Among the Lilies — Daniel Mills

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UNDERTOW PUBLICATIONS 2021

My previous reviews of Daniel Mills: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/daniel-mills/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/revenants-by-daniel-mills/

And reviews of this publisher: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/undertow-publications/

This author had a story in my edited Classical Music Horror Anthology in 2012.

I REAL-TIME THIS BOOK IN THE COMMENT STREAM BELOW…

28 thoughts on “Among the Lilies — Daniel Mills

  1. BELOW THE FALLS

    “In pain the mind hides even from itself, becoming a darkened star around which light bends but does not pass through.”

    A story documenting by means of her contextualised, if incomplete, diary entries of a woman oppressed by her mother and step-father and her arranged husband, entries about her yearning to return to a place where she could reach out to her father and the circumstances of his death, and her uncle, who were both better men by far, I guess, and the haunting of her by one of whomsoever we find out the identity, as divulged by whoever contextualised all this — needing, for whatever reason, to tell us it by allowing us to read it, knowing we might sense that such staccato histories need triangulating by all its readers for the optimum believability, a configuration that solely remains to us through any inferred truth cohered from fiction. An exegesis of a woman’s diary by one who wishes to put it back into a rightful context, but with any real light of understanding continuing to be tantalisingly diverted around its outer edges to add to its hidden and intrinsic fearlessness of faith in fiction within, as bolstered by the context now placed outside it, whatever later befalls it upon published dissemination, in a resurrection of souls by the judicious shifting of words in fiction. Surface meanings and much deeper ones we can reach by falling. As above, so below.

  2. THE WOMAN IN THE WOOD
    From the diary of James Addison Thorndike II (1828-1843?)

    Not that there is necessarily exegesis of the diary itself by a later editor, as in the previous story, but there is certainly an attempted exegesis by the near 15 years old diarist himself thus evidently while the ink was still wet! James, by what he writes unscored, is staying, because of his own so-called ill health, with his Uncle Timothy, a Calvinist, and his much younger second wife Sarah, with a two year old daughter whom she still breast feeds while pregnant with another, Timothy’s first wife having been said to walk into the wood to meet with another man. Who is it talking with double tongue or forked scoring when James is later told the true circumstances of the woman in white who led his uncle’s first wife into the wood, amid powerful visions I will not tell you as they are scored out? But one can read between the lines or, or rather, listen to a second voice between the authorial lines. About dead sucked-out sheep and a woman thrusting herself upon James to score out what was already within her womb… except my review is between the lines and what you have just read here about this work is ex cathedra. At least it doesn’t spoil it.
    Preacher Gale was the town’s butcher, too, by the way. Following God’s Dinelaw, no doubt. The old woman riding on a cannibal author’s back who also thus walked, without walking, INTO THE WOOD, notwithstanding.

  3. Pingback: That Peopled Bone | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  4. Lucilla Barton (1857-1880)

    A Who-Do-You-Think-You-Are type documented journey of madness, possession, deaths including perceived suicide, medical and other investigations, a journey — that if triangulated with the coordinates of some Woman in the Wood — fills in gaps that should not have been connected by any sane diary methods of exegesis or even so-called state records of deaths and their causes or even a reviewer’s concomitant insanity and possession that makes them write such an exegesis of book reviews toward some peaceful nullity of immortality. Who do they think they are?

  5. …and a not yet established connection with the substantive looking work that comes next…

    THE LILIES

    I

    I am immensely intrigued by this opening chapter, and the narrator on a train to stay with his uncle Edward Feathering, after his guardian sister died in childbirth and her husband moved away. And his meeting on the train, as if by chance, a man called Justin and (with a barely mentioned “narrow face reminiscent of a bird’s”) his sister Clemency, who get off at the same station as the narrator.

    • I have not mentioned the strange names in the Family Bible told about by the brother and sister he met on the train, a fact that indicated there may have been more siblings in addition to this pair.
      Sorry, the brother’s name was Justice, not Justin.
      I intend no plot spoilers in future entries.

    • 39BE12C9-5251-4D4F-A0FD-CEFD7FDF65F0

      II & III

      “The house appeared as a study in slow decay…”

      As is a later portrait studied in a different house. But as with bittersweet so is quickslow, and the various character studies and their backstories and a certain flirtation are as speedily developed as sudden mosquito bites.
      The sound of woman’s laughter, and later there are brief mentions of Poe and Brontë.

      “Only those long fingers splayed on the bedding and that face like a skull in a cloud of black hair.”

  6. IV

    “I will not write of what followed. Some intimacies must remain sacred.”

    And it happened all so quickly it feels paradoxically as if it happens forever. And when does a chiselled angel’s face become empty?

  7. V & VI

    “One morning, I am told, I shall not awaken at all, and that will be an end of things. Until then, however, I must work. I must finish my manuscript if I am to be remembered.”

    “I didn’t realize what would happen,” I said, “or how quickly.”

    “…in a world that spins and will not cease from spinning.”

    Remember the lilies, I say, should I fail to complete reviewing any work after failing to wake up to continue it, but remember, also, not to divulge anything more about this work’s plot outside of itself. I have written too much about it here already. Words can be misread as well as misheard, I guess. Misunderstood, too, even if not misread or misheard!

  8. THE LILIES VII – X

    “She smiled, if a little sadly, and offered me her elbow. […] Clemency traced a line in the dust with her finger then drew another line across it to reveal the letter L scratched there by a child’s hand.”

    Today I discovered the importance of the word ‘elbow’ in my favourite writer, ELizabeth BOWen (just an hour ago HERE) and it was an almost spiritual synchronicity as I read these final chapters of LILIES, the plot of which remains sacrosanct and unspoilt by this review, I hope. By osmosis, maybe, you will still know it all already through my words.

    I remain with the image of her “arms about my neck, encircling like a halter. A woman in white,…” “like the limbs of the locust tree.”

    “She took me by the elbow. ‘Come along,’ she said. ‘I believe the weather’s turning cold.’”

    PS. See also Aickman’s A ROMAN QUESTION (reviewed here recently). Plutarch wrote about even greater defeats than Teutoburg.

  9. I read the next story in 2015, and below is what I said about it then in the context of the book that contained it…

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

    THE LAKE

    “One morning in particular when they donned goggles and snorkels and swam out to the center of the lake which marked the boundary between two towns.”

    This is a numb story in the sense of it being so lean, so textually deadpan Hemingway or Cormac McCarthy it is like a piece of flabby white flesh that feels nothing – until you imagine you see bruises on it. In many ways, it is in that sense an apotheosis of Aickman’s ‘disarming strangeness’ aspiring towards the level of the blank page, here populated, though, with two boys (bleached shades of Stephen King?) swimming in the star- or emptiness-reflective lake; one boy is due to leave town, like one of the brothers in the previous story. And at the start there is a third boy, like the changeling in that story and just a ‘spear carrier’ here, as vehicle for the ‘strangeness’ identified in the Marshall story as something that always comes to infect purity or deck flabbiness. Then sporadic glimpses of inferred horror, infiltration by a love life, vague memories, eventually a shimmering lake of forgetting, all ensue. In my old age, upon me now, I know I shall soon forget this story, too, as well as much else in my life heretofore, as part of this story’s deadliness. This story is horrific because it deadens the brain, turns one’s face to the wall.

  10. I read the next story in 2016, and below is what I said about it then in the context of the book that contained it…

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

    A Shadow Passing

    “…but the alleys swarmed with them, hundreds of them, with bodies made of corners so you see them only where they block the light.”

    Another coda for this landmark book: a marvellous dream of childhood’s despair, a delightfully poetic rhapsody in prose as well as vision of the monsters on the landing outside a boy’s bedroom disguised, I imagine, as shadows or aunts – a work stemming, for me, from a blend of Truman Capote’s early work and the protagonist Proustian boy’s unrequited love for a mother whom he awaits awake, as if eternally, yearning for an unspoken goodnight kiss to allow him an unbroken circle of sleep. Here that kiss is to be, I infer, a dreadful curse, a fairy-tale betrayal….?

    “She extends her hand to him with the palm open, a tea-cake nestled in the thatch of wrinkle and bone.”

  11. DREAM CHILDREN

    “A red X to mark her periods.”

    My X is in an unknown colour, marking atonal periods. I often ask myself how I, as someone brought up by my parents’ taste in easy listening, ended up obsessed with Webern, Berg and Schoenberg, sometimes even relatively tuneful but demonic Scriabin! Today, I am often haunted by Boulez’s hammer without a master with a French title.
    This story deploys atonal but lean prose. And I try to relate its simple disarming notes with its contents of near feral cats, a kitten with one blue eye, and a missing wife sought by a private detective for her husband, a wife who ended up playing tuneful Elgar’s Dream Children, although she previously preferred atonal music… desperate for a child and co-opted by strange men toward a visionary birth with creatures from the sea.
    Words without a master, “Strings squeal and scrape, mix with my footsteps in the leaves, a dry scratching”, all quite beyond my confused understanding. Though this story will no doubt obsessionally haunt me hereafter. We shall see. Unless I can hit it on the head.
    I hate sharing umbrellas. Aiaigasa.
    I did not know Elgar was a Catholic.

    “Sidesteps the puddle, her red shoes shining.”

  12. I read the next prose work when it was versified in 2018, as follows in its then context (I note today its reference to ‘lilies’)…

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

    LINCOLN HILL

    “and Anna, dreaming, watched until
    her sister danced him past the mill”

    An effective poem to my eyes (strangely connected to another Anna as a sister in this review of The Dance of Abraxas here earlier this morning!) – a poem that perhaps exhumes a well-meaning old man like me…

  13. I read the next story in 2016, and below is what I said about it then in the context of the book that contained it…

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

    A SLEEPING LIFE

    “You see?” he says. “You hear how the little lad screams? All will soon be well.”
    THREE
    “And all manner of things be well.”

    …and so we return in this book to that couplet quoted from Eliot earlier in this review, as the narrator is born and narrates as a baby onward, a bit like Tristram Shandy or even like the narrator, still a foetus, in McEwan’s recent Nutshell, waking up like in Evenson’s Warren, without yet an evensong, or even Evenson’s Collapse of Horses, horses that seem to be part of things as life’s machinations occur around the narrator, as he sleepwalks through life, the sense I get, partly waking, perhaps, involved in frauds and crime, first suckling his mother, later dealing with his father, or a religious Father, in an orphanage…
    Like the narrator, I sleepwalked through his narration, too, only picking up bits and pieces, but knowing it was powerful and spiritual, and still going on, even now, without me.

  14. I read the next story in 2016, and below is what I said about it then in the context of the book that contained it…

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

    ARENA

    “The first would be last and the last would be first: the slave become master, the master made slave. He would break our chains. We would be free.”

    A religious feel to this dual narrative winding around each other with echoes of the Bible, where fishermen’s nets, like this my own literary dreamcatching, used as battle weapons as well as for hidden truth … and provender. And the centurion, then other opened sides spewing innards, like gutted fish. A battle between hopelessness and faith. It seems a perfectly oblique fable for what we have lived through in the real world in recent days as I have read this book. The bright certain colours then parable-pale colours mingling within pastel blackness near evolving into a different blackness.

    “The blood flies loose in drops that catch the sun like red fires winking, going out.”

    “…and saw the nets hauled up dripping with his naked shape inside.”

  15. I read the next story in 2016, and below is what I said about it then in the context of the Mark Samuels tribute book that contained it…

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

    CANTICLE

    “They pus.”

    This is a Canticle indeed, one of Christianity, rapture as capture, with its gift of suffering, confession, crucifixion et al, a text that is almost an Eucharist where you can taste the blood upon white hands, seen through the eyes of a narrator who is both crucified and wed, blending a childhood home with a prison or seminary or convent, a backstory that’s striped with glorious pain and loss and incantatory refrains of Complin, Vespers, Sext etc.

    “…crushed by the weight of his own body which was heavier than any cross. […] Nine months have passed in this way,….”

    • I NOW INTEND TO RE-READ the next work, a novella entitled:
      “The Account of David Stonehouse, Exile”
      that I first tried to read in 2016 and below is what I then wrote….

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

      POSSIBLE SPOILERS
      I am defeated.
      Today, I was determined to transcend this aesthetic book with its fine artwork by Steve Santiago. I knew straightaway that it was not the sort of text I could treat with my normal gestalt real-time review process following a single episodic reading, as I have consistently done since 2008. True, it is expressed in accessible beautiful prose, it is a delight to read, and I was compelled to read it in one sitting. No greater praise can I give any book.
      I sense it was written in some spirit of driven religious passion, the foundling Stonehouse found at the stone house and now, later, with his feral foundling lion-dog, Judah; Jerusha the girl-woman who found him or was given him, their shared journal, later relationship, the acrostic clues as to who and what hovers in the shadow of this journal, the Angels and a Christian richness of the backstory that is not a backstory at all; the landscape’s wilds of beast, blood, dolls house as pumpkin, and mountains, wolves, pits, derelict house as his shelter, and Christ’s passion, the ghost of the soul of the Cross, all this and more intensely pervades my mind from this utterly inspired prose. I choose my words carefully.
      But I have fallen short.
      One year from today, I shall pick this book up again. This represents a unique watershed in my approach to books. Remind me if I forget. Or if I resist returning to this text, because, somehow, I feel I am in denial – because I FEAR THIS BOOK.
      Without pretentious hyperbole, such honest fear of mine borders on reverential awe.
      The book itself as Jerusha’s pumpkin?
      This book, probably beyond its own intention, is my version of ‘the curse’ in my reading cycle, But what exiles what for a year, who exiles whom, this book or its reader?

      ================================================+

      I hope to be able to give my new thoughts upon it below…

  16. The Account of David Stonehouse, Exile

    PART ONE

    “Pages were missing from inside, ripped from the binding so only blank sheets remained,…”

    … and this account is writ within these pages, I infer, with no spoilers, a book of pages taken over from someone by the name of August Fitch. So far, a sharp, if wide-gaped, evocation of a place, with its still impassable late-snow at early Spring, with jagged words as well as a jagged terrain itself; to survive is all, especially in the dead pine area, a place of autonomous vicious needs of itself and of whom happens to live there and whereto the narrator had come three years before, unless I misremember, when he was 24. I am going on a bad memory here, of only a few minutes ago when reading it and perhaps that’s where I went wrong five years ago, this narrator (I shall call him David) having taken over a found house (like crude ready-mades of found art?) in these mind-fazing wilds, taking it over from another man and his family who had left bits of themselves there, just as wolves take over a dead moose for its meat, then by crows taking over what the wolves left, then David today taking over what both the wolves and the crows could not take over from the moose, David taking over these last bits to feed his once found, and rescued by digging out, “hound of indeterminate breed” that he tells us he calls Jonah.

    Read so far up to: “, a lion at ease.”

  17. Pingback: The Wood That Screams For Us | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

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