Out At Elbows


Robert Louis Stevenson: The Body Snatcher

“…if you begin, you must keep on beginning; that’s the truth. No rest for the wicked.”

“We must do something for you, Fettes; I fear you are out at elbows; but we must see to that –“

The meeting of a doctor called Wolfe and another man called Fettes, both in older or decrepit age, particularly the diselbowed Fettes, meeting by chance in a pub when the doctor is called to an emergency there. And one of the co-tipplers or topers there later put together his own gestalt of ghoulery that he ‘wormed’ piecemeal from Fettes about the mutual past of the two men who had just faced each other again, for a nonce, in the small space between the pub’s landing and exit…

“…the wide oak staircase landed almost in the street; there was room for a Turkey rug and nothing more between the threshold and the last round of the descent; […] …and it was a surprising contrast to see our parlour sot, bald, dirty, pimpled, and robed in his old camlet cloak, confront him at the bottom of the stairs. […] The scene was over like a dream; but the dream had left proofs and traces of its passage.”

And the wormed-out tale is of the Resurrection Man or the Body Snatcher…

“From such a scene he would return to snatch another hour or two of slumber,…”

The graphically gruesome accounts are never to be forgotten, in that small grey area between the exhumations for the students’ dissecting rooms and the sheer glory of gory, the two men’s greed, their growing amorality and acceptance of such deeds in that niche of space where evil lurks, and coffin lids rattle. Fettes is at first fazed by the arrival of a young woman’s body who was fit enough for him to be talking to only the day before, but thereafter he is ineluctably inured in his own inner creature’s future foxearth, I deem. Then more than just fazed by a man called Gray who ends this story with that space between black and white, a space smaller than ever, with, arguably, a Swiftian ironic reference to the famous book that Gray had recently published! And someone called Richardson had Gray’s head to dissect. But who is Mr K——?
The rifling of bodies couched in language as rape would be — in contrast to the implied love between snatcher and snatched — the latter’s head touchingly laid upon the former’s shoulders…
What are you, lion or lamb? Only the wicked cannot rest. The rest is nothing.


Full context of this review: https://nemonymous123456.wordpress.com/the-penguin-books-of-the-british-short-story/

A Masterpiece of Passion


Street Musicians of Prague – Karel Stroff

PET MILK: Stuart Dybek

At least three faces above seem, from their astonished or leering expressions, to indicate that the front of stage figure is flashing! A painting (entitled as above) is a significant prop (“The reflections of her beauty startled me.”) in the following story’s plot…

“Pet milk was the cream.”

Squirts of condensed milk as cream that are tactilely described, with touching homeland nostalgia, by this story of a young Czech couple in Chicago…where wireless stations…
“…the Greek station instead, or the Spanish, or the Ukrainian. In Chicago, where we lived, all the incompatible states of Europe were pressed together down at the staticky right end of the dial.”

“…repeated explosions, blooming in kaleidoscopic clouds through the layer of heavy cream.”

And the story’s climax of their copulating, as an inescapable urge of sexual and national frustration, on a train (“She was moving her hips to pin us to each jolt of the train.”) that resulted in others, with the train flashing by and then halting in a station seeing their intimacy, including by himself as a schoolboy in his native land… 

“…but that arrested wave stayed with me. It was as if I were standing on that platform, with my schoolbooks…”

“If he failed to float the cream, we’d get that one free.”

“It was the first time I’d ever had the feeling of missing someone I was still with.”

“‘To Europe!’ I replied, and we clunked shells.”

A masterpiece of passion!


Full context of this review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/04/27/the-penguin-book-of-the-modern-american-short-story/

PS: note the elbow sticking out in 3-D!

“sculpture by random”


LEVIATHAN by Lucy Frost

‘; in the sculpture by random explosion we call “evolution”—‘

A truly astonishing … prose poem? technical or cosmic description? fiction story? absolute truth story? — about what I have been pondering without any help from such a creative work as this, except now this description of an entity-of-us somehow gives meaning to my own GESTALT real-time reviewing over the last 14 years while collecting these cells as story-or-truth words! — Also, there is this work’s own “connectivity” to the previous ‘stories’ above in the Vastarium, thus creating the culmination of their ‘evolution’ as natation and natalism, such cells as selves swimming in the abyss we call self. The hinged together parts of our body or bodies, too.


Full context of above review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/06/10/vastarien-vol-5-issue-1/


“I’m going to talk about literature. Serious literature.”

Decrepit carpet-bag, or somebody else travelled to Drammen to give lecture on literature?
Smug, 500 lecture invitation cards each with a typo….
versus posters for someone else’s talk on apes and wild beasts, and a badger masquerading as a hyena. With magic tricks. 

Humiliated, penny-pinching negotiation, moving from hotel to B and B.
Barometer plummets. Brandy helps. Literature wins over charlatanism. Yet, he remains strangely and ineluctably unconsoled.


This disarming story seems now to have been, via someone else’s glimpse of truth, the core inspiration for my seriously favourite literature that I once reviewed here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/09/16/the-unconsoled-kazuo-ishiguro/


Full context of above review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/04/28/that-glimpse-of-truth/


Wilkie Collins: Mrs Badgery


“‘I wish you could contrive not to cry over the top of my head, ma’am,’ said I.”

This story tells of such an extreme apotheosis of burrowing badgery that one wonders why it did not give birth to that term for future usage as examples of extreme nuisance, here from a “widowed incubus”. This is the story whereby a bald gentleman is desperate that there is no law available for ridding the house he has just bought from such a badgery by a woman, the Matilda Martyr, who is so besotted with grief at her husband’s death that she feels she has the right to impest every room where they spent their married life, in this house she no longer owns. It is both hilarious and frightening in a hellish way, I think. No wonder he insisted on “Hullo!” not Hello. And he is terrorised that his fontanelle cannot escape her burrowing teardrops. And the touching of his arm in church with the dead man’s “abstract theology”. Popping in to see if his collar has been starched, no doubt. Not even snores could penetrate the crape. Mock feints or faints, even ‘man-traps’, and there is no law to halt this duel, “my house” against “her shrine.” Ha!


Full context of this review: https://nemonymous123456.wordpress.com/the-penguin-books-of-the-british-short-story/#comment-792


Elbows & Knots: ‘For the Night is Long and I am Lost Without You’ by Erica Ruppert


“Eventually, she stopped writing altogether and only read, although she was never quite sure she understood.
Dena moved in, seeking clarity. It always escaped.”

One may feel holy in tune with such words in recent years, whatever gender is borne. I certainly gave up writing to only read, only connect … and the fulfilment and emptiness tussle with each other, giving birth to … what? This the transcendent story of Dena, as she writes upon the surface of water, to try to recapture her skills as a jobbing surreal poet before being drawn into this work, if not drowned into these rituals by a triangulated sisterhood. Water to stand in or swim in or give birth in (please see my very recent review of the Elizabeth Taylor threnody of Natation and Natalism HERE that miraculously acts as a spiritual synergy, by chance, with this Ruppert work). This is a house where we gradually gather around us Dena’s focussed place in it as we slowly did with the character in the previous Morgan story above of continued disjunction… and we are somehow involved in the actual impregnating or conception of what will later be borne, if possibly not born
“Just one of those coincidences that happen if something goes on long enough.”
And the seasons do indeed pass in this stylish work, long enough for the birth pangs to begin … both satisfying and desperate for the reader’s own attempts to fulfil the reading of this work, whatever its ending… with a hinge or trigger that somehow started kicking-in, for me, miraculously from this point in the text onward…

“Her knees and elbows were great knots on her skinny limbs as what she carried grew.”

My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/erica-ruppert/

Cf my previous translation of ‘knots’ as ‘ligotti’. — https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2015/11/27/le-noeud-de-ligotti/


Full Vastarien context of above review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/06/10/vastarien-vol-5-issue-1/