24 thoughts on “where all is night, and starless — john linwood grant

  1. on mythos
    sundry reflections concerning a rather difficult cosmos

    strange perfumes of a polar sun

    “— who would want to connect my work with their own ramblings.”

    That for me is the key to this mighty work, a classic in the making, as I try to jump on its bandwagon, joining in with the asexual narrator woman as she forces though two attics into one of two conjoined houses, one house empty, as the first story in ‘Only Connect’ had it, too. Not Four plus One, but now the perfect Unit Four Plus Two. I want out of this failing world, too, you see. And my status as an Old One is immaculate, an Old One status beyond any aeon count. Or that’s the way I feel. It is probably the greatest fiction I have read that taps Lovecraft believably — with the calving glaciers of Antartica revealing a Cyclopean or Non-Euclidean City…. Ah, I can’t continue reciting everything that I just read, because by reading it you become the fiction yourself, and by some paradox this review, I hope, will become equivalent to the woman narrator’s sculptures in the double attic that she is conjured to produce, and that is by means of the here and not-here Four inducing her to carve such sculptures as part of the process of gestalt, a bit like that chap in Close Encounters, but his was only Three, I guess. Or the Shadowy Third. Not Four, nor Five, nor even now Six. Whatever the Madness in the Mountains of the Brain. A fiction that rings true with its paranoia about who is against you, involving conspiritable theories, dark webs, a cosmic brain underlying it all, with the reader battling with the story to outdo such a brain. SPOILER: even the landlord is in the know! Freehold author, leasehold narrator, omnipotent reader. The Intentional Fallacy be praised!

    “I still do not know how he got so much right, and so much wrong.”

    Well with the gloss of this review, something new somehow turns… (I know that quote above was about HPL, but now it’s about the reader whoever that reader is.)

    “Yet even he had to add the gloss of his own fiction…”

    “…actually a gestalt hall for the Old Ones to commune…”

    In the hall of the mad mountain kings…

    This story. I LOVED it. But does it love the mad reader that I have now become, with omniscience being the most powerful vehicle for self-awareness? Only Connect, I say.

  2. messages

    “a cold waste that is not Kadath.”

    Teeming with wondrous phrases and clauses and sentences of Tigris ink and Alaskan Anchorage to the Messenger, with incantatory or refraining echoes of my erstwhile love of Lovecraft’s capture-syntax now brought back to me by this tantalising rite of passage to all manner of things that should be worshipped or not, a palimpsest of religions, Catholic, Muslim et al, and places, one religion being an even older one of Old Ones, a palimpsest indeed that reminded me slightly of my own 1960s Egnisism, even a mention of a place in “‘I have seen Y’ha-nthlei!’ Schalck almost shrieks. ‘I will be a master of those in the deeps, immortal—‘“ (my italics) and that place’s connection with my own heritage comes to mind as shown HERE. A mother and her 13 year old daughter who are fulfilling the great Library of the fantastically ecumenical in some weird connection with a Russian ‘slumped to his knees’ and Ukraine’s Chernobyl reactor in today’s history, and via their sexy words in men’s ears, even, when 13, being touched by them but only if her Mom or Al-Ma’mun is present, and there will be new weird connections as future, more newly past, histories pass through the readers of this story into other readers of it. Like crushing a whole great library in one fell swoop on a memory stick, then fulfilling some even greater library by the very act of doing so… the book of lost battles now won in the House of Wisdom. Agra Aska, be thanked. The ultimate book, I think, and Al haz red it, along with Hataz and Tho. Any reader of a work as rarefied as this has to be self-centred about its effect on them.

    “These ‘fragments’ are part of the vast network of knowledge which He builds through our work.”

    Some of my earlier messages to and from and about HPL: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/hp-lovecraft/

  3. with the dark and the storm
    Eastern Nigeria, 1925

    “‘…it is all one god, but they serve him in different ways.’
    ‘That must be why they have had so many wars,’…”

    A telling story, a handleable one stringently reminiscent of the often literary ethos of a Somerset Maugham or a Graham Greene blended with a Rider Haggard (see below), relating the tale of the village headman and his battle with a so-called, white Catholic Priest priest setting up a Mission by the talking mmuo stones. Not a Christian God as it turns out… “The God who waits in the stones, for when the stars are in their proper places.” Except the stars weren’t quite in synch for the Mission itself here at the optimum place it thought it had located for itself…

    It was also very telling for me, to locate my attention here today, inadvertently perhaps, but that’s what gestalt stars do, they optimally coincide. Yesterday, I finished (HERE) my year long review study of all Elizabeth Bowen’s fiction, She who had written ‘Mysterious KÔR’ and I had cause to mention Haggard’s SHE and its Kôrean aspect — (see trepidatiously the missiles as missions today!) (KÔR, that often threads Bowen’s work) — in my last entry of my Bowen study!
    Kôr was Haggard’s darkest Africa…
    And today here in the Linwood Grant, we read…
    “… but She is close, so close. This was Her land once.”

  4. lines of sight

    She.”

    “Sorry. I’m not sure how to deal with all this.”

    Seems apt, after the previous entry above, that this narrator is a woman of African heritage. “A big place”, Africa. Like literature itself.
    And this thirty-something young woman seeks communion with a relatively old white man that I used to be. The one who tells the narrator of ‘She’ who cut herself into the three-lobed eye….
    “I was virtually a blank page.” This story is wincingly great, not so much about self-harm, but ritual scarring into a language of ideograms, seeking the gestalt I also seek… I can even smell the electricity of that coming moment…

    “…convinced that when she had the patterns on her body completed, aligned, something unique would happen. She could never quite explain…”

    “Can there be such a thing as the polar opposite of a flare of light? A glaring darkness that bursts forth, lingers only a second, and then is gone?”

    Awestruck.

  5. where all is night, and starless
    March, 1919, Inner Hebrides

    “A failed farmhouse for a failed farm.”

    That somehow seems to hold an omen from the future for the past event told about here, with no snib, but complete with camouflet. As a daughter, resorted to this outpost in Scotland to hear her father’s story of Flanders in 1917, wherefrom he had returned with apparent shell shock…
    An omen, too, from the pastness that gave it birth, for a new future just being summoned in our own real-time..
    “…the blast which shook the spires of half of Europe.”

    The father’s story — with memories near sucked from his mind of his own father and watching the stars with him — tells, as filtered by the ‘mines, if not mountains, of madness’ words of some freehold authorship that now fills him, of the threefold mines or counter-mines, the mine set as bomb to kill enemy, the mines one digs, and what belongs as mine, yes, mine own mine of self as mind.
    “…we are on granitic gneiss, which seems to reassure him.”
    We can read this mighty story of truth simply as a fictional yarn to thrill us, with our own home comforts and bedrock, whether it be literature and its gestalt, or the awe at some vast imagination. But I wonder about the tinned pears, a new ark of pairs? A rationale for the future as well as history? A buffer or baffle for the mind, unless something “wormed its way into the galleries of my memories, tunnelling into sudden spaces filled with what I had been.”

  6. on mysteries
    various observations on matters strange

    where the thin men die
    New York, 1975

    “Tomás had his hand under the man’s elbow. Beneath Black Harry’s jacket, beneath dark skin and wasted muscle, deeper still, he felt something he didn’t want to feel.”

    A most powerful, gradually attenuable story of Tomás, from Argentinian heritage, with a hung-heavy parental backstory once thinned out into existence in London, before the family’s moving to New York, where Tomás works as a stand-up in clubs and bars, eventually in the tradition of Black Harry along with whose own backstory and death by stroke Tomás’ own story is oscillated. Till Tomás and Black Harry become a unified stand-up, somehow their own Bowenesque ‘shadowy third’ to each other, thus causing to stand-out all the ostensibly foul or thin things between the folk who watched and listened from the audience. With a strong sense of period and place, and full characterisations of raciality and sexuality, using words and syntax that reach into ungraspable fullness with, paradoxically, stringent attenuation. And when I said ‘powerful’ above, you won’t realise quite how powerful till you read it for yourself and discover what stands between all or each of you, too.

    “Shadow people who settle in shadow seats, slivers of the world the audience left at home.”

  7. marjorie learns to fly

    Spreading our mental wings, we readers become the central protagonist in this ever memorable, ever well-told story, each of us a visitor to its boring suburban town while also sharing the otherwise alien sexual urges, friendships, marriages, food tastes and whatever else, whatever shadows-within, of the even more boring if variegated inhabitants we meet and merge with. If I tell you more, it would spoil its gestalt, and alter the instructively slow, attritional shock of our human condition. We all somehow need to experience it and smooth out the schisms of the self, or simply live with them, gobbling their goulash, sipping their lemniscate as oolong tea.

  8. wires
    Oklahoma 1968

    “Wheels churned and axles creaked as we drove from one dead-eyed, God-fearing place to another, playing to half-crowds only.”

    I hesitate to call this a classic Gas Station Carnival or Circus story, one that happens in places like Elk City and Turkey Creek, hesitating, that is, for fear of the awestruck passion of the reading moment, but also for fear of the tightrope walking needed by any reader to fulfil this story’s potential. I confidently sense, however, that my hesitation is not needed, as it is indeed a classic weird story (whatever its subject matter!), one that perhaps needs greater airing in the heights than it already has been given. We are all air-walkers at heart. Upon a knife edge.
    The story is somehow both archetypal and original as just such a carnival story, its carnality erotically charged, too, as well as subtly so!
    Such tensions between opposites are crucial to its power. But the eroticism stems more from its containing emptiness or flatness at its core as well as the fullness of a daring tumescence’s knife edge. The two characters Jackie and Lemuel are unforgettable in this regard. As well as the narrator himself, balanced on such tensions. A young man who tries both ends of that spectrum but knows which one he yearns for most. And his outcome is in a hall of mirrors.
    This work means more than it seems to mean, and means less, too. It crosses many opposites of self-boundaries, along with the enormously evocative nature of the circus carnival itself and its performers, its clowns in particular laughing like hyenas at our own quandaries of self when reading this work.
    Crystalline and limpid, the prose in this work simply aches to be read, but also aches to bear a mixture of misunderstanding as well as understanding, despite the surface clarity of what we see in its mirrors beyond the township’s preachers and the sense of the forbidden. Uplifting as well as devastating. Loving as well as darkly subsuming. How can that be? Only those who dare can manage it.
    Pitiful and pitiless.

    “In those moments, I can almost understand the language of clowns.”

  9. Pingback: For half-crowds only… | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews (from 2008)

  10. today is tuesday

    “TODAY IS WEDNESDAY.”

    Indeed, for me, today, the latter.
    And thankfully I have forgotten the day before, forgotten that Yesterday by Murakami that I seem to have just read and now forgotten .
    This Linwood Grant today is Carl’s story and his intimate life with his sister Marion from childhood into the future, always in the same childhood house, telling of his taste for salt, and the old-fashioned long-case clock, where most of the time memories and pendulum weights season the days, but where sometimes there hang guns? A highly horrific gap in time, as if the rest of one’s life is a fraction within Carl’s own version of Zeno’s Paradox? No wonder it is said Marion now keeps digital time.
    At different times beyond any gaps, this is a highly horrific story in itself, making the reader doubt whether tomorrow will ever come, or yesterday even ever happened.

    “No one will be able to use the wire letter-catcher for some time.”

  11. records of the dead
    New York, 1974

    Another well-written story, but more run-of-the-mill as far as its plot’s effect on me is concerned. The main characters are, yes, intriguingly characterised, the niece and her aunt impelled to investigate the earlier twentieth century films of Emile Casson, using the evidence of some numbered reels, that may have just been a trash pile from his main canon. Investigating by watching these reels, researching documents, even meeting someone who once worked with him, there is a mixture of ectoplasm, fortune-telling, tarot like cards, even tea leaves and eventually the intrinsic selfishness of the niece….
    Otherwise: “I don’t think anyone else really cares about an unsuccessful Commie film director who never amounted to anything.” Even with bolted-on cinema seats from the early days for chained beggars to sit in!

    “I turn over a page in my notebook, and scrawl ‘Miseria’ again and again.”

  12. on myths
    some roots unearthed, and cunning remembered

    a farewell to worms

    “One, two, the bad word, four, five… One, two…”

    The bad word a sort of Satyrical Tuesday? Or just another Epiphany? Whatever the case, I loved this needed salvation of our mankind as represented by a (God)forsaken ‘industrial village’ in America, our saviours avoiding the dreaded Sisyphean Saw that they usually plied outside the colander’s 12 days of Christmas: a salvation indeed by Satyrs — yes, particularly loved this story even more by having recently read Weighell’s King Satyr (here) and Ishiguro’s story involving an old boot stew (here), a Psariosta of Pan, involving Lukas and his grandmother and a kallikantzaroi narrator to die for. “…but if there’s one thing that keeps me going, it’s being malevolent…”
    A mischievously wise work for April Fool’s Day today. Thankfully not a Tuesday, though.

    “We are not a happy people. That, I think, is why we were given stupidity.”

  13. a slow, remembered tide

    “Why would anyone serve toast at dinnertime?”

    An atmospheric genius-loci off the North Sea not completely unlike the seaside place where I was born and the one a little further along the coast where I now live.
    Here it is a magnified atmosphere of erosion, and middle age crisis in the main protagonist, escaping a barren inland marriage, returning to the seaside place where he was brought up by mother and the harshness of a now drowned father, a place of orderly cuts as opposed to random ones of self-harm, now prevailing in celebration of Remembrance Day on a wet-dank 11th day of the 11th month, the celebrants remembering those many drowned by sea and by life itself. By cuttings into coast, too…
    The assonant words, here, often subconsciously wring out the strains, too…
    Armistice Martinmas
    Celebrant Corinne…

    “The cormorant — a cormorant —“

  14. for she is falling

    “Hardly a dandelion between slabs of tarmac.”

    This often staccato sad but brave portrait of a girl called Huldre who is a quite different version of my own daughter who runs a website about dandelions and nettles and bumble bees and otherwise simple ‘nature’ things in urban settings and suburban gardens, if not as quite darkly urban as this ‘semen and diesel’!

    Huldre, ‘herd’ was the first word I made from it, then there came – “They herded her further from her roots and into the desolation of a place where the air was lifeless, warm without warmth. Hospital.”
    Hospital
    “Hollow and hidden”
    Nurse: nurture
    Haunted, too, by a refrain of Jump-Nancy who was in an asylum, and a naïve antipathy to the modern world and its metal boxes, and transcending it but by what sacrifice?

    “She and the tree are captives in a garden”

    “For a moment his voice held a father’s care.”

  15. sanctuary

    “And the Children of Angles and Corners grew bolder with every year.”

    The circumflexing of elbows. And this tale is a sheer dark delight, not only utterly unique and future-famous, but also a blend of folk horrors we all seem to have built-in, with names or words or phrases that we have known for ever or never, soon becoming archetypal with hinterland, already built-in even as we read here such words and names and phrases for the very first time.
    Its Mainprize, a word or name I have seen before in this book I think, inevitably entails a classic book length series of such tales beyond a Lengthman’s scythe. Beyond a fin’s endless end. This fin tale as the start to such a series tells with charmingly disarming and deadpan certainty, of the coming of a svelte girl and her mere undrowning — and an unfinished battle of boundaries with the Christian side of the village, and the fact that “Men do things in the night that they do not know.”. Not forgetting a cat called Executioner. And much else.

    “No one comes to Gorse Muttering by accident,….”

  16. hungery

    “Bad.”

    This story of a man growing old into what one might call an Ogre; it rings true to me! How easy it would be for this to happen – how easy it is.
    A story of a Ligottian community with mine shaft subsidence. And bullies, and a boy who seeks shelter from the bullies inside the Ogre’s house. Whatever happened, however hugely ‘bad’ this story becomes with grue, it remains a fine Swiftian fable extrapolating ‘Beauty and the Beast’. But which the beast, which the beauty? I think I at least know the answer to that. Even on my last gurney.

    “Ngh.”

  17. the horse road

    “The Children of Angles and Corners are loose, and they must play…”

    It feels as if the book’s author has added this story to it since I reviewed ‘sanctuary’ above, fulfilling my wish for a series. I often feel books change in the night after I read and review earlier parts of it. Paper books as well as electronic ones.

    “He considers the world, and the half-world which is coming.”

    That seems to be the essence of Zeno’s Paradox. A half-world where inimical beings with sharp elbows come into our world to stop us competing with such a paradox. Here, they come for a little girl…. Sharp elbows in spite (or because?) of “Their limbs twitch without sinews and bend where there are no joints.”

    This story from the point of view of Mr Bubbles, an equine being thus named by a little girl for whom he seems to be her ‘first pony’, with his watching her colour in her colouring books, another version of books changing…
    Whatever he thinks of humanity, he loves the humanity in this girl and thus he protects her…
    A poignant poetic vision.

    “…not that the girl knows the half of it.”

  18. at vrysfontein, where the earthwolf prowls

    “…took off half his father’s head at Magersfontein; his mother lost half her wits when she heard.”

    A man, that father’s son, almost like the ‘horse’ above, with mixed feelings upon human nature and his own inner struggles….a story of a white man during the Boer War, a sort of historical plot that usually I find difficult to grapple with and perhaps I have misunderstood it, but I recognise its skills of narration and evocations of cruelty and war crimes and ominous disease, featuring threats of the eponymous ‘hungery’ mmabudu, perhaps righteously hungry amid the racial themes. A scenario reminding me of our history happening at this very moment. A ‘Scorched Earth’ policy by God and Man, alike, in more ways than one! We all increasingly bring hungry fate down upon ourselves by such a world’s war and its presaging plague.

    “God’s will? No god watches what we do here.”

    ***

    I have often claimed to have a strange knack of choosing books to read and review that I know I will be able to say something like this…
    It is a truly great story collection I have discovered here, one that has become inspirationally amenable to me as well as me to it. We were meant to meet now and only now.
    And so it was. And so it is. And so it will always be.

    (I shall now read each story’s authorial post-it notes for the first time.)

    end

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