PEEL BACK THE SKY – a collection of Stephen Bacon stories

Real-Time Review continued from HERE

PEEL BACK THE SKY by Stephen Bacon (trade paperback edition)

Gray Friar Press 2012


The Shadow Puppets

In a way I was living my life in the past.”

There comes a time when a reviewer of a book has to admit that its accretive leitmotifs are forming a gestalt quite beyond the reviewer’s capability to gestate. Here we have the puppets factored in, the retrocausality factored in, the border between nostalgia and hopelessness also factored in ….. and the picture cohering, as a result, is a tantalising silhouette show on childhood’s bedroom wall, a show in which every reader plays a part. The only graspable thing I can report, hopefully without belittling this book’s audit trail we still tread,  is that the rashers of bacon (and that dubious pork) have here become sausages. (12 Sep 12 – 6.35 pm bst)

Room Above the Shop

“The air was cold, her breath danced like tiny wraiths before her face.”

[I have read and reviewed this story before: quoted from here: <<“The church clock outside chimed twice, a polite and reassuring toll.” – I am impressed by the varying styles in this book, yet all seeming to combine so far one’s pervading fear of almost deliberately bringing on the fear oneself – through “leaking” two-way devices, some literal, others figurative. The prose in this story is limpidly crystalline expressing a constructively old-fashioned quality (of H.E. Bates or A.E. Coppard?), and conveying a tale of a girl whose father is war-damaged, her mother a figure of impending cold detachment from her [the girl’s] pleasant stays with her grandparents in the Derbyshire countryside, pleasant except for the two mannequins and the ominous room above the shop… All seems to hang together, but how? The war, the railway, the starling’s remains, the fire… A clever poignant story that would bear re-reading. Again and again but never get to its simple enticing soul. (4 Apr 10)>>] —– Today, this remains a classic story upon rereading it. I find it has stayed with me: and, with due consideration, Bacon stories seem to have created a burr upon my mind more than I expected before reading this ‘Peel Back The Sky’ collection: clinging from the past: and also making me see new things in them. A sign of great fiction.  Here a contrast between a summer break with her grandparents and, later, a winter one: a cross-section of seasons leading to the accretive snow accumulating on the window, that ‘window’ of opportunity from ‘The Other Side of Silence’, trying to clamber out of childhood’s darkness into a realm of healing, only to find the beloved nurse (here the grandmother) snatched away… And there is another cameo visitation of bacon, here a “welcoming aroma of cooking bacon from downstairs” – or is it that diary’s earlier stairway to the ‘furnace’, here for ill-trod mannequins to pass their own parcels of flesh? (12 Sep 12 – 7.45 pm bst)


Sometimes on a clear day she could look out of her bedroom window and see the windfarm turbines on the peak,…”

A truly beautiful description of an isolated lady, in a cottage, having escaped from what she sees as the city’s evil, from her past, growing old, I guess, as a bird gets trapped one day in her chimney. Both creatures, I feel, each on “the other side of silence” and their desperate attempts for the eternal nursing back to health through the ultimate inertia of death? Null Immortalis: “a throbbing, rotating pulse that carried across the mist-shrouded distance separating them.” (13 Sep 12 – 7.55 am bst)

Hour of Departure

“The television is only displaying stupid people in absurd situations. She stares at the screen as ex soap-stars cavort with footballers’ girlfriends in a weirdly designed house.”

After a road accident entailing a husband’s death, a guilt at a lover’s pursuance and a surviving son’s need to be exorcised by her “post-traumatic” perception of an accretively transfigured shell of child that houses cold revenge? A yearning, mourning woman as mother and widow eventually “trapped in the cottage” of the previous story’s scenario: trapped too by encroaching birds as a pervasive metaphor, born from that one bird in a chimney… Waiting for her own twisted Big Brother eviction (my inference, not necessarily the story’s). Sad and haunting and meaningfully ambiguous; bodies can house anything but themselves. (13 Sep 12 – 12.25 pm bst)

I Am A Creation of Now

Robert Smith was whispering words over a gloomy guitar track.”

An underground train track, too. The ultimate cure from beyond the other side of silence. [What does the blue train depict on the book’s cover?] [Peel Back the Sky as the overall title?] This is a story of Synchronicity in potentially tragic cross-section between the two Royal Weddings in 1981 and 2011, and Marnie (in personal synchronicity with my earlier mention of Hitchcockian cameos (sausage rolls in this story, not bacon) and a mention of Tippi Hedren (cf: Cern Zoo’s Hadron Collider) in connection with the film Marnie and, of course, with ‘The Birds’: in turn linking up with the previous story’s pervasive bird metaphor) – Marnie whose real name isn’t Marnie whom the protagonist meets in a pub via that modern way of a ‘romantic’ <<I fancy you, I love you, it’s not working, let’s dump each other>> audit-trail … but here there is the most powerful ambiguity created by the tale’s depiction of Synchronicity: the opening of our arms for a loved one and finding our arms had always been empty. Devastating. (Laced realistically with the meaningless trivialities of day to day life like the Royal Wedding and the reporters who talk about it as if it’s a reality tv game) … (13 Sep 12 – 2.40 pm bst)



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