The Art of Figurative Swirling

Trouble in the Backwaters

This was not about the terrible disease from which old men have often suffered. This was the only story where the Famous Five children and those from Swallows and Amazons appeared together and declared war in support of their own author, Enid Blyton children versus Arthur Ransome children, taking place in the ‘secret water’ of Walton on the Naze when the 1950s were truly the 1950s and not an excuse for some monochrome nostalgia about such an era. 

Julian, George, Dick and Anne versus Nancy, Bridget, Titty and co., with boats bobbing and weaving between the tall shrimping sheds. But there was very little engagement of forces as each character gradually meandered off to do their own thing, either singly or in pairs. Sometimes cross-booking in weaving cahoots. None of them really caring about the next exciting adventure of smugglers and spies and the even deeper backwaters of their readers’ imagination. 

One of them, not sure which one, with a jam jar as vessel to secure for himself (I think it was one of the boys) a tiny stickleback fish to swim around in some of its own surrounding water before it expired a few days later and floated on the oily gritty surface. The boy, if it was a boy, dodged between the shadows, fearing that older boys — some with the beginnings of facial stubble — might follow him for whatever reason, perhaps to entice him into a shrimping shed or to take him on an adventure that was quite beyond his capacity to understand.

He sometimes spotted one or two of the other children from the books; they were floating pieces of wood near a houseboat like would-be Pooh-sticks. One of them suddenly fell in the mud and that was possibly the last thing that the child ever did. And as soon as it grew dark, the boy, if it was a boy, saw a man and a woman singly weaving around the backwaters to see if they could find one of the children they had lost and to bring him back to book. Neither knew whether it was the man’s imagined child or hers.

Instead, the man and woman found each other. And fell in love, and that became more than just everything else concerning the course of what they later wrote, or didn’t write, whichever alternate world happened to prevail. Their lostling child became a changeling, became one of the old men within his own mysterious backwaters. A time and a place too silent and dark even to have trouble in.

See Twitter #DFLewisThingie for other old Thingies

When I Was Dead

nullimmortalis May 7, 2021 at 8:37 am

WHEN I WAS DEAD by Vincent O’Sullivan

“: at Ravenel the chain of nerves was prone to clash and jangle a funeral march.”
Nevermore, Ravenel. These books’ ghost-as-selfish-hoax here is yourself locked down from society in this house instead of ‘knocking about in town’, not mind over matter so much as matter over mind, dreaming, dreaming a combined vivid dream, in which dream other people in the household see the person that once was yourself now a dead body with its nose bleeding as part and parcel of the belief-suspended spell, and you still stand outside it all as the only mind that matters. The only one with omniscience and omnipotence as creator of the dream’s ‘story’ — Null Immortalis.
And like print on white paper—
“…the house was filled with blacks, and mutes… […] …a black thread winding slowly over the white plain.”

From Internet: “O’Sullivan died in Paris, 1940” —-
where his life, as Aickman tells us, ‘ended anonymously in the common pit for the cadavers of paupers’.

The context of this review here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/05/04/the-4th-fontana-book-of-great-ghost-stories-edited-by-robert-aickman/

Elephants & Monkeys

Too many reasons not to take my grandson to the zoo. He did not want to go, I did not want to go, and when we got there, it was shut.

Apparently, some disease or misfunction had hit many of the animals. Yet the disappointment should not have been an issue, and we were only there because his grandmother, my wife, had insisted. She wanted us male bristles out of her hair, in other words. Nevertheless, he started to cry when we saw the notice on the turnstile….

“I want to see the elephants and monkeys,” he squalled repeatedly.

“No point in wanting that,” I said, “as nobody is going to let us in. Better find somewhere else to go.”

At that point, a face showed up at the turnstile. A wide moonface, with a zoo cap, and a moustache that seemed to hide some lip sores. 

“I can get you in to see the elephants and monkeys, if you like. Only a few of them have succumbed. The rest are fine.”

“We can’t catch whatever it is, then?” I asked. 

He nodded, handing my grandson an unwrapped sweet, now being busily sucked. I cringed, thinking what could have handled it before being passed along. Not unlike a revolving door, the turnstile seemed to go right round and we came out again. But by whatever means, we were now in the zoo proper with ranks of cages and a mapwork of enclosures. We spotted a distant giraffe failing to reach something to nibble in the air. And the nearest enclosure had clockwork toys twirling around, the keys in their backs twirling, too. One was a train on a circular track.

“This way for the elephants and monkeys,” the zoo man said, as he took us past a monstrous blob suppurating on its own within a cage. 

My grandchild eventually finished the sweet and his eyes bulged as he found himself watching the most beautiful jungle scene ever created by any zoo. Elephants grazed, gently swinging their trunks, prodding tusks with care into the undergrowth. And monkeys glided from tree to tree.

“Thank you, granddad, for bringing me today.”

He smiled at me, as, with some difficulty, I gripped the key hard and stopped it turning round in his back.

And his eyes bulged even bigger, as the whole scene froze. Including me.

 

The Sphinx Without A Secret

nullimmortalis

…and so on to the next story that describes the context of these words: “…widows, as exemplifying the survival of the matrimonially fittest,…”

THE SPHINX WITHOUT A SECRET by Oscar Wilde 

This famous brief prose fiction about a literal conservative man bewitched by the amorphously, arguably un-literal secrecy in the mystery of a woman whom he fatefully glimpses. Yet, I see her haunting mystery, “looking like a moonbeam in grey lace”, as a straightforwardly LITERAL means to trap a man into the web of her desires. Until she, in this story told by the man, reliable or not, succumbs to a sudden congestion of the lungs, implying that the power of our human bodies to rule over or submit to matters of life is far more unilaterally mysterious than anything hard-and-fast or reconditely malleable that one does or believe or even simply is. There lies fate.

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nullimmortalis

The story, thus, IS its own title.

The full context of the above: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/05/04/the-4th-fontana-book-of-great-ghost-stories-edited-by-robert-aickman/