18 thoughts on “A Trick of the Shadow by R. Ostermeier

  1. A Tantony Pig

    “There’s a school bus. A thing like a baked bean. Orange thing. I never see children on it.”

    Deliciously and darkly oddball, with the few disarming references to body parts and a judicious use of swear words, and I think I may have made a new discovery in strange story writing under the name of this writer. An apotheosis of niches and huddled streets in an out of the way closed coastal community and an atmosphere to die for. A story of Lost Boys in seaweedish smocks or dresses who ritualistically scrum out this reason for which to die and I fear I am getting so old I might have been the man in his bowling green hut. Amid the politely and sometimes stridently rude locals (in both senses of ‘rude’) and the shriek-barks of foxes.
    Some descriptions and ambiances in this story often excel even the best of this genre of fiction, if not of literature in general! Shadowy seconds to match Elizabeth Bowen’s shadowy thirds!
    The self being shadowed by a mutated earlier version of it? And perhaps I myself was a tantony pig by dint of being an only child, if not only a child.

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  3. My wife makes finery with folds, whereby figures come and go or are hidden in plain sight….


    “…one arm horizontal across her midriff, the hand cupping the elbow of the other arm, which stood vertically upright,…”

    A story I feel I subconsciously hoped I might be allowed to read one day and, today, here it is and it duly received a major autonomous response from my self, in fact establishing my true self amid its folds. Good as well as bad. Scried as if scried by a soul within a sometimes gentle, sometimes hardened Sherlock Holmes of self. Bespoke tailored pareidolia.

    This intrinsic story is partially veiled beneath an overt plot through the eyes of a man about his mother visiting ‘the seller-of-woven-things’ who ‘had no care for cleanliness or neatness.’ The finery merchant who, if not directly, conjures up a picture frame for breasts. Her finery, particularly on an obliquely meant ‘Gaudy-Night’ in the under-the-counter-in-the-backroom of her emporium of dresses, and his mother’s consequent ambivalence, while trying on the eventual optimum dress in a darkness gummed with pins, an ambivalence of a self’s soul-seeking and its later effects on her son. These mixed emotions and polarities of self-worth are expressed in a matchless style that is heady or hedonistic with texture. His mother giving him a slap as boy that was fit for a man. As this story does to the ‘tantony’ boy still within me. A sacrifice worth making by me or not me. The optimum strength to live or die.

    “Whether it was a trick of the candlelight or part of the haunting of the cloth, the design appeared to be moving.”


    “Sound was scared…”

    “…a slouched house”

    “Paul and Ingrit ate, her elbows high in the air.”

    This novelette starts as an ingenious satire upon ‘HOUSE Of Leaves’ with photos and numbered ‘sessions’; it becomes a genuine tragedy emerging from beneath the veil of creative absurdism and dark strangeness, DANGER become ANGER, and finally an incalculable certainty of insane impulses, and the infections-between stemming from the angles and niches of this story as well as of its house.
    A family, each eventually a dream’s shadowy third to the other two: father Paul, mother Mari and eleven year old daughter Ingrit, starting with the ongoing father-daughter bonding after moving to this house, a house with unmitigateable oubliettes that were first spawned for me while reading and reviewing another book in last few days HERE. The chair on rails what sort of chair mad dentist or mad scientist ejector seat ants’ nest sausage dog bed magnet trails of filing blame taphephilia generational gestures jumping the rails of zips the two wolves in the head syndrome and a secret room and the eponymous chair the daughter finds ‘comfy’, not telepathy so much as decanted dreams but also infection of the very review I am now doing in its viral unvaccinateable flugue state as part (ii) of some pattern within it – “the state before structured dreams were transferred was confused, a state of knitting narrative, his brain able only to pick up jigsaw pieces but finding no sense of a whole.”
    I need a ‘wee button’, myself, methinks. My tank has run out of its fuel state. Can I swap my can for yours? Before I reach the end and put pencils in my nostrils. K-dots from the past, and the guilt involved, as a father with my own (now grown-up) children. No catharsis here provided by this novelette. Simply more and more iron filings pointing at me. All I can think of now are absurd catchphrases from a mutant Twin Peaks.
    Reviews I write are distrustful of each other, now, nobody knows which to trust more than any other. — “squiggle writing that might be found on books in a dollhouse,” “Thribbage, Thrist”.
    This work is more Aickman than James Joyce, though. More Christ than Thrist, in a redeemable sense? Or just “sleep scrap.”
    A work sufficient to send me mad, yet strong enough to help me through the nights, helping me endure stoically my own ‘compressed water’ that keeps waking me up, co-vivid dream leaking into co-vivid dream, wee soft button pressed time and time again. My eyes now thankfully too doused to even cause me iritis. All primary pixels gone. I’ll likely need a catheter not a switched refill. Like an over-bonded kid competing with a parent in scales of highest stink.
    A mighty novelette that is bespoke to each reader, I guess, via the very methods it deploys.

    “‘It’s so ugly,’ he said. ‘It’s so beautiful.’”

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    “…the poster consisted only of two lowercase letters side-by-side: ii.”

    ….seeming Jung-like (a name mentioned in OBJECT) and pointing to the fact that I happened to choose (ii) as my main thrust of a quotation from inside the previous story above. As if I was the one reader who had stepped out of the shadows into OBJECT itself — to change its direction. You can only do that via gestalt real-time reviewing, I suggest. An object lesson in reader involvement, just as there was within the coin-spinning, given by an actor in an avant garde play of gender issues with fellatio, a coin given to Annika, with her being Robert’s co-student companion in the low-key theatre — Robert, 17, and given what is called here a ‘fantum’ that stained them both on the hands and seemingly made the sexuality together of Annika and Robert navigable if negatively so, to the detriment of the woman’s health, making her thinner and entailing her taking part in a different but connected theatrical performance a few years later. A powerful story from a laughable ‘anal unease’ to its painful version, with strong sex and nightmarishness concerning, inter alia, Robert’s father, as if Robert was at first too young to be in the story as well as to be given the responsibility of reviewing grown-up plays, making me think, inversely, that I am too old to do reviewing for younger people’s books… any thrush pâté and blubber as black slobber notwithstanding. Simply, this story is utterly nightmarish and worthy of a writer who I am seriously beginning to think is a major new discovery for me in the sort of literature I love, whether he or she be young or old, and I have no idea who RO is, him or her being as good as nemonymous to me.

    “…the products of a manic imagination, yet in the dark they became real, probable, unavoidable.”

  7. …the quality of mercy is not strained by a pound of flesh…


    “I think now this boy has always been inside me.”

    …echoing what I wrote earlier above, echoed by this story of Eck, and therefore I feel I have now really entered the book, this time with my own fantum of pig-wood, i.e. THE UNPETTING HAND incredibly read only yesterday (*here*) and a plastic or organic KLÁRA AND THE SUN once read *here* (cf R’s or RO’s or Robert’s “The sun rose. It was the glowing end of a wrist.”), and the sound of a baby at the end of the phone line, and obesity as alchemy in a ‘mad scientist’ extrapolation of a gastric band-as-hand, a little finger wiggling and intruding inside the body rather than inside the pants? Shit to Shetty, the importance of sleep, and the ‘hunched’ Mosk House like the slouched house above earlier in my review, now explicitly the ‘slouched boy’. Definitely the most disturbing work I have ever read , but thankfully R. eventually found the icky dream-Eck turned into a collucid co-vivid potentially healing dream by the end, even if it scared R. But R. mentions the worst of the horrors in the bowels of Mosk House that a reader suffers by reading this work, and puts them down to Eck’s dreaming. It was never real.
    Yet, most people’s co-vivid dreams in our new times are real, I sense. Meantime, on the plus side, Eck is now healed because of the intrusion, I infer, of some sacred saint, and I’d like to think that was me, the intrusive reader. Not forgetting the omissioner. So, please forgive me for what I have omitted in this review. It is a genuine tour de force we have just shared. Time now to sleep, perchance to dream. Shadows and all.


    I felt reading this story to be a duty, often as painful as the pain it bears within it, my being one of those legs of the seven insect coffins bearing this story in a ritual not a million miles from MIDSOMMAR when I was once 72, and here I become a triangulating force of some ritual gestalt, with other readers of it doing similar in tantony tandem, some in even more literary pain than myself. To see what I am getting at, you must read it, too, and help us all in this medical-tested heavy-lifting of a duty, whatever its outer mask of being about a tin-mining village, with chants and annual ceremonies to remember the seven goats alongside ‘incremental goals’ to ease accomplishment of the eventual overall goal of goats. So much here, so much pain, so much literary exquisition. My house will go dark tonight if you don’t heed my call, and I will have to find another home, perhaps yours, for my aging bones, and outlandish shrieks. The black porter wasn’t bad, either. And I noted even a connection to a shop here that was the one used earlier by the seller-of-woven-things. Making me think this book has its own inter-connections without the need of my brainstorming work as gestalt reviewer! The tors and inconstant candles, notwithstanding. Naïve as the name of one of the characters in this work, that’s me. Raw fiction or friction not only in the shoulder blade, but also, in my case, the elbow. A work that makes me feel guilty that I have wasted my whole time looking for such exquisition of literary pain elsewhere, till, a few days ago, picking up this book as recommended to me by another writer. It’s the way it works, like a relay of pack-beasts bearing what up what word-heavy slopes?…and for what engorged or gorgeous goal? Omission or off day, I have done my best. The rest is up to you. It’s seriously awe-ful.

  9. From those ‘inconstant candles’ of The Bearing to “…candles of various shapes and sizes and at different levels of burn” here…


    “Close your eyes,” he said. “The connection is better.”
    “The connection to what?”
    “To you.”

    “One forearm began to bend backwards in a U, against the elbow,…[…] They would not touch because somewhere in me was the Old Man,…”

    The madness or superstition of the need to wade through this sprawling attritional novella “hangs fear on any free hook.” The taproot of fear that gets into you everywhere. A journey arguably worth taking to aid the self’s healing from Ligottian nothingness towards the Ostermeier proposition that “The metaphor travels inside itself.” The paradoxical potential in the startling conceit of “remaindered gods”, gods as seen at last from beneath the veils of archetype, thus allowing me, after reading this whole book, to take the Old Man that is me from inside the boy, but also to take the boy that is me from inside the Old Man, and telescoping this conceit in a way that BIRD-HAGS ineffably tries to do by means of many highly disturbing scenes …so as to finally divine sleep as opposed to waking?

    Innards and intestines as confectionery or convolutions of backward socket. A Mad scientist who becomes a paradoxical healer? — a converse creativity like ROwain’s with this book or me masquerading as its quack gestalt-reviewer. Who the Nested Man? Where the Hell? “I had a vivid image of my organs pressing against my inner skin like children at a sweet shop window.”

    We are within Owain Ockmarsh, 12, who suffers night terrors involving ‘Old Man’ with eight fingers, like a spider, Owain being a boy taken to what we knew before as Mosk House, with masks and monsters and a Dr Moskevitch — and the Doctor’s daughter Olga (13) who treats Owain as half patient, half friend, and other characters — such as Klára again (herself “part patient and part nurse […] I’d no idea what I was seeing when she smiled, but it was gloriously bright— […] At the east wing I passed a line of men, indistinct from where they were in relation to the sun.” – burns unit inmates?…) and tall Peter sunning himself on rocks as if from the Power of the Dog, a morgue below, and high attic cells above in a defenestrated area, with images of birds, scarecrows, crowbones, succubi as hags or incubi, penis glue, and various other visions that you need to withstand in order to achieve readership of such a major attritional work.

    To face the Proustian Self as a puny crabmeat shell, and the dream-reaping of molehills, the black feather of hypnotism, the despairing call only possible from one’s eyes (“a small black silhouette behind my eyelids”, viz. here just a week or so ago), the unpetting hand and glove, and to face the sight of death for the first time in someone whom Owain actually once knew, a death seen while examining her female cleft, and the numerology of 5271 and 9555, and those magnetic iron filings again… a subliminal morgue and superliminal attic cell towards a catharsis for Anti-Natalism… this ‘Trick of the Shadow’ aching to be painful, aching to be something DIFFERENT, again and again.
    Out of Nothingness and Madness. Into Nemonymity….


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