32 thoughts on “Hamster Dam – Quentin S. Crisp

  1. I

    “…from the unknown to the unknown…”

    Strangely — and I, too, use this word advisedly — this book starts with a quotation from a once obscure American writer with the unique name of Lovecraft and then proceeds into the first chapter’s narration of a man addressing, via a reference to poignancy, issues like a reclaimed importance of the REAL and the nature of SANITY. The engaging ambience and location of this narration, so far, I’ll leave unknown and up to you to read for yourself — as I intend to do with most of this book’s reality as a book in my hand. The real issue, for me, however, is whether I myself, as its reviewing conduit on the Internet, am sane!

  2. II

    Read up to: “but his paragraphs are like something chiselled out of stone. Pretty much no one in the world has the time to explore this kind of detailed mental landscape any more.”

    I had to take breath at that point. And I wonder if Crane Hill is a reference to Cane Hill, very close to which I used to live. Living a de la Mare. If not a night one.
    And I agree flat screens even when turned off can act as a barrier to communication.

    • Up to end of II

      Today, I found myself on the Internet looking up ‘Hamster Dam’ as a children’s TV programme. I couldn’t remember my children looking at anything with that name in the 70s and 80s. I also looked up “Big Bang Theory” and “Peppa Pig”. And “Zelda”. And, oh yes, how to create a spliff, as I have never had to create one in the past. And I do agree that each generation or cohort seems to be stuck in the earlier part of their own such time-tranche’s rituals even when they get older. And it seems trendy never to be left behind or simply trendy to actually be left. Not sure I get this book yet, but it certainly has got me — or has not got me at all while still trying to carve me by means of its rituals. A book and its reader, each a creator and vandal by turns?

  3. It is as if my way of slow-motion and clearly separated episodic real-time reading (the key to “the lock that stopped all time”?) summons the very “shared experience” that this clogged self-awareness texture of prose yearns for, and, meanwhile, I find the cactus has now become a reptilian wall or dam, unless I went too fast at that point and leap-frogged it to where I am now at the break-point on page 30.

  4. “…the desire to taste again that drifting timelessness…”

    Another visit is planned, but I am struck by this work potentially adding a new example to the genre of fiction I just happened to identify a few minutes ago here.

    Read up to page break at the top of page 32

  5. “…and people always underestimate how much interpretation adds to fact.”

    All seemingly tied up with today’s crass memes engendered by the Internet (why have I just capitalised the word, when this book doesn’t?) and what audience you are writing for, the smaller audience the better? And performance poetry as a sort of “joyless and sterile incest.” I would extend that to the small worlds wherein and to which I write, and this book is so wonderfully optimal in this respect so probably does this book’s author, too. Mining, if not meming, “a cultural dead-end”: a positive (mis)interpretation-into-fact-or-gestalt as a potentially public act of self-exposure, I say. Self-harming, in public, as we all do in this small world; this text itself sets this out in the form of a meme-as-stylish-portrait of a performance poet, a woman once sectioned in Crane Hill, whom the narrator’s ‘friend’ (this book’s, so far, central observed character called Gary) knows.

    Read up to:”Julie’s poetry in particular.”

  6. Putting an R in Cane Hill seems equivalent to inserting an initial as indication of a false middle Christian name?

    I take back what I said before, i.e. the central observed character is NOT Gary, nor Julie for that matter (however interesting the backstory of their interaction and the potentially fateful outcome to one of them, also with the mixed feelings of there being Facebook ‘friend’ships, let alone anything else, between staff nurses and their clients) but the central observed character is the narrator. (But who is observing the narrator?) So far, that it is the case but it would be difficult to change that fact, unless the narrator is later changed for another?
    By the way, I have also noticed that young female actresses in the 1970s, say, in Sapphire and Steel, looked older or more mature than the same age would tend to convey today.

    Read up to: “If I were intending to make this document public, I would no doubt hesitate to write what I have just written.”

  7. A poker-faced interpolation, I infer, from the freehold author masquerading as the leasehold narrator, almost like an 18th century Fielding novel — about ‘public morals’ and ‘messy realities’ and the ‘to be seen to be’ in the grouping of sides in an argument or accusations of what the other side does or does not represent, which, for me, is pointing to our social media consciousnesses today, I guess. Of most of us, that is. I know one or two people who seem immune.

    Read up to: “But I should return to my narrative.”

  8. The implications of being Facebook friends with Julie leads to results for Gary that should worry us all. The Internet can indeed be life-changing just with a single impulsive click of a finger. Or even a well-considered click. And every time I post one of my review entries, I need to remember this fact. This syndrome is provocatively captured in the section up to the page break at the bottom of page 44.
    Still everything one does, even blinking one’s eyes out of turn, can alter a butterfly’s effect?
    Just edited above.

  9. “Off. On.”

    It is as if I have escaped from some sort of textual prison and entered a sort of High Chaparral as I may wrongly imagine that place — via the second visit to Gary; I feel he is a modern Socrates and me/the narrator as Plato, and his post-Julien hang ups and then his opening up about the nature of madness in a Tarr & Fether sort of way, and other essential matters, with me sharing his memories of some 1970s tv programmes that I used to watch with my own children, me as a father-child, too, including the now legendary Hamster Dam; I can literally see it now through his description, sort of morphed Tales of the Riverbank, a proto-Trumpton, or whatever, from the In Between now blocked by W.W.W. (Someone I know will love this book, I guess. Will give it to them when I finish it. They should be finishing their own novel soon, he tells me.) W.W.W. That colluding colliding World War Wall that I can no longer see through? Whatever the case, I felt some sense of release: my own personal Road to DAMascus.

    Read to end of Part III

  10. “In the human world, Between Things had been especially prevalent in the 1970s, at least among those decades still within living memory.”

    I can assure Gary or his intermediary that this is also true of the 1950s, the world of Rag, Tag and Bobtail etc., even stronger, perhaps, when the time filter then created a purer monochrome. The legend that I once heard of mass colour jabs of the population, if true, did not add much value, in fact the opposite! And I wonder if Gary’s “meta-real” somehow encouraged Facebook, since this book was first published, to change its parent company to META. The “time-flux” reminds me of what I discovered recently in all my reviews of the many synergistic Aickman and Bowen stories with regard to ‘gluey Zenoism’. And Gary’s description of the time-flux, its sideways tangents etc. in my reading today of HAMSTER DAM, reminds me of something I quoted from Bowen yesterday here: i.e. a state of being intersected ‘transversely into generations rather than vertically into sexes…’ and, meanwhile, I am now wholly beguiled by this new Crisp. And, yes, some aspects of the Hamsters described here resonate at least slightly with the Clangers, which I believe were significantly first made in November 1969. I have now read up to the ‘sandbox’ and “You are ready to obey your own will” at the bottom of page 68.


  11. Gary in the sandbox…

    Heady, inspiring stuff.
    Believe it or not, I pretentiously wrote and rewrote the words below on Facebook an hour or so ago before taking Hamster Dam up for its due reading today, and I now wonder if this book had already inspired me to write it?

    In great literature, there is a battle between a work’s birth in the author and its new berth in the reader.
    How resolvable are such separate battles between a work’s initial birth and its various subsequent bespoke berths determines the extent of its greatness.
    Pretentious, moi? Well, fiction as truth is pretension and fiction as lies is pretence.”

  12. Needless to say, I remain beguiled by this world of Hamster Dam into which Gary ventures, accompanied by one of its denizens, venturing upon, for me, an indeterminate yet inspiring quest wherein, I infer, inter alia, a sort of Windy Miller windmill becoming a prayer-wheel, all taking place in a land spiritual as well as homely, broaching the nature of co-vivid dreams and their shared allotments today and the concept of, thus, ‘shared beliefs’ in tandem (or gestalt -triangulated?) strength, to escape this very world today and its fast threatening Direct Current, a threatening force represented, for me, ironically by the very device upon which I type this very real-time review! Perhaps I should strengthen or speed up my review, too, but I can think of polarised arguments on what course I should follow….
    Read up to the option in the text “…to write those words on paper.”

  13. I remember venturing into the countryside around Coulsdon during the late 1970s and 1980s on my own mind-discovering quests, say, in Happy Valley, Farthing Downs, Clockhouse Mount, and around Cane Hill, also nearby Woodmansterne and Kenley… I found a church once in the midst of some countryside with a startling mural inside it (Chaldon?).
    Gary finds a haunting library and its lady…
    I wonder if I, too, am risking what this text here today describes as “some cathartic insight, or whether allowing him [me] to indulge in such a quest would be to collude in growing confusion” – a question relevant to my often said-to-be crazy gestalt real-time reviewing of books, books as those ‘secret havens of the written word’, as this section of the road to Hamster Dam has them?
    Still, I sympathise with the author’s narrator’s Gary’s “fantastic glamour of Gary’s dreams” and his “turning”, and with that ‘nonchalance’ of quest and discovery. And the upward or against-the-grain of what this text calls “hillness”, a quality that gives grit or gradient to real and literary and philosophical and spiritual and nostalgic quests…
    Gary’s ‘sandbox’ now seems to be called ‘sandpit’?

    “…career politicians had an instinctive and unconscious antipathy towards culture. It was not ‘useful’ in their schemes and therefore they distrusted it.”

  14. There are some important passages from the library lady via Gary via the narrator via the author, the lady, Miriam Harelock — important for me, that is, from the next section just read (up to page 92 and slightly into Part V):

    “…the longer one spent immersed in the secret haven of books, the more one became aware of the subtleties of their infinitely varied relations, one to another. These subtleties were a whole world,…”

    “I mean that being a reader is as much a skill as being a writer. There’s no shame at all in being a really good reader and not writing a word.”

    I gradually stopped writing my own words during the noughties … and now mainly write words generated by-as-upon the books I happen to choose to read by literally preternatural hunches as well as book-knowledgeable means….

    I note the narrator is not wholly convinced by Gary’s story of Miriam and the library and the serendipity sandpit/ Grove. But I hope I combine Gary’s “intoxicated urgency” and the narrator’s (author’s) “trivial practicality”, and I will follow them both.

    Meanwhile, this book is a story fiction, and it continues into practical matters concerning Crane Hill, it seems, whatever one Googles about various matters and memory-beliefs connected with this book…

  15. Pingback: No Shame | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  16. I read the whole of the next section of this book in one fell sitting while in a hospital waiting area with my mask on, and it seemed to supplement and add to my anxiety state in such situations — but, paradoxically, it did so in a relatively cathartic way that I somehow welcomed, while fulfilling my worst fears of the Internet gestalt, its hysterical victimising, the strength of the Google search engine, even states of mind creating websites that did not exist until or unless you search for them, memory of some children’s TV programmes become cults, between things versus direct currents, or vice versa, uncertainty, paranoia, abuse, laughing-with versus laughing-at, “anger, shame and obscure melancholy”, strangely oblique emotions, as bolstered by algorithms, making you blush, the nature of geeks and enormously autonomous daydreams and other intrusions, finally a phantasm on a train…having read up to the end of Part V before starting the journey home.
    To the Grove, I thought, or the Grave!? Groves or Graves?

    “If only I could get it all straight in my mind!”

  17. “I imagined, but I also believed.”

    I defy anyone not to read the rest of this book in one fell sitting, as I just did. It is quite a revelation, but one you somehow already knew. A Road to Damascus. In fact, the Internet’s Google Searching for ‘hamster dam’ is now genuinely changing since I first started reading this book, from near zero to slightly more, I note, and our knowledge of ‘Hamster Dam’ in this closing section as a structure embodied, truly unforgettably, in the sandpit, sandbox, sandbook, the Grove and its lady whom you now meet for the reality or meta-reality that she is as she says “You see, I think I am part of what he wanted you to believe in.” The bespoke tandem strengths of writer and reader — and perhaps each reviewer and the writer, with a potential mutual synergy of castle building?
    Reality competing as a concept of an ever-editable Wikipedia. I even read a story elsewhere recently about the latter (’Edit History’) so this process is already happening in simultaneous overlap or synchrony … towards an AI world or perhaps some other outcome none of us can yet envisage. This book is a landmark in resolving the nature of that envisaging, even if one depends on any doom or dystopia involved becoming also a paradoxical bolster to oneself as it was for me yesterday in a waiting room…
    Reading as a fight against ‘pervasive and persuasive’ BAD — a fight against what is engendered by the Internet…
    Let me just draw a few things out somehow bespoke for myself without spoiling the suspenseful rite of passage of the narrator and of his Gary during this book’s end… the anxiety of the future, the nature of fame, the strength of ‘obscurity’ (cf Nemonymous), “the blend of nature and culture”, the pages as natural leaves in the Library Grove, a HG Wells type doorway, the assonance of “Hamster Dam” and ‘Happiness’…
    The nature of Obscurity, Nemonymity persists as the author doubts if he will ever allow what you are reading to be published.
    That Nemonymous Night that nobody will ever read. A meta-joke or a reality? “I’m off to the world.”
    When I told someone about this great book they told me about FINGERBOBS, and as an afterthought: CHIGLEY, two of their favourites. CHIGLEY then stirred a memory in me so I will tell them of SNUGGLY from my earlier era of TV watching. And, of course, WHIRLYGIG, to match any rising windmill from the beautiful box or from the centre of things. Not forgetting the clown with the handle.

    “I stayed silent for some time, with my elbows on my knees…”


  18. Pingback: Our Road to Damascus | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  19. 6676D5AB-EB13-45E3-80B5-F45C42C054CF Since finishing the above review earlier today, I have heard that Chômu Press is sadly closing down very shortly. Thanks to them for publishing my one and only novel NEMONYMOUS NIGHT so brilliantly in 2011 when I was 63. This is possibly one of the most ‘obscure’ novels ever written and if you want to experience it you should get it before the end of January.

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