13 thoughts on “The Ones Who Are Waving — Glen Hirshberg

  1. 1AD68F4C-2E3F-470E-B48D-72E04B22BE42Freedom is Space for the Spirit

    “‘It’s still Russia,’ Thomas murmured.”

    For whatever reason as destined by chance (I assume it was hidden in plain sight from my point of view just as the Uncle V in it at the end becomes a clown and fraud just like Boris, especially with that name, in my own country, having ever been hidden in plain sight), I did not encounter this 2017 book until today. And this first work as a major literary novella — surely it is, it reads like one to me — has duly changed its meaning organically by its own volition, as first set in motion by dint of the author’s serendipitous ‘intentional fallacy’, i.e. changed, in the circumstances of “Putinized” (a word used in the novella) world history (still ongoing history) since then.
    Old Russia and New Russia. As if the happening or art installation demonstrated in the herd of mouthless bears (mutations from the bear ceremonies that populated Russian legends) in St Petersburg (where I myself visited in 2010) is an explanation of what is now happening, till even worse happens, or hopefully crazes us madder and madder with art as an insulation against inimical forces. A mad artist from the mad idealistic times of 1989-1991, become a Putin mocker with oligarchs as a partial RasPutin, mad artist as a mad scientist once with Pavlov ingredients, and mention of a Zoopark and Gorillas as if with Flannery O’Connor nuances. Just to attract readers like me and dupe me deep. 9972EE24-8B59-4E47-82E9-5F67D29DAC95
    This man, Uncle V, duped his German friend Thomas, a friend from the mad times before these even madder ones today, duped him with a telegram ironically peppered with cryptic if not Cyrillic STOPs to come to Russia to rescue him, and we follow Thomas’s rite of passage on a night train through Europe, including Warsaw, in an experience of reading moments that for me is gargantuan. We even talk to Thomas’s new baby back home through the mother’s mouthless belly. It also carries the weight of Russian Orthodoxy. And words from the happening or art movement’s motto like my own for Zeroism in 1967, and words from Auschwitz which I also visited in 2010. So much to resonate here, and I can’t cover it all here. “Slamming his own elbow…” and we have all “Grown up, given in, gotten married, gotten tired, gotten sane.” Ready to be blown up or burnt by nature. Not before reading this, though. To get my own madness back from those who stole it.

  2. Pingback: Who’s Waving At Whom? | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  3. The laws of cricket specify that the elbow should not be straightened between the time the arm is horizontal and ball release.


    “It’s funny how little you have to know about a thing to know it’s being done well.”

    Cricket, being a case in point, as well as writing fiction. A breezy, nay, gusty, stadium story somewhere in a desert cross between India and America, again I know the place is described well even if I don’t know how true to truth it is. A stadium where the breezy narrator does his “usual, running sound and doing p.a.”, for a gimmicky short-entertaining 20/20 cricket match, i.e. not lengthy with bowling spells into interminability like Tests. I even get crouched into the ‘silly point’ angle of this story, in danger of not understanding the outcome, and thus getting my reviewing face smashed. But if I can convey the enthusiasm of this story, its graphic cricket postures, and the small town extravaganza becoming something outlandish in the scheme of India and the British Raj, I will have done my job. It simply seethes with New India, compared to New Russia above. With Frankie Violet now become the new Uncle Vasily, FV being the once mock-famed cricketer now clown and continuing maverick. Whose ‘No Ball’ bowled, as called by the umpire Mr Seagull, is something to do with an elbow, I guess, i.e. “his hand flew up behind him like the basket of a catapult.” Later, though, as if meant to be: an “elbow came up stiff and straight,…”
    I loved much in this only cricket story I have ever loved, including, i.e. amongst much else, the narrator’s sound system, the matronly cheerleaders, the wonky stadium logistics, and the sudden arrival of cricket stars or their equivalent monsters. Even of local gangs. And whoever “abruptly dropped into his hips, and his body seemed to flow over itself as though it had gone boneless,…” And something or other “seeming more in charge of the moments passing than most of us will ever get to feel about any moments we’re in.” Moments amid my thoughts of Tendulkar batting. And of Hirshberg writing.


    “…. he thought he could distinguish between ground-shudders and his own: the ground’s were a thousand fists pummeling, pounding upward and outward. His own were downed power lines scything every which way in long, twitching arcs. And they hurt.”

    Harry, 73, is a year or so younger than me, and I feel even closer to him or with him, so much in empathy I BECOME him, in or on the ‘hive’ of the eventual gestalt Earth that he felt when back home in Los Angeles with his daughter and granddaughter, and his Survivor Guilt, Namuzu, Noah’s Wave, Jonah, and much else that betokens the eventual Big One that we all face particularly when seasoned as much as Harry, feeling this by dint of my sharing this leasehold story with him, a story as conjured by its freehold author’s enormous story-telling and shudder-poetic skills in describing how Harry survived the Earthquake that hit Japan — the big one that we realise eventually was even bigger, the one that also had Tsunami and Nuclear Power repercussions…
    “A pillar to lean on. The feeling didn’t last. But Harry enjoyed it very much. The woman held his hand, almost without respite, for the next six hours.” Panic shudders ground shudders word shudders at Tokyo airport, and the ground moving and the pee-induced platoon of fightback upon shifting platforms, and we feel them vibrating and crunching and cracking during each reading moment. That gestalt or mosaic Earth again: “people emerged and kept emerging, filling the ramp around them, fitting themselves into an impromptu mosaic.” Gradiented with the importance of remaining, like the Japanese, orderly, alongside Zeno’s “slow-grinding geologic clocks”…”To imagine, to dream, right at the end—in a way the whole Earth, it seemed, had ceased to dream—of rejoining. Of ceasing to be separate. We were more hive-creatures than we ever got to know,…” Doll steps, doll-shop smiles, 9/11 dolls jumping, and he thinks of his granddaughter and the perfect text his daughter sent across the Earth, making the Earth one great big Jungian hair-trigger ‘feel it’ factor from Los Angeles to Tokyo; I feel every tectonic plate shift and shudder in emotion and consumed eschatology. Even that scatology of ever-peeing, as men like old men do. Will death have its own aftershocks, I wonder? Its single sheet to cover you in extremis, one little bottle of water supplied and just a crumby paper pillow to sleep on? And that woman, whose hand was held, making even the weakest crotch stiffen or simply make you want to pee? The ones who are waving from wherever they are on this selfsame ark called Earth. ‘Earth to Earth’, Earth to Death, Death to Earth.

    “Pushing up on his elbows, Harry took a long breath,…”

  5. MY REVIEW (here) in 2012 of….

    Mr. Dark’s Carnival by Glen Hirshberg

    “His pajamas had zebras on them.”

    This is a larger-than-life version of the scare-prank in ‘Struwwelpeter’ … as if a symbolic form of the over-sized moth in ‘Shipwreck Beach’ has now effectively given parthenogenetic birth inside my own private imaginarium by the magical means of a <<Maximum enjoyment requires concentration, the patience to allow for moments of electric, teasing agony a suspension of disbelief in your own boundaries>> form of ‘the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’.  Mr. Dark’s Carnival is an extreme audience-participation in or audience-vulnerability to a whole town’s ‘theatre’ for Halloween: which we start piecing together in parallel with how the students are encouraged to do it earlier in the story by a slowly cumulative gestalt of jokingly-concocted and seriously-thought-to-be-real ‘primary sources’. A fabrication or not, this ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ experience is the most interesting case-study in ‘paradoxically-enjoyable-with-real-frights-experiences’ or in Contraptive Horror that I’ve ever encountered. “No one gets to go inside with the person they came with.” Above all, however, it is compelling fiction with further plunges into tactile experiences to compare with those earlier Hawaiian island ones I mentioned. But here it’s not sea-water… [There are also references to the zoo and the cage – and this story would have been perfect in the recent VanderMeer ‘The Weird’ gestalt and, retrocausally, I find myself hoping to escort this story that I have just read for the first time towards a situation where it will have been included by the time we get there!] “If this was a prank, or an imitation, it was the best yet. And if it wasn’t a prank…” (sic: ellipsis) (20 Mar 12 – 2.10 pm)


    Followed today by…

    A Small Part in the Pantomime

    “Jalena can feel their elbows and hips and breasts, as well as Rogan’s rubber mask, and wants to squirm free.”

    “I’m here, she thinks. I’m tenured, and I’m staying. And I’m on an adventure.”

    I enjoyed some specific characters, like the one compared to a ceiling fan, Jalena’s backstory in particular, and the way the lecturers mess in with the students on this special night. And of course the ever immaculately resonant Hirshberg prose and dialogue. But I got completely confused, and in my old age out of favour with Halloween stories. So I’ll have to give this one a review pass. My fault. Sorry.

    I suppose the most momentous thing was, for some reason, while reading this novelette, I suddenly had the inspiration of linking ELizabethBOWen with ELlen DatlOW. Never done that before!

  6. The Ones Who Are Waving

    A touching personal coda by Hirshberg, rather than a story proper.
    It seemed somehow movingly appropriate, after my current momentous spate of Hirshberg reading, that this coda should have contained these unexpected words…

    He nodded. Smiled—almost smiled—back. Actually offered me his elbow. I actually took it.”


    Three wonderful unmissable novelettes as first encountered by me in this book…


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