PIERRE MENARD, AUTHOR OF THE QUIXOTE: Jorge Luis Borges

This artful story as a paradoxical literary critique seems highly topical today in alignment with Salman Rushdie’s QUICHOTTE that I once reviewed in manic detail HERE, whereby quotes from this Rushdie book, like ‘Wall Street guys in suspenders getting bottle service in nightclubs or doing tequila shots and throwing themselves at women as if they were banknotes.’ and ‘…so that the book of how everything became nothing cannot be written,…’,
need to be factored into Borges’ “don Quixote on Wall Street” mentioned in this Menard ‘story’ and…

…that this Borges is a literary critique establishing, against gainsayers, the correct bibliography for Pierre Menard, including his transcending of the many-many-monkeys-typing-away idea by rewriting DON QUIXOTE, by accident, word for word as a modern novel, and we reach a manic monkey gestalt by dint of a list of Menard’s works from (a) to (s) including, inter alia…

“(p) a diatribe against Paul Valéry, in Jacques Reboul’s Feuilles pour la suppression de la realité (which diatribe, I might add parenthetically, states the exact reverse of Menard’s true opinion of Valéry; Valéry understood this, and the two men’s friendship was never imperiled);”

and

“Those who have insinuated that Menard devoted his life to writing a contemporary Quixote besmirch his illustrious memory.”

And so, do we besmirch Rushdie’s living reputation by implying he didn’t succeed by different means? No, because he continues to succeed.

and

“My obliging predecessor did not spurn the collaboration of chance; his method of composition for the immortal book was a bit à la diable, and he was often swept along by the inertiæ of the language and the imagination.”

“Historical truth, for Menard, is not ‘what happened’; it is what we believe happened.”

“Fame is a form – perhaps the worst form – of incomprehension.
Those nihilistic observations were not new; what was remarkable was the decision that Pierre Menard derived from them. He resolved to anticipate the vanity that awaits all the labors of mankind; he undertook a task of infinite complexity, a task futile from the outset.”

“Every man should be capable of all ideas, and I believe that in the future he shall be.”

…and thus my manic monkey gestalt: the idea that Borges and Menard and Rushdie and Cervantes are not mutually exclusive. Even Lope de Vega is explicitly mentioned in Borges’ Menard. (The word ‘menard’ seems, when transcending any translation, strangely meaningful, but when you try to explain why it means what you think it means, then that meaning seems mad and ceases to be.)

***
Headquote in my own novel ‘Nemonymous Night’ (Chômu Press 2011):

“‘You are not your name, not your body, not your various actions—not even your soul or self. Just dig and see, haul back what you find. And try not laugh or cry when, from the core of reality, you reveal the true nature of “you”.’
— Lope de Vega (loose translation)

***

Full context of this review: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/1303-2/

DEATH BY DROWNING by Maggie Ross

CCE0DCE5-E0E5-4932-8383-AF57B50FD57B

“Do you know what it reminds me of down there under the pier? A slaughterhouse.”

An inspiring and disturbing story, one I didn’t miss because of any obscurity of where it was, or where she was, as I talk to you in a beach hut of the disappearance of my wife, into the Ladies on the pier. Never coming out again. A wife who once hid my book reviews she said for fun, no, sorry, she hid my fictional orchids and blamed a burglar.
A pier just like the Walton on the Naze one very near which I was conceived and lived as child, a train then going to its end as in this story. And full of the seaside atmosphere and beachcombing finds that surround me today in a place where I have lived for some years on the same coast with the same East wind as in this story. And reminding me of the general pre-sentiments to this story in an old published story of my own as reproduced HERE.

“Everyone worries about his wife. They must do. They are a worry.”

***

Full context of this review: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/1366-2/

The Frontier Guards by H. Russell Wakefield

Entering Haunted Houses is like entering Fiction Stories, you need your wits and instinctive skills to summon or resist…

Träumtrawler

“It seems to me sometimes as if I actually assist in evoking and materialising these appearances, that I help to establish a connection between them…”

C46E6732-D0FF-4F13-BD4C-421321B494A7

Modest though I think I am, I do sometimes have an inexplicable knack to evoke the same effects when entering story texts thatI happen to choose to real-time review, the same as Landerdoes when he dares to enter haunted houses. The fact that he issaid also to be a novelist is neither here nor there, I guess!

Ignoring all that for a moment I was genuinely terrifiedby this brief story, perhaps more than any other, particularlywhen encountering its two undoubtedly crucial‘elbow’ moments, after having been justifiably obsessed with elbows as triggersin literature for the last year or so in my real-time reviewing.

The story itself is well-written, atmospheric, about this house that is purported to be both ‘malevolent’and ‘fatal’, and Lander — who has avoided…

View original post 93 more words

“Look Up There!” by H. Russell Wakefield

My review of ‘The Red Lodge’: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/05/17/the-red-lodge-by-h-russell-wakefield/

***

F51493BF-AEA9-4CAA-8E27-732CA3855476

“Look Up There!”

“For whom do you lodge the responsibility for the somewhat less palatable spectacles provided by bull-fights and battle-fields?”

God or the Devil, or Dualism, or simply Nothing? This story, intentionally or not, presents the flag of surrender waved to none of these perhaps, but simply to the storms the earth naturally brings upon us. But now, since the times of HRW, not so much natural as man-made? Man is the only God, I wonder? But we continue figuratively to look up with increasing fright at the unknown, the indefinite, the ambiguous…

This is well-told, beautifully couched in prose, a story of a civil servant, Mr Packard,  on sick leave from the Home Office because of pressure of work (or the pressure of his own overlords or ladies  there!) and he recurrently spots a couple of unusual folk…and this is one helluva opening paragraph to this story… just savour it endlessly…

“Why DID he always stare up? And why did he so worry Mr Packard by doing it? The latter had come to Brioni to read and to rest, and to take the bare minimum of notice of his fellow-men. Doctor’s orders! And here he was preoccupied, almost obsessed, by the garish idiosyncrasy of this tiny, hen-eyed fellow. He was not a taking specimen of humanity, for his forehead was high and receding, his nose beaked fantastically and the skin stretched so tightly across it that it seemed as if it might be ripped apart at any moment. Then, he had a long, thin-lipped mouth always slightly open, and a pointed beard which, like his hair, was fussy and unkempt. He was for ever in the company of a stalwart yokel — a south-country enlisted Guardsman to the life; a slow-moving, massive, red-faced plebeian who seemed a master of the desirable art of aphasia, for no word ever seemed to pass his lips. But, good heavens! how he ploughed and furrowed the menu!”

And the tiny man eventually tells at storytelling length to Packard outside on the Adriatic coast, telling it during an encroaching real-time storm, of his visit to Gauntry Hall, and the tradition of never stepping foot in it on New Year’s Eve ….until, with some parvenus called Relf, he did just that thing! It would spoil it for me (or even for HRW via the tiny man!) to describe what then had induced him, ever since, to  be looking up (at an angle of 35 degrees, happening to be the temperature today in my own real time near Frinton), looking up at or for something fearful… The “Bogey Man”,  some outcome of the “Feudal System”, the ‘parvenus’ called Relf who once owned Gauntry Hall, or something “I had to breast my way through [it] as through a hostile tide” towards whatever God or Devil or Nothing that resides on the other side? A page of white blankness or something writ upon?

***

Above image by Tony Lovell for The HA of HA (2011)

My reviews of separate older horror stories: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/07/13/separate-horror-stories-from-many-years-ago/

Please see further HRW reviews in comment stream below.

BETTER NOT by Elizabeth Taylor

7505CA57-F2C5-44B0-8435-2CE45FB0444A

“Another day gone. A sense of achievement in this. Going cheerfully towards the grave.”

The male POV is amid the wondrously ET-drifty garden and house, children, mother, he a bachelor who is a family friend and done many duties to the whole family, now thinking of telling the mother in the family how he loves her before he himself leaving off his “last leave” for that wet wartime tent, I guess. And he decides better not.

“Begin to hum, then you find you are singing and all the knots in your throat are untied …” he had earlier told the child in the family, and then he thought of his reading matter only connected to the station he was leaving from… “King’s Cross. That station suggests Infinity, Forster says. Do you remember?”
And to ironically match with some strange power of coincidence yesterday’s L.P. Hartley butterfly-cull in a killing bottle HERE… (better fly not?)

“About being a butterfly and not having very long to live.”

***

Full context of this review: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/elizabeth-taylor-stories-2/

Above image found beneath the dustjacket of a Tartarus Press publication.

THE PENGUIN BOOKS OF BRITISH SHORT STORIES

Edited by Philip Hensher

My serial real-time reviews of every single story in these three mighty anthologies, in this order…

  1. https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/04/12/penguin-books-of-british-short-stories/
  2. https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/2022/04/26/penguin-books-of-british-short-stories-2/
  3. https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/26609-2/
  4. https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/915-2/
  5. https://etepsed.wordpress.com/1207-2/
  6. https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/kingsley-amis-masons-life/
  7. https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/35138-2/
  8. https://weirdtongue.wordpress.com/the-penguin-books-of-the-british-short-story/
  9. https://nemonymous123456.wordpress.com/the-penguin-books-of-the-british-short-story/
  10. https://cernzoo.wordpress.com/the-penguin-books-of-the-british-short-story/

Also…

The Penguin Book of the Contemporary British Short Story
Edited by Philip Hensher

  1. https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/12/26/the-penguin-book-of-the-contemporary-british-short-story/
  2. https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/2022/04/14/the-penguin-book-of-the-contemporary-british-short-story-part-two/

Dorothy Edwards: A Country House

“Night does not round things off. Night is a distorter.”

This story is a major short story discovery for me, especially after reading, by chance, a similar discovery: THE ISLAND by L.P. Hartley HERE a day or so ago, about a supposed electrician and emotional matters between two men and a woman, involving Hugo Wolf music! There the Hartley story’s own metaphorical equivalent to the flagstaff of meaning also flew, as it were, “senselessly”, at the end… (Aickman echoes, too.)
Here it is a man as narrator dwelling on his wife…
“It takes many years to close up all the doors to your soul. And then a woman comes along, and at the first sight of her you push them all open, and you become a child again.”
And he wants to care for her, and put electricity into the country house, where no drought, as here today in my own real-time, would prevent a stream in the grounds fulfilling the power for an electric substation…
“‘There is enough water,’ he said, ‘and I suppose it is fuller than this sometimes?’
‘Yes, when it rains,’ said my wife.”
The electrician is a musical man and matches the musical tastes of the wife, and the narrator feels the electrician is spiritually outside the plain utility work that he oversees, the work with the substation…”forming a sort of triangle with the hypotenuse underground.” – “Nothing but a yellow brick hut with steps to go down, and an opening like the mouth of a letter-box in the wall nearest the stream.”
Doubling such work with a holiday when staying at the country house; it is not on an island but is a place with deceptive lake in the distance that the electrician thinks is the sea…
“What can anyone do with a strange man in the drawing-room but play the piano to him? She played a Chopin nocturne.” That night distorter.
“…he later sung Brahms” and discussed Strauss’s Alpine Symphony. And one particular Hugo Wolf song emblemises the conflicting emotions involved… and he stood to attention like a flagstaff with elbow as flag?

“She played for him, and he stood up at attention, except that, with his right arm bent stiffly at the elbow… […] People do not change their lives suddenly. That is, they don’t except in literature. And now I feel at peace about it.”

***

Full context of this review: https://cernzoo.wordpress.com/the-penguin-books-of-the-british-short-story/