The Dessemination of the New

To any author Des has reviewed before — if they have a new story recently published or soon to be published in a collection or anthology  — they may have a review that also advertises where it is published.

The same goes for any publisher to offer up a sample from any new anthology or collection published.

Just send word doc or other means of reading it here: dflewis48@hotmail.com

Couching at the Door by D K Broster

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“…Art has nothing whatever to do with what is called ‘morality’; happily we know that at last!”

This is an intensely creepy work, evolving from a piece of fluff or “nothing now but a drenched smear swirling round the nymphs of Thetis!” to, I infer, a feather boa worn by one the two ladies in Prague and Paris whom the writer (Augustine Marchant now at the more innocently countrified Abbot’s Medding) once met now being reconfigured in his so-called poetic work that his neighbours know little about, and then to a gigantic cobra, all three visions of such frightful realities threaded through with various images of the Garden of Eden, and, from a different point of view, we gain a glimpse of the same story as seen by the young callow illustrator who is to do the book’s artwork for Augustine’s writing and who is somehow palmed off by Augustine…

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The Twelve Apostles (1929) by Eleanor Scott

“Have you never noticed that in country churchyards there are no graves on the north side of the church?”

This is MR-Jamesian galore! Slugs and snails, and holy water stoups. Almost a puzzle to go with a nursery rhyme based on Tudor history, Mary Queen of Eleanor Scott, not a snip nor snail, but sugar and spice, helped by some of the many footnotes in this excellent book. An American man insisting that whatever Elizabethan house he purchased should include a ghost. Little did he know! And there is much to fathom out here, many passages in book and house to thread, and its compass points, images and icons of the eponymous Apostles or Saints, knitted with genuine slimy scenes of horror. Even an ambiguous reference to the then current Colour Question in America, eugenics or freedom? And a Dürer-like sketch that is not coloured at all, I guess… “He could hardly take his eyes from the fascinating, fascinated gaze of the picture.” And arguably even a prophecy of my gestalt real-time reviewing it today! — with all my manic desire to anagrammatise etc.! If not to misquote!

“‘I believe the misquotations are intentional.’ […] ‘But it strikes me, sir, that any text that’s copied in full is wrong and that’s the clue.’ […] They puzzled over this for some time, replacing letters by figures, rearranging the letters to form anagrams, seeking for some principle to guide them to the clue.”

My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/12/07/unfinished-business-a-ghost-story-anthology/#comment-26145

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Full context of this review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2023/01/02/womens-weird-strange-stories-1890-1940/

The Haunted Saucepan by Margery Lawrence

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“I drew a sigh of enjoyment as I stretched out my legs before the fire and sipped the excellent coffee at my elbow. Strutt had found me a woman of sorts to do the cooking – marvellous fellow Strutt! – and certainly she could cook, though the glimpse I had caught of her through the kitchen door as I went into the dining-room proved her a dour and in truth most ill-favoured looking old lady, with a chenille net, a thing I had thought as dead as the Dodo, holding up her back hair. I rang for some more coffee, and as usual, Strutt was at my elbow almost as my finger left the bell-push.”

…a double-elbowed sense of calm and contentment in a house at the start, if also a telegraphing of the off-putting glimpse of Mrs Barker! – prior to what it says above about this story on its tin – a haunted saucepan! “….one of the few cases of genuine ‘queerness’. Something really uncanny, I mean.”
The days of valets who rub down their masters, and static servants who embody a house, and if it were not for the trite denouement of the haunting over-explained in the last few pages and if one removes those last few pages, this is a genuinely scary work. Scary, despite the saucepan’s ludicrous rakish tip of its lid and and its recurrent bubbling, and poor Ben the collie dog used as potential spear-carrier to test out its poisons. What makes it scary is – “the grandfather clock seemed to hide a long lean thing that peered furtively at us with narrow horrible eyes … […] The exquisite caution of the sound made…” My italics. Pause on pause on pause as what I have often called the essential ‘gluey Zenoism’ of ghost stories. “…entered – paused – and walked towards the stove.” Ever halfway between the door and what the ghost intends to do, till the mighty fruition of frissons… each time the promise of a “new evil”…”Oh, it was beyond words vile and awful, that sound – and to know, as now we did know, that Something – Someone – did actually, sans human light, gas or anything of that sort, set a-boiling in that horrible little saucepan some devil’s brew of some sort,…” Who owns a slow pot today? Many of us, I guess.
But what does it all mean? And the deadpan culmination of something ever, pause upon pause, approaching the point of happening, without it truly happening, especially if you ignore the last few pages! … “– began with ‘p’ but she couldn’t say the word…”

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Context of above review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2023/01/02/womens-weird-strange-stories-1890-1940/

PS: Saucepan, the ultimate pausecan?

Women’s Weird: More Strange Stories by Women, 1891-1937

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HANDHELD PRESS

Edited by Melissa Edmundson

My previous reviews of classic or older works: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/reviews-of-older-books/

My other reviews of books edited by Melissa Edmundson: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2023/01/02/womens-weird-strange-stories-1890-1940/ and https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/12/27/the-outcast-and-the-rite-helen-de-guerry-simpson/

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

Hodge (1921) by Elinor Mordaunt

“: in this case the boy’s name expressed him as little as the slow, luscious, sweet ‘Summerzetshire’ expressed Hemerton, its mud and marshes.”

This boy’s name Hector Fane (remixed as ‘technofear’?), a boy stocky, round-shouldered, with Hector’s Rector as his and Rhoda’s father in a place called Hemerton, a place as strange as Hector was to normal humans, Hemerton strange otherwise to the rest of Somerset then. Marshy, grey… The young siblings — not so much an ‘imaginary friend’ as a missing link they uncover in a hidden part of such marshes, an ‘it’, then ‘he’, that they uncover from the marshes, a stone-throwing version of Hector….
I can’t help recalling that Hector sometimes shares Rhoda’s bed for comfort. Now this missing link wants to do so, too? Even after Hector comes back from boarding school, Hector hides his ‘belief’ in the missing link they call Hodge, and what transpires is a lesson for us all about humanity now. A 2001 Space Odyssey in the making? Now made. These moments below are what I shall take away from yet another remarkable discovery by this book for me, this one as the literary missing-link in my seeking gestalt… You babblers do listen, for once!

“…‘Do you remember?’ in speaking of paths that they had never traversed.”

“‘The mastodon! That’s nothing – nothing! But the sabre-toothed tiger – I tell you I saw it. What are you grinning at now? – in our Forest – ours, mind you! – I saw it!’”

Their forest.

“‘Nothing more than a fold out of the old world, squeezed up to the surface’;”

“– we’ve lost it; I know we’ve lost it – after all these years! After thousands and thousands and thousands of years of remembering!’ […] Rhoda drew him into her bed, comforted him as best she could, very sleepy, and unperturbed – for, of course, they would find it.”

“Silhouetted against the sea and sky, white in contrast to its darkness, it had the aloofness of incredible age; drawn apart, almost sanctified by its immeasurable remoteness, its detachment from all that meant life to the men and women of the twentieth century: the web of fancied necessities, trivial possessions, absorptions.”

“Terrified of ridicule, incredulity, he hugged his secret, as that strange man-beast hugged his – the highest and lowest – the most primitive and the most cultured – forever uncommunicative; those in the midway the babblers.”

“With a sense of appalling weariness he seemed to see the centuries which had passed sweep by him, wave upon wave, era upon era, each so superficially different, and yet so tragically, so stupidly alike: man driven like a dry leaf before the wind of destiny; man the soul-burdened brute.”

“‘It’. Hector held to that: the pronoun was altogether reassuring now – something to hold to, hard as a bone in his brain.”

Rector as Boner?

A technofear now transcended and harnessed?

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Context of above review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2023/01/02/womens-weird-strange-stories-1890-1940/

Unseen – Unfeared (1919) by Francis Stevens 

A story by a woman whose real name is Gertrude Barrows….

This is, again, something special, something most dirtying of the spirit, suspenseful and self-suspended. Yet with blame and shame accruing the more I did read into it, as the narrator, within a sort of reconciling frame story of detection and drugs, is meant to expunge such feelings but did little to assuage me. A shabby area, full of the “ill-to-do” and late night shops, and dark turnings and, eventually, a sort of museum with a membrane that is a sort of prophecy of an inter-net dirtying us all, I guess. It is really evil, and one wonders who are the most evil — those trying to help the narrator as me, or the one (some sort of Mad Scientist with photographic plates?) who showed me that the Gestalt I have been seeking now for several years is indeed the “Thing” still emerging from man’s natural hatred and evil. Or is this a catharsis for betterment, a tunnel one needs to travel in order to expunge it? Or simply, as the story puts it, an obsession with non-existent evil? Whatever the case, this work is quite a discovery. 

Just a few of the ingredients that still pepper my mind… after a reading that one must think hard about undertaking in the first place! —

“..I wished that he might never speak again. I was desperately, contemptibly in dread of the thing he might say next.”

“…a livid, ghastly chamber, filled with – overcrawled by – what?”

“– man has made these! By his evil thoughts, by his selfish panics, by his lusts and his interminable, never-ending hate he has made them, and they are everywhere!”

“Our gropings toward divinity were a sham, a writhing sunward of slime-covered beasts who claimed sunlight as their heritage, but in their hearts preferred the foul and easy depths.”

“I could abolish my monster-creating self.”

“…your colour photography and your pretty green golliwogs all nicely explained for you,..”

“– doubt is sometimes better than certainty,…”

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Full WoW! context of above story: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2023/01/02/womens-weird-strange-stories-1890-1940/#comment-26490

Above image by Tony Lovell for ‘Busy Blood’

The Shadow by Edith Nesbit

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“– but if I turned round, it seemed as if the thing drooped and melted into my shadow.”

I can’t believe it is the first time I have read this truly horrific ghost story. Told to young ladies and thus to us by a previously reticent and stern housekeeper within a very strong ‘frame’ story of these young ladies staying at night after a country house ball. A ‘frame’ story so strong that one of the young ladies happens to feature in the story told! As reasonless and for-its-own-sake as the ‘frame’ storyteller claims, the told inner story features a newly married couple, to both of whom the housekeeper was a friend, and their new house and the wife’s giving of birth to a baby girl, events swaddled in the fear of a shadow haunting your own shadow, so strongly haunting that it actually becomes tangible in the room where you the reader read about it!
For its own sake, did I say? Who framed us, I ask, if not our own precarious birth into babyhood, a chance in an infinite number of chances that darkness ever strives to prevent? Please factor this question into the previous story. CONTEXT here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2023/01/02/womens-weird-strange-stories-1890-1940/