild artistic coterie. I sense that the county of Smugshire, however, is fictional! A thinly disguised criticism of her artistic attitude?
I happen to have started a real-time review of THE SOT-WEED FACTOR here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/02/17/the-sot-weed-factor-john-barth/ and this today has reminded me that I recently dreamt that Victoria had a sister called Crescentia.
Do You Know?
“How dare you, buster . . .”
Followed by much editorial material about this poem, including its use of ‘starfleets’ and ‘buster’. Although, from my research each night after first picking up this book, I disagree that Victoria was a fan of pulp SF magazines in her early years. And one perhaps needs to explore some other means for explaining her neologisms. Also the short ditty about the Middle East that follows (a land that could also be called Crescentia?) seems to indicate a prophetic quality to Victoria’s mind, especially if you have been following the amazing six Adam Curtis documentaries on BBC iPlayer that they dare not put on their mainstream scheduled broadcast TV, “Can’t Get You Out of My Head’, being the documentaries’ overall title. Do You Know, indeed!
“It must be remembered that Victoria wrote a slew of verses about countries that have never existed (or at least have never been identified) such as Grokland, Snifolo, Zandabub and the Republic of Jams,…”
cf Kinbote’s Zembla?
More editorial material that starts there, and we learn of how Victoria became more famous in 1939, with a table napkin she had written on somehow escaping from her restaurant table. Her work was voluminous, but most of it has now been lost, and this book is a valuable record of that, with whatever has been preserved. I am sure I already knew about the napkin incident as if it is a Jungian archetype. It would be interesting to know if you had this feeling, too. Flying as the Platonic Form of Bird above Corn and Flower…
Cf Crescentia, a ‘real’ imaginary land after it was renamed Maryland?
There are now eight relatively short poems that I enjoyed immensely, their shortened crosses between, say, Katherine Mansfield, Dame Edith Sitwell, Edward Lear and Rhys Hughes wordplaying mixed doubles together …but also the lengthened crosses involved in Badminton.
Shuttlecocks made from fairy wings.
THOUGHTS ABOUT AIRPORTS
Another inspiring prose meditation, and it made me think of the paired brace of airports in Nemonymous Night, the raison d’être of each of their own reasons for existing. A sort of circular tautology.
The ditty about the gulf within self precedes a perfect counterpoint from an editorial comment…
“Victoria took the ups and downs of her career with an utterly blasé attitude.”
And this includes her love of paradox in life and the awareness of such thoughts within one in the same counterpoint of counterparts. Ambitious, for example, but not a self-centred careerist.
Four more short poems or devilish ditties, including one with the perfect self-referential use of blanket italics.
One does not need to ask what is For Afters, I guess!
I used to have what we called banana splodge (a few banana chunks in bowls of thick and skinned custard) for what we equally called ‘afters’ during the school dinners of the 1950s.
From ‘splodge’ to “splurge”…
Actually the next important editorial material that ensues in this book makes clear that Victoria’s canoe was a prototype motorised canoe, but poetic licence on my part I guess! I am also interested here by Rhys Hughes’s reference to Victoria’s sporadic propensity for typographically designed poems and word-grids in tune with the editor’s own ‘How Many Times?’. I was also tickled by the quotation from Victoria’s lyrical poem to a boy friend’s toe, a poem with Poe in it too!
Informationally, some interesting details here of her connections with some well known avant garde writers and artistic surrealists.
And much else worth getting the book for in this section of it. Reviewers are not meant to be exhaustive.
Alone worth the price of this book is the next Plumjob poem, a concrete one called THE CUSTARD HEART. Worth the price of ANY book, probably!
While her next poem GOO GLOO GLUB reminds me of one of my own poems from the 1960s that I’ve now put up here to see: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/one-of-my-multitudinous-poems-from-the-1960s/ !!!!!
As it is so embarrassing, I know I can’t stop you, but that link …. please don’t advertise it elsewhere. Please just leave it for Plumjob specialists to click on it as a serious academic literary comparative.
“Do you give names to the bananas you
eat? My last one was called Reginald.”
A substantive free verse, one that should be better known, and perhaps it now will be as a result of its showcase here.
Incidentally, I have been thinking of comparing Victoria’s works to those of Anne Cluysenaar and Fiona Pitt-Kethley, for whose poetry I once conducted marathon real-time reviews here and here, respectively and respectfully.
More editorial material….
“She kept producing such snippets for the rest of her life and it is said (but by whom is unclear) that even on her deathbed she whispered one last maxim into the ear of the person who attended her at that moment. As for the mediations (sic) that have survived: …”
(my ‘sic’, although I suspect that this typo in the actual text of the electronic edition I am reading is intentional, if typos CAN be intentional or, more likely, meaningfully and subconsciously impelled )…
I am not sure whether we have yet been given Victoria’s birth and death dates. And I wonder if she was born in 1899, the same date as my grandmother Alice and my favourite author Elizabeth Bowen. All three women mentally and spiritually strong women, and not without physical similarities, too.
When did Victoria die? The same year as Rhys Hughes was born?
Yesterday, I started what I believe to be a landmark review of mine, viz. that of THE SHADOWY THIRD here, a brand new book about Elizabeth Bowen that I received in the last day or so. This seems to be the optimum moment for reading it in view of my review of the Victoria P book. Are we also involved here with figurative love letters or mediations, two-way filters, and if not the shadowy third book’s mentioned ‘electric connections’, electronic ones?
I seriously think the poem ‘Gloop Ballou’s Torment’ is some sort of masterpiece with its teasing refrains about a flan and what rhymes with flan.
More editorial material digresses into some extra-literary matters concerning Victoria, including the invention of concrete custard! I seem somehow to have presaged this, without knowing, earlier in this review above!
Digressions and their angles represent another spin-off here, things of refraction and incidence. Snell’s Law, moonlight or starlight, shadowy thirds, all notwithstanding.
THE CUSTARD CAT
A concrete-poetry cat that vies with ‘The Custard Heart’ as this book’s visual highlight. A work counterintuitively rescued for posterity by an archive guard dog, it seems.
I have noticed some of the editorial material increasingly absurdifying — and I sense this is an intuitive way to disarmingly reveal paradoxes of truth regarding Victoria’s place in literature, even if you had, unlike me, never heard of her before … perhaps like some politicians these days successfully (in their own populist terms) defying real truths with their own alternative truths, except, in this book, the very process seems somehow vice versa! Roads to damn masks.
“Mention has already been made of Victoria’s belief that she was partly possessed by the spirit of the sublime Japanese poet 良寛大愚.”
Please forgive me for quoting this editorial paragraph in full…
“Three of these ‘Corybantic Fulgours’ exist, as well as part of a text that Victoria wrote to try to explain what she intended. It simply says, ‘They are monsters that live on the moon; but not our moon; and they don’t live in the sense we understand it; and they are not the kinds of monsters that are monstrous but they are rather nice, if a bit cheeky; for we are the true monsters, you and me (but mostly you), the human beings who spoil the planet and who are puffed up with arrogance and rank temerity…’”
…which I found irresistible having now experienced the three Fulgours that follow in this book. And this is in spite or, even, because of my heretofore religious belief in literature based on Wimsatt’s Intentional Fallacy theories! I, for one, am not afraid of balloons that burst in my room.
A vampire with a fairy’s teeth? I see Victoria doth protest too much, about the Gothic; after all, if Edith Sitwell was the first Gothess, and dressed as such, on my TV viewing of the late 1950s, then Victoria is even more so by default of the ‘pilfering rascal’ she somehow created to later masquerade as her literary clone and furtherer, a double bluff of either Victoria or the rascal himself to diminish its apparent truth. Or, preternaturally, both in reincarnative collusion? After all the rascal furthered this myth by creating Lamblake Heinz as a triple bluff. And wrote the Brothel Creeper collection that I cherish. And a Rape of Knots.
There follow two poems that have complex rhyming schemes discussed and actually demonstrated here. Followed by some editorial passages that represent the most incredible literary history / criticism / explication that I have read — from “giraffe phlegm” to various states of custard, amid the 1950s with which I am in synchrony as a naive eye-witness of those times and of life’s encroaching inexplicable obscurity within if not without the self….
“I ordered that water (sic)
to bring me a coffee
and then to sing
a liquidy song
and that’s what it did…
glooble guggly goo!”
Why only two of her many ensuing poems about eclectic subjects such as water purity etc. etc. etc. remain in existence (ironically the two she apparently considered with the weakest strength) , but one of these two poems at least resonates strongly with the previously critically unnoticed strong ‘coffee’ theme running through and percolating a very black book that I happen to be reading alongside and reviewing (here), and have been reviewing since starting this Plumjob book.
We are now told about her novel, now lost, amidst many other strange things and appendices — and her final poem as her masterpiece is actually shown as evidence. Some parts of me, throughout this book, have had doubts and sporadically believed that a lot of it is a hoax. But the various fetching and atmospheric photographs at the end of this book have finally convinced me. The recent Elizabeth Bowen treatment, ‘The Shadowy Third’, that I have, by convenient coincidence, been simultaneously reviewing in real-time, has similar photographs of the legendary strong-minded Bowen and her circle, and this is what I wrote in my review of the first chapter a week ago: ”I am usually a reviewer of fiction. I shall try to read this book — of seeming academic strength as well as, no doubt, authorial sentiment — as fiction, but I already sense it has a preternatural truth about it that often makes fiction, from my empirical work upon it, even truer than truth. A paradox, perhaps. Yet this beautiful first chapter confirms me in such a belief.”
(Paradox as a belief system: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/03/03/paradox-as-a-belief-system/ )
Appendix: And as I have stated in several places over the years about the fictional Ligotti’s Penguin Classics book: “I feel that these stories — based on my having first read them just under thirty years ago and now re-read them in this momentous Penguin Classics book — represent an artful haunting blend of (a) literary or horror genre prophetic warnings about factors that have emerged in our world since their first publication and (b) a ‘fabulous hoax’ that is essentially an avant garde happening.
They are couched in a beautiful original Gothic-Baroque prose style.”
I hereby wonder who is the most Shadowy and who the least Shadowy and who the Shadowy Third — the Goth Manqué Victoria Plumjob, the Mock Miserabilist Thomas Ligotti or the Lovecraft-lover Rhys Hughes?
Thanks for this great review, Des!
I have recently heard that historical archivist Nina Vangerow has possibly unearthed some very rare shellac recordings of Victoria reciting some of her poetry in the 1930s.
If this indeed turns out to be the case, we can expect them to appear on YouTube in the not too distant future…
Very good to hear, Rhys. I’ll keep my eye open.