SIMISTER by Nicholas Royle

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“Same Yet”

…Simister being a suburb of BURY, and these passages, some incantatory or refrain-like, are the zigzag möbii in Manchester as simply but evocatively cross-traversed here by numbered motorways, trams or buses, and a man who, upon such recurrent transversals, has competing duties with his office job and with delivery windows at his own home and with his erstwhile pet cats off in his estranged wife’s Simister house while she is away with her new man, and with the uncle figure who lives down his own road whom he is forced to help bed-unblock from the local hospital — involving life’s onward delivery of packaged deaths. I hear the rhythm of my own bubble rap even closer. (As with birth, death has its delivery window, too?)

***

THE MANCHESTER UNCANNY context of the above review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/11/26/manchester-uncanny-nicholas-royle/

PS: Cross-referenced here: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/2022/12/03/chicago-forecasts-chris-vaughan/

PROMISE AT DUSK by Walter de la Mare

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“I walked slowly along the platform, past the silent, illuminated carriages, and got into No. 3399 – a ‘Second’. The number, of course, I noticed afterwards. It was cushioned in deep crimson, lit unusually clearly with oil; half a window-strap was gone, and the strings of the luggage bracket hung down in one corner – like a cockatrice’s tent.”

This is probably WDLM’s greatest ghost story. Inscrutable and never-endingly tantalising. Its frame story is about the inner story narrator’s wife having been dangerously but triumphantly ill, and somehow we connect the told inner story to that event.

“She leaned her elbows on her knees, did not look at me again, merely talked, talked on, as if to her reflection, in that dim crimson,…”
An inner story comprising a WDLM-archetypal train and a corner seat traveller or ghost, and a found gun, and a heady fragrance, and a saved suicide? It is utterly utterly haunting of the reader, should it ever be read. Even the Noah’s Ark stations play their part in the two journeys on the 3399 carriage.

“…I presently found that I hadn’t for quite some little while been following the sense of what I was reading. Back I went a page or two, and failed again.”

I confirm that, until today, I had never read the above story…

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One Siding In Time – by D.F. Lewis
(published in IRON magazine in 1990)

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When I first saw her sitting opposite me in the train carriage, I wondered if I’d travelled back in time, for she was too old to be as pretty as she was. Knowing this did not make much sense, even to myself, I decided to strike up a conversation: Anything was better than all that turning in on myself, following my recent bereavement. “Had many train journeys like this one?”
I pointed to the fields held in view by the train’s delay.
She shook her head, either to indicate a negative reply to my question or to give me no illusions about her reluctance to talk at all. Maybe it was because there were no corridors on the train, no other sign of life other than the fact that there must be at least a driver somewhere towards the front. I’d in fact been the second of the two of us to get into this particular carriage. I pulled down the window and leaned out, mainly because it told me not to do so. This brought the fields into sharper focus and I could just make out the blur of a figure walking slowly along the sky-line, to where the brightness of the late afternoon had been relegated. Night was too early, hustled from bed (I laughed) by the darkening of an unseasonable storm on the other side of the train.
I turned back to my fellow passenger to see if she was now in a more talkative mood.
As the train began to move and the rain spattered the window, I thought she must have silently slipped from the carriage, rather to negotiate the tracks than remain alone with the likes of me.
Then I realised that she had indeed been alone all the time, as I smoothed down the tweed skirt, on resuming my corner seat.

***

My WDLM reviews in alphabetical order: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/11/02/my-reviews-of-walter-de-la-mare-in-alphabetical-order/

DAVID FRANKEL: SINK RATE

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“Sunny 458”

This is one of those stories that grips you from beginning to end. About a woman as witness of a plane crash upon the sea near an island where she is staying for pleasure and business, and her backstory we gradually learn about. Anything I say about this story or its Angel Number above, will be a divergence. It simply needs to be read. I will quote bits from it below as glimpses of its reading experience. And I genuinely believe it is at least the sort of story that would deserve inclusion in any future hindsight version of THAT GLIMPSE OF TRUTH that I have been reviewing for some months HERE. The Risen Rate of this story’s Sink Rate as yet unknown. A taxi of “extravagance” to an airport taxi-way…

“The angled shadows […] and sweeping geometry…”

“Had she seen that little glimpse of paradise and imagined that things would be okay after all,…”

“A web of minor consequences and electronic impulses fan out across the globe, dissipating, becoming lost as they are swallowed by routine and business as usual.”

***

My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/01/20/return-by-david-frankel/

BEST BRITISH SHORT STORIES context of above review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/11/15/best-british-short-stories-2022/

D’ACCORD, BABY: Hanif Kureishi

“Determined to swallow the thickest pills of understanding, he would lie there muttering phrases he wanted to retain.”

That is what I have done all along with my crazy obsession of gestalt real-time book-reviewing, enjoying the hidden complexities of fiction, writing marginalia around the texts and scrying synchronicities and cross-references within each work and to other authors’ works, and my blurting out these findings to all of you, and pretending every work with which I am graced to read by preternatural serendipity is another Proust. Including this romcom of a man who gets his own back on a man who f’d his wife by f’ing that man’s daughter, and bashing her about a bit because we’re told she asked him to do so. So many depths in this work, so many of my pencil marks to help find them. D’accord, baby? A glimpse of truth.

***

My previous gestalt real-time reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/hanif-kureishi/

The THAT GLIMPSE OF TRUTH context of above review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/11/06/that-glimpse-of-truth-6/

No Visitors: Charles Wilkinson

This Wilkinson work, like many of his works, is the apotheosis of 20th century English literature in its short story form (such as William Trevor, Bernard MacLaverty and many others reviewed recently in Penguin anthologies here). This is therefore a work by a still living member of such a culture, since blended with the likes of Robert Aickman, Thomas Ligotti and Ramsey Campbell, and now Wilkinson is literally everywhere, pervasive as this M.R. James character come back into our own present day in the 21st century from even before the 20th century!
This is indeed the story of a man called Lenthall who lived with his body-carbuncle of an uncle in the uncle’s house, a regime with a strict no visitor policy and locking processes, but then the uncle dies and almost becomes the drained bodily fœtor of the sofa itself where he used to sit, or still sits on or within. Lenthall cannot envisage the front of the house, when he tries to describe it to an estate agent on the phone, the phone by which means the years’ deliveries left at a distance were arranged (no internet, then?)
Lenthall now even thinks of going on a warm exotic holiday, for which the uncle-corpse could await its being dealt with. Trouble with neighbours, too, a common theme in the Wilkinson canon. I cannot do justice to all this. I am just envisaging the state of my own sofa when I pass into it soon, or am I transliterating senilely into my own body’s alphabet morass from this unmissable Wilkinson quagmire of genuine literary gold?

***

Context of above review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/11/25/vastarien-vol-5-no-2/

My previous reviews of Charles Wilkinson: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/charles-wilkinson-christopher-harman/

Into the White


Possible spoiler…

Into the White: Steve Rasnic Tem

This is a short trauma in white, a neurodiverse man living alone and prone to snowfall isolations, a man with a mysteriously tragic parental backstory that involved snow but was not directly caused by snow and a sidestory reaching out to a woman on the Internet, and the final whiteout under which he does not find his rosebud sled, but bits of a carousel where his own children once played, children the mannequin size of Ligotti’s children, I guess.

My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/steve-rasnic-tem/

Context of this review… https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/11/25/vastarien-vol-5-no-2/

#BlankPapersRevolution