14 thoughts on “The Trains Don’t Stop Here — M. R. Cosby

  1. I reviewed the first story in 2017 as follows….


    The Other Side of the Hill

    “I’ve got half the field on my shoes, Bec!”

    Bec returns to her widowed father in England along with Wayne whom she met in Australia. The father seems to take a dislike to Wayne, and perhaps the father’s dog Kelso takes a dislike, too. At first plainspoken, it was a tale that I grasped. Grasped too easily, perhaps. Except when the young couple go for a hike, get lost into softer and softer ground, and I lost my grip, too. It was as if, for me, Bec was later planted as one of those earlier Ophelias but now into an apposite garden, the garden to which we were subtly introduced at the beginning….

    “The garden stretched out to meet a brightly-colored flower bed, a pergola covered with blooms…”

    A disarmingly weird tale that is intensely worrying. Revelatory and clinging, too, as to how different it must seem on the other side of the hill.
    A fine coda to this fine haunting symphony of an anthology. Many genuine gems in its gestalt of rueful reclamation.


    Today, in 2022, I can see it was a premonition of what I have later called ‘gluey Zenoism’, and wading through sogginess, concepts particularly stirred by the works of Robert Aickman and Elizabeth Bowen, and the time difference between England and Australia in the Cosby now serendipitously takes on a new meaning for me.

  2. I reviewed the next story in February 2021, as follows…


    The Bells Line of Road

    “Fran’s eyes soon lost focus as she stared at mile after mile of ghost gum trees.”

    A newly dating couple, Fran and Zac, find themselves on a route from Sydney towards a recreational stay in Bilpin, a disarmingly plain-spoken and page-turning journey for the readers, as if humouring us, but gradually morphing strangely, ominously, along a straight road in the outback, as it darkens and lengthens unnaturally towards what turns out to be a small insular community, with optical sudden blinding flashes and the increasing sense of a draining sort of photography, as one sidles along the dangerous edges and sporadic ricochets of an enforced reading curfew to blot out what one realises might be happening here, the forming of images to challenge us with ourselves later… photographic images that can be fanned by the fingers like cartoons, I wonder?

    Significantly and ominously, only yesterday I wrote here about hoax and horror in the ‘light’ of Ligotti…and of the House of Leaves that now one can never leave… https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/580-2/#comment-1200
    But unlike in Scooby-Doo, there is no hoax to save us, I fear!

    “Here we are, going through the motions, day in, day out, just to keep hold of something we’re not sure we even want any more.”


    “…there’s a big difference in the weather between London and Sydney,…”
    much like the earlier time difference?

    Disarmingly plain-spoken narration, a plain-speech that usually, for me, is less involving than heady wordiness, but here it is compellingly pushing me on till the final grasp of what? I feel the reader is a version of this work’s own caged shock-haired creatures. With settling dust of coal, the insular, seam-proud, seemingly self-sufficient town of Clinker and its sinkholes, and the vanishing companion reader who shares a collective consciousness with you, although you can’t see them nor see what you saw them earlier carrying on the train journey for a reluctant camping holiday you resisted in the outback when you preferred to stay in the city, sharing its almost religious gestalt of simplicity as you and I are swept along paradoxically with gluey or ‘heavy feet’, ironic carbon footprints, and the deceptively Art Deco of Holes Hotel from which you cannot Hyde.
    This story sure “grasps my elbow.”
    Disarming, and truly under-laden by the still ongoing frissons of our utter nightmare.


    “He had the feeling their route was being chosen at random. He could contain himself no longer.”

    Despite any misgivings, as an old man myself testing the end of time, I simply loved with intense anxiety and suspense this seemingly endless work, becoming a man called by a name different from my own; so endless, it is tantamount to a “half-on-half” Zeno’s Paradox, ever waiting for the next half! I truly think this story should be more famous than it is; it took me on an attritional journey, turning each page, expecting it to end, and I now wonder whether it ever did end! A journey echoing the deceptive Sydney trains in the previous story, never seeming to reach where the destination was meant to be, disturbingly beset by football fans with overlong scarves, meeting a bus driver on a new route when the replacement bus took over and a postman on a new mailing walk when directions were needed to the doctor who was going to cure my ills, not forgetting the impossible mobile phone and the incessant paranoia, the earlier train being a double-decker train echoing my own dual identity, and if I ever tell you any more it would spoil it all. ‘Testing times’, in more ways than one. Proud of my perseverance. This work is a naively random taunting of the reader who likes such plain suspenseful narration, or a genuine mind-stirring classic never to be left unexperienced by the deep-thinking? Defiantly both these things. Which makes it all rather special; I can contain my enthusiasm no longer, as I once think I said before… Crowded along by a crowd of which I am part. Almost a stadium disaster of a crowd’s impetus?

    “…the crook of his elbow,…”

  5. Pingback: A Game of Endless Halves | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  6. “‘I’ll tell you something, Clara.  Have you ever SEEN a minute? Have you actually had one wriggling inside your hand?  Did you know if you keep your finger inside a clock for a minute, you can pick out that very minute and take it home for your own?’  So it is Paul who stealthily lifts the dome off. It is Paul who selects the finger of Clara’s that is to be guided, shrinking, then forced wincing into the works, to be wedged in them, bruised in them, bitten into and eaten up by the cogs.  ‘No you have got to keep it there, or you will lose the minute.  I am doing the counting – the counting up to sixty.’ . . . But there is to be no sixty.  The ticking stops.”
    From ‘The Inherited Clock’ by Elizabeth Bowen



    A most striking story of the narrator Sophie who is sister to Christian, a story about these two siblings and their parents, and of the man and boys who visited in significant numbers, a story that obliquely deploys itself by chance or design (I suspect it’s synchronous ‘chance’ in the true tradition of gestalt real-time reviewing), a story resonating with the above most crucial Bowen work in my earlier reading life — and resonating with a different work called INFINITY DREAMS about clinching clocks, or watches within clocks, that I only, by chance, finished yesterday HERE! – eventually comprising a gestalt conveying ‘Zeno’s Paradox’ as slowth of growth and inherited fate.
    This Cosby story is poignant, well-characterised, deeply and redly cutting — evolving into a story that — as an enormous compliment on my part — somehow lives up to Bowen herself!

    Forgive me quoting at length this unforgettable passage from the Cosby…
    “I don’t suppose you’ve ever seen the very substance of time, have you Sophie? Have you witnessed a single second being born, living and then dying? Only once you’ve seen that very second clutching at life, and then screaming towards its own oblivion, will you understand that the essence of time can’t be changed. It’s not what we do that makes us suffer; the real tragedy exists within the fabric of time itself.” 

    ‘Testing Times’, indeed.

  7. I reviewed the next story in 2019, as follows…


    Paradise Point
    M.R. Cosby

    “Heinneke, Prose & Split,”

    Ever since I started reading the sort of literature I happen to read, towards which Nightscript has, in recent years, been a fine contributor, I have discovered — from seemingly attritional pointlessness and creative nonsense-slants — a new vision of life as it truly IS. As if the only nonsense is life that is now being reproduced as sense, in the truth of fiction. This work is a frankly, outlandishly mind-stunning example of this, taking us, via a giant renovated Ferris Wheel, into an exit that was not its entrance, and now into — E6E0A710-20C6-47E1-B9DC-80C1D41D28EF whether intended or not — whether acknowledged or not — an amazing theme-and-variations on Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Those young people in the real world of my real-time who are also graduating into their own version of life these days, well beyond the reach of oldsters like me, should make reading this Cosby work their first call, their first stop, before proceeding further with a career, marriage and pregnancy. It will make or break you.

    “How long have I been unconscious? None of this makes sense.”


    “…’To The Lighthouse.’ Its message, he noticed sadly, was barely legible beneath sprawling graffiti.”

    Arguably, a theme-and-variations on Virginia Woolf’s Mr Ramsay never being able to complete the alphabet. A uniquely tantalising treatment of senile dementia and/or heart trouble amidst both pride and perseverance, as Stanley shuffles with wet trouser-hems or wading through thickets from bush car park to derelict lighthouse and back again, while meeting darksome characters that hardly help him fish for meaning by referencing, inter alia, young offenders and their and/or his help in the renovation of this lighthouse, and/or referencing his marriage and child that he once destroyed in the glimpse of a moment’s inattention when driving. We wonder about the dream-reality quandary permitting that the darksome ones, arguably, did not exist at all, but his family still do exist by dint of phone calls with weak signals like the static on the wireless and their eventual attendance along with his own belongings as anchors at his final deterioration. Compelling and disturbing. The town of Nullingham, notwithstanding. And his wife’s book club, too.

    “…then reached out and grasped his elbow.” Then ‘tightened’ on ‘his elbow’.


    “The clock ticked lazily on the mantelpiece, much too loudly.”

    “– the truth comes at a cost, you know. The tea leaves don’t lie.”
    Except the tealeaf or two that populate our politics nowadays!

    Meanwhile, in spite or because of any innuendo, this is a genuine creepy tale of ‘tasseography’ worthy of W.W. Jacobs or of another M.R. called James, the tale being told in a pub, now an ‘inn’ at Christmas, with log fire, told by the man called Stallard who was once a boy who knew a woman who read tealeaves and at their cost she conjured back people’s missing folk when such folk should have been left to rest. I thought it was wonderful how the whole tale led to a power of guilt-ridden pareidolia as triggered by elbows. From a ‘maze’, an ‘umbrella’, and other items seen in the leaves at the start, we surely see more here than we think we want to see by the end.

    “…she placed a bony hand on my arm.” — as a presage of what was left unspoken. Till towards the end of the tale.

    “Stallard paused and busied his restless hands by refilling his cup from the china teapot at his elbow.”
    Eventually, though…
    “…his elbow caught the handle of the teapot, knocking it off the edge of the table. We all watched in silence.”

    Horrific. Watch out for the woman’s walking stick. A new disbalance. The earlier umbrella condensed and sharpened. Whatever the ploys used to summon such horrors. The gas heaters had given up the ghost, maybe, but…
    “Time moved slowly and intricate shapes formed themselves.”

    Once ‘lazily’, now “idly, killing time”, I sense.


    “…hugging one knee to his chest. There were no sharp edges about his curled and sinewy form.”

    This did not quite work for me, certainly not as well as most of the other stories have done so far, nicely written, in a plain suspenseful way, though it is. It tells of a man called Greg, who lost his wife and children in an accident at sea who is picked up by a mysterious paranormal group who take him away blindfolded to be initiated into their ways, involving eleven uniformed paranormalists, a situation reminding me of some Mark Samuels fiction, one of the eleven being a attractive and a seemingly caring woman called Maddie.
    Much horror involving a cesspit, carcasses and an unbroken wall of meat, linking into evidence of his erstwhile family by dint of Greg’s former wife’s scarf. But forgetting the actual plot for a moment, I was more interested in the trigger leitmotifs that lend themselves to this book’s priceless gestalt…”Life slowed right down,..” — looking at life through the wrong end of the telescope — “King Tide” and other Zenoisms of slowed down time — “His feet squelched on the waterlogged ground and he swore under his breath as water seeped into his shoes.” — and later wading ankle deep — “The subtle curvature of the aqueduct.” — “He had become trapped in a forest of lumbering corpses.” — the pareidolia of faces in the clouds — and the inevitable crucial elbow trigger: “With an effort, in the shifting sand, Greg propped himself up on one elbow to look at the object.”


    “….wading through the bullrushes and thistles, ankle-deep in the waterlogged ground –“

    …after playing pooh-sticks during one of the most haunting scenes in this substantive work. This story is possibly the most effective in this whole book, teeming, as it does, with such haunting scenes as recounted by someone called Marius, recounted without speech marks for most or any of its dialogue (this being a symbol of ghosts talking in my own story Rosewolf as if I were once a writer now ghosting as a book reviewer?).
    Seriously major work, this. And I could recount, alongside Marius, the tenor of some of these haunting scenes as part of its being a companion story to the previous one (“His wife and child were drowned, at their local beach”) with a band of paranormalists actually sussing Marius out as the ghost that they hunt? ‘Ghost hunting’ is an expression used in this work, and it is coincidentally timely as I have just entered a book that mind-squabbles CARNACKI: here. Hunting as tantamount to Haunting as Finding. Via Time’s Id, not Ego.
    This work is so tantalisingly amorphous, and one wonders even at one point if one could have prevented some of the things happening with knives, or re-parked the car where it was not in the way, or properly rebooted the computer EL-vis in the Ligottian factory-maze of Unlimited Publications alongside the ‘dark satanic mills’, taken more care of the graveyard shift there, appreciated the two women for whom or what they really were, put the right month on the flip up calendar after all, told you other readers how better to get out of this otherwise endless sick building syndrome of a story, while someone else like Aickman freelanced with better glossy photos of sexy coagulants along the canals that surround this story and its factory (“detritus half-buried in the bog which had developed along the centre of the canal.”)…and so much more.
    Such as tannery smells, the piles of mail outside my door, and the man in leather overalls who often visits my house to do odd jobs. No point, though, if the building is about to be demolished, I guess. Or was that some other story? Some other life? I even hear someone rattling gently in break-in mode at my front door, even as I write this. “The image portrayed exactly what I thought I could see from the corner of my eye,…” And I wonder who or what, amidst all the triggers and attritions, …

    “…appeared at my elbow.”


  12. Pingback: Triggers and Attritions | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

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