To Unswallow God

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GRAHAM GREENE: The Hint of an Explanation

“That’s a master key that opens all locks and that – that’s what I bleed people with.”

Who swallows fiction as truth?
Essentially a religious story, and — if its ending in particular becomes a climax excised or bled away like a train boiler’s mistifying steam — this work has at its heart the dark absurdity and disarming strangenesses and haunting hints of an Aickman story for its own sake, this Greene being an insidious classic that should be showcased in horror fiction anthologies as well as in literary ones, whereby there is an abiding hint of an evil ‘Thing’ that is often anthropomorphised, as it says, into Satan, a work that tells of a discussion of hints about ‘the corruption of children’, a discussion between an Agnostic and a stranger he meets on the train who is a Catholic, on a precariously light and dark train as it enters and leaves tunnels with its own echoing haunting whistle, I assume — yes, a work that also yields hints of hints, hints of other leasehold hints of which the freehold author is possibly unaware. The intentional fallacy of the Eucharist.
And who should ever be able to forget Blacker the Baker, a ‘freethinker’ who once importuned the Catholic when the latter stranger was a small altar boy? Except the Agnostic listening was not a stranger to himself, with his being Greene’s leasehold narrator. And the model tableau of an electric train with which the Thing tempted that erstwhile boy to unswallow God. To unswallow His ‘extraordinary coincidences’ and ‘traps’, too.
The Thing of this story is Greene as freehold author. With a key that not only bled Christ but also wounded him up. The train not being electric powered at all? All fiction contains lies mixed with hints of hybrid truth, such as electricity that needs a clockwork key as well as a radiator bleeder, hints instilled into the minds of its readers…. All of us clocked in and clocked out from afar by the Thing that starts the live circuit that is a mock-up of life and death. The blood and the life of fiction and its often involuntary electricity in the regenerative thews as part of the suspended disbelief that is translated into the sprung faith of such fiction as later such faith is transubstantiated into bread to be swallowed and then offloaded. My reviewer’s unconsecrated freehold-thinking ‘hint of an explanation’ at least!

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Full anthology context of this review: https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/915-2/

Ganymede by Daphne du Maurier

The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

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“Unsavoury is a hideous word. It’s the most hideous word in the dictionary. It conjures up, to my mind, all that is ugly in life, yes, and in death too. The savoury is the joy, the élan, the zest that goes with mind and body working in unison; the unsavoury is the malodorous decay of vegetation, the rotted flesh, the mud beneath the water of the canal. And another thing. The word unsavoury suggests a lack of personal cleanliness: unchanged linen, bed-sheets hanging to dry, the fluff off combs, torn packets in waste-paper baskets.”

This is a compelling, page-turning, darkly insidious novelette about a man’s trip to Venice, and his obsession — as in ‘Death in Venice’ — with a boy or youthful man. Leading slowly but exponentially to being appropriated by the place and by a man in a white mackintosh and others connected with the boy. A story…

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“in the grip of – blind – blind stumblers –!” 

CHARLOTTE MEW: Mark Stafford’s Wife

“Well, I can’t to anyone open every door; whoever owns the poor little house, there must be rooms of which, to the end, I keep the key.”

If only Kate did not give the key to the eponymous “lurking horror”, who looked over her shoulder: the celebrity ‘vivisectionist’ or ‘pathologist’ writer called Stafford, but a writer of what? Of books of fiction? … Looking over her shoulder like Death or like God? A Hamlet to her Ophelia, whether with her hair done up or let down, as depicted in a photographed tableau towards the smashed negative-plate that could only happen to early old day frozen stances ….
This would have been deemed a great classic ghost-horror novelette like May Sinclair’s ‘Where Their Fire Is Not Quenched’. It also outdoes even Daphne du Maurier’s darknesses of short fiction, but the Mew novelette would only have been deemed to possess such greatness if  without its own ohm-resistor of style as if borrowed from a tentacular blend of the late works of Henry James and the most rarefied yet-to-be-written Elizabeth Bowen works. A unique style by Mew that I relished, but perhaps many wouldn’t.
This Mew work even prefigured Elizabeth Bowen’s conceit of a ‘shadowy third’ with its own ‘shadowy fourth’! Certainly Mew was one up on Bowen! But Mew as a word also defined as a noun meaning hiding-place.

But who is the shadowy fourth?
The unreliable narrator, a mature woman as Kate’s mentor?
Charlie Darch, a stolid man of ‘the glare’, whom she was engaged to marry before she married Stafford?
The eponymous hindsight monster Stafford himself? — but was he a monster at all, or did he write it all as fiction, as St. Quentin did in Bowen’s ‘Death of the Heart’?
But the shadowy fourth can not surely be Kate herself who sees herself as the one “over-shadowed”, or do I misremember that? — a woman who is at first a fay sprite, but later striding in ‘the glare’ of society, when often neglected by her husband Stafford.

As the narrator herself says — ‘a bewildering tangle.’ Full of stumblers. Indeed, was Mew herself hidden in plain sight ‘overshadowing’ them all? “…this uplifting darkness, that we are in the grip of – blind – blind stumblers –!”

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Full context of this review: https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/915-2/ and https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/04/12/penguin-books-of-british-short-stories/

Theakston’s Old Peculier (sic)

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July Job Offer by Charles Wilkinson

I have read much Charles Wilkinson in the past, one of my favourite writers; in fact I first encountered him in THEAKER’S where they serve good beer with a polite smile. Or am I thinking of Theakston’s Old Peculier? Well, this one takes the reading head right off, as if the rest of my body were a tee. It is ostensibly a satire on a Golf Club and its type of members and their dislike of anything alien, even to the extent of frowning upon buttoned-down collars on woke pink shirts — a Golf Club on the same coast as the Allen Ashley monsters, but here they are versions of Hell’s Angels as created from the well-aged mulch in Wilkinson’s brain, paid for by mounds of loose change to the Club’s surly barman, a bar open to the public as part of local planning demands, and there is an old fogey called Vaunce, not Vance, who ends up [SPOILER] like a Chinese potentate of yore. I’d finish this review if I hadn’t got to go off and see a man about a dog. Whatever, with its headless massacre of meaning and message, this story is couched in a prose style to die for.
PS: Wisdom trickles down or up? — maybe what this story’s message is asking as a coda to Coverley?

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Context of above review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/04/28/theakers-quarterly-fiction-70/#comment-24664

Above image: Clacton Crazy Golf 2012

“to become a prey to the spoiler” 


T. F. POWYS: The Key of the Field

“The leaves spun around him in the wind, for the October frosts had turned them yellow, and the November blasts had shaken them from the trees.”

The ghostly-like incantatory yearning and importuning being Uncle Tiddy’s for the Squire’s Field (a sort of Heaven as I found out when finally given the key myself by discovery of this superlative story, no comparison, otherwise) near Madder Hill, the key to which is yearned for by both Grandmother Trott (who lives with her lusty grandsons) and Uncle Tiddy (who gives a home to his comely adolescent niece Lily.) Tiddy sees the key — once he had lost it by fell Trott means — everywhere as a form of pareidolia in every object he sees. Out of reach but ever there. His loss of the key through gossipy innuendo about his fulfilled yearning for his niece (he did love her, but how he loved her we shall never know), but some of the other Trott machinations also lead to rape, childbirth and death. But who knows what was sown where. And whether I myself have indeed been given the wrong key, to stop, at all costs, this story “to become a prey to the spoiler”, nobody can know. The Squire himself, you see, was deemed ‘merry’ in his ways, and the guests he had are left indeterminate, and the final innuendo prevails as to what key Tiddy was finally given by the Squire and to unlock into what sort of Heaven — or Hell? The spinning dead leaves had their own pareidolia shape of a key, as was said at outset.

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Context anthology of this review: https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/915-2/

Bones Don’t Last Forever

Two consecutive reviews this morning….

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See How They Run! See How They Run! by Harris Coverley

“He grabbed it by the frocky end and shoved it under the couch,…”

I simply loved this funny fable with strange names about a hierarchy of beings, and the nearest I can get is Lafferty or even Vance? But uniquely Swiftian in its own way, where wisdom is not necessarily wise enough to recognise a greater wisdom in a seemingly lowlier being. Pets and the bones they can’t let go of. And I myself gnawed away at the ‘hoom’, thinking it might be the David Hume who, according to the Internet, ‘argued against the existence of innate ideas, positing that all human knowledge derives solely from experience.’ Or ‘Lost’ Desmond Hume? Till I thought, with some relief, that this is not a fable at all, but an entertaining story for its own sake. Bones don’t last forever.

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Chapter 7 of ’The Old Boys’ by William Trevor

“‘Oh puss, puss,’ cried Mr Jaraby, ‘what disorder is this?’”

“In anger the claws stabbed at the carpet, and Monmouth, baring a massive jaw, snarled at the tufts of wool.”

This chapter is extremely sad but also wickedly hilarious as we continue to witness the backbiting of the septuagenarian Jaraby husband and wife, blaming each other for each other’s insanity, and I even got confused myself who actually blamed the pussy cat and who owned it, as if it is owned by one of them, not both! To spite the other one, anyway? I sometimes have similar quandaries in my own life.

This chapter seems strangely in tune with my reading earlier this morning of a Coverley story HERE, a fact perhaps feeding my own mad illusion that I continue to possess — or to be possessed by — increments of an overseeing wisdom regarding the Jungian literary gestalt and its hierarchy of connections!
Even to the extent, in this chapter, it is said that “Dowse was the wisest man I ever knew” and “No, my puss, it will not do. We must mend our ways. We must bend to the greater authority.”
Meanwhile…
“Split the produce in half that I may see inside. How else to know if an apple or a grapefruit is worth its money?”
I must remember that when I next buy fruit at a greengrocer!

“He spoke to himself, although his wife was still in the room.”

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Contexts of above reviews: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/04/28/theakers-quarterly-fiction-70/ and https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/03/31/two-novels-by-william-trevor/

The Trance Gestalt

“It is not easy to remember how and why I wrote a story or a novel. Once they detach from me, I too find them unfamiliar. It’s not a ‘trance,’ but the concentration during the writing seems to take away the awareness of whatever isn’t writing itself.”
— Clarice Lispector (Ukrainian born Brazilian writer)

And if writers, then their reviewers, too?

The Crook That Numbly Stole Away

L. A. G. STRONG: The Rook

“So far, that is of course, as was con—
Ah. There was young Kerrigan, walking casually across the grass. At sight of him the rooks in the tree rose in a body …”

Rose in a body. That bit tells the whole story in an eggshell, the shocking shooting by an old man of the rook among many rooks in the old man’s garden, when the little rooks would have made a better pie for the old man and his wife to eat, an old man like me who shot the bird, as an almost gratuitous murder mistaken for a rook-collective instead of a parliament. And the priest, who witnessed the mercy stabbing of the dying rook by another priest, started marking exams instead of invigilating them as he did before witnessing, in body, such a mercy. But were they really rooks? Well, Corvus, at least. I actually seemed to feel the poignantly numb and gradual dying of the bird by means of this remarkably heart-wrenching, more-than-merely-vicarious experience of a story that I would never finish experiencing before my consciousness became the crook that numbly, if not nimbly, stole away before it knew it flew.

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Anthology context of this review: https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/915-2/

Dealing With A Gestalt Being


Some Things Drift Apart
 by Allen Ashley

“I let the words and images sink in and suddenly I understood. Some things drift apart and some join up. We were dealing with a gestalt being.”

This is an ingenious story without being a story at all! It is a tranche of speculation somehow storifying a man not quite ready for the trappings of old age retirement, who has drifted apart from his wife, now fighting a corporate blending of myths, legends, piscine flesh and neo-plastic, in the form of monsters along the east coast where I live and, so, we are fighting them on the beaches! — literally at many places including “Clacton” explicitly! A war against Putin now become a war against PollUTIoN? Even against a new Lidl building as a child’s toy! And featuring an old public computer that bears a handwritten sign not to watch mermaid porn on it!

“Yet how could we fight something that could so easily combine and then disperse?”

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Full context of this review will be here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/04/28/theakers-quarterly-fiction-70/

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Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
— W.B. Yeats

Tenebrionidae — Scott Nicolay & Jesse James Douthit-Nicolay

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A version of my earlier rolling review of this work that started in its context here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/04/26/and-at-my-back-i-always-hear-scott-nicolay/

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Someone or grizzly cowboy on a train, named Dumont? Wounded in the head? Physically or mentally wounded?
With caring Missy. His dog?
His girl Tigger had not turned up? Chased by Shadow Riders who knew what happened to Tigger? Words of this text morphing in my eyes like the letters of prehensile Graffiti — in the place where they first attacked? Nah, none of any of that. Don’t doubt it.

Read up to…
“….holding some big pieces back, he could tell that easy. Made it all hard to follow but main thing was he could see…”

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“but the whole story confused him anyway.”

Am I too old to read this? Fersure. The backstory, the violent men against Du-Mont, the running from the squat, drugs, foster kids, the guitar case, and much else all above my head. Read up to: “The junker he was riding was just siding out to let a faster train pass.” Let faster, maybe better, readers overtake me, but I’ll still be shunting around here till you come back and tell me whether it’s worth continuing the reading of it.

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I wonder whether ‘Missy’ should sound like a shortening of Miscegenate?

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“The hobo bible to hop outs.”

Crew change, reader story change, am still shunting with the first one, although I feel I’m crazily following over the tops of its words, but not jumping any of them I swear, even more dangerous perhaps than how Dumont’s pursuers are following over the tops of train cars!….

I note Miscegenate Missy ‘huddles’ with him ‘out of sight’, the bit I now stop at.

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“He massaged the tips of her ears to calm her and whispered —Smart girl, yes you’re a smart girl—“

I am now suddenly captivated, if not captured, by the Dumont rite of passage on trains & tracks, hopping between, shitting between like the bully in the Croaker, a Ligottian faded washed-out factory land in a “shit economy” world, with no workers in sight, and his relationship with Missy, I am sure more concerned with once deworming her and clipping her nails than anything else; she ups her leg at a hydrant as he tries a cubicle where things float in the bowl YOU DON’T REALLY WANT TO KNOW ABOUT! But you do want to look into that toilet bowl, if you love the words describing it.
Who is pursuing him, Shadow Riders, Bulls? Still not clear. Hopefully no plot spoilers in my episodic reading of this work, a reading method that seems to suit it — I tentatively started it in this way at first because I didn’t like it, but now I still revisit it sporadically because I DO!

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“Missy meanwhile whimpered and hugged his leg, sleek flank pressing against his calf. The structures around them lost definition and stretched like taffy,… […] The trains were still trains though…”

Well, I learnt here that if you can count the nuts on a train hub it is safe to hop on the moving train with this work’s mix of balance and traction and momentum and equilibrium as we now reach Dumont’s battle with a Rider called Ratch, a similar mix of ricochet, involving scrotum and balls exquisition. And the existing cut that needs a doctor. I feel pain through the words. Also I noticed consciously for the first time that another pursuing Rider is ‘Worm’…
And what is that subsuming ‘blot of blackness’.
I continue to have a love-hate relationship with this work called Tenebrionidae while my attitude to lók’aa’ch’égai was more a hate-heavy side to such a balance.

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Fersure 

“He stroked her sleek black fur and she rolled on her back, offered her belly, legs quivering with unrestrained joy while he scratched her. He knew they could go on like this forever but it was time to hop off so he stopped. She arched to lick his hand and he leaned over, hugged her once quick tight. She licked his cheek, his ear. His intended laugh emerged as a grunt and he released her after a final squeeze.”

Sorry to quote so much, but in view of this work’s later ending, it is important that Miscegenate Missy Incarnate is deemed vicarious Dumont’s own re-Incarnate when the high green towers appear from the train, after his fight with the last Shadow Rider who might once have lived inside Joseph Conrad’s head.

Guitar, and all, ‘freight train, freight train’, a song I heard when I was a small boy in the 1950s, as Dumont thinks of himself as a small boy towards the amazing climax of this work.

Massive stuff left to last by my choice of reading order, this being some of a mighty book’s strongest writing — here about a retail town and some chittering gutterpunks whom YOU WILL NEVER FORGET, and my own ‘crew change’, my own last bone to wedge open the door, yup, yup, that tarry cluster of bones as monster and later as your trusty weapon in a fight, YOU WILL ALSO NEVER FORGET. 

“same way as a slug—a slug the size of a rhinoceros.” — “the large dark beetles that came and went, occupied on cryptic errands known only to themselves.” — “the lines seesawed left and right and the size of the type itself shrank and swelled in his tired and crusty eyes.” — “Green again, a vast unbroken curtain of high dark pines.”

These final sections of the story containing some of this book’s strongest and most meaningful passages — a darkly wild ‘for its own sake’ ability to summon the resurrection of spirit from the darkest sump. But also to enjoy sinking back into it!

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Cross-referenced the Dumont story deciding when to hop trains with the Roald Dahl and Conan Doyle here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/26609-2/#comment-15649

Cf Tenebrionidae with the ‘glory beetles’ here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/26614-2/#comment-15652