Dot and Carry One


THE DOLT’S TALE by Elizabeth Bowen


This is the maddest story I have ever read. 1944, it says. In London. Far more Mysterious than even Kôr! Why do I not remember first reading it? My mother listened to doodlebugs before they cut out. She told me about them. Here a male narrator who rambles neatly enough, I guess, and is the dolt, to go with the doodles and someone’s duodenal? Well, his chat starts at a club and those he meets, Margery and her so-called husband, Ken Timpson, and shenanigans and someone is a saboteur, but who?

“Joining up at the club, we would then trool out to their place, Ken running me back into town again next morning.”

A saboteur is worse than an unreliable narrator, I say. Another hanger-on, Denis, is in the art world and he is a ‘sissy’. Who’s getting off on whom? Who the troll, who the victim? And there is even a co-vivid dream to match our days of lockdown with the war then, and the madnesses that prevailed then and now.

“It was like the sort of dream that you are told about, which I have I am glad to say never had. Not, I mean, like any form of real life – in that I think I may say I always know where I am.”

I really think Bowen is a prophetic genius through her preternature of literature, making her even alive today beyond her coastal haunt in 1973! But what happened to Margery’s dog, her clumping mules and the Timpsons’ ever unseen kid? What happened to us? Who among us still waits the next jolt with bated breath?

“As it was, there was a silence over the Timpsons’ place like there is overhead when a doodlebug has cut out: that or something or other gave me gooseflesh.”


All my ongoing reviews of Bowen stories:

Elizabeth Bowen, Katherine Mansfield, William Trevor & Robert Aickman



— renée c. hoogland on Elizabeth Bowen in this book:

Seems relevant to my preternatural or fearless faith in fiction that has been engendered by gestalt real-time reviewing as an instinctive or naive process…

Remember to Breathe

Although not directly connected with the next story, this photo is one I happened to take earlier this morning, without any forethought, and before first reading the story — a photo of a funeral parlour window, that turned out in hindsight to be remarkable, if oblique, collateral! 


BEWARE POSSIBLE SPOILERS, though, for me, it already worked even if with firm forethought.

The Summer King’s Day
by Timothy Granville

“The crown of wildflowers seemed a grotesque afterthought, a mockery like Christ’s crown.”

Alongside the ending of the previous story above, this was as great an afterthought as it was a hindsight…. A suspenseful story of a young couple and a toddler called Poppy, the latter learning to talk as well as walk. They seem to have booked a holiday in a place off the beaten track called Elveley, and are surprised, in fact at first slightly fearful, that an off-season day’s festival with rattling of pots and pans coincided with their visit. It centres around the eponymous King played by a tall man in a mask, who for me — via the words describing him and what is said about him by others, and his choice for quietness — actually succeeded in making me shudder. And also made the husband have one of his, what I deemed to be, asthmatic fits. The family later decide to cut their losses and on the same day leave the village for a trip to a wooded barrow in the area, whereby the hi-jinx chasing and hunting with Poppy insidiously merges with chitinous chirring and a flowery mound to mimic what had been buried — yes, with a chirring if not cheering! They had been foolhardy enough to break the festival’s bounds and to travel to leave Elveley on the day in question… Hindsight was never enough, I guess. Afterthought is ever being transcended by forethought, too. Earlier that day, you see, before their reaching the end of the story, there was for the wife … “a bluebottle still buzzing in a cobweb on the window frame, gathering the dusty mesh like a spool. She felt strange, apprehensive, as though there was something awful she had to face but she’d temporarily forgotten what.”
Remember — ‘remember to breathe’.


The full context of this review:

The Rucked Top of a Hyacinth Dress



“…just let it roll – I do – it finds its own place.”

…as it has just now, a story somehow forgotten, now remembered as if inevitably melting out of an endless future, again and again one of my favourite stories.

“The five positions: they performed like compasses. First … second … third … fourth … fifth! For each a chord, a shock of sound tingling out into silence. The dancing-mistress kept them in the fifth position and melted down between the lines to look.”

Much melting interstitially including a man’s ambition: “Oh well, he won’t melt any glaciers!’ Note the italics. Note later his name and “his dark-ivory forehead”. “Poor Lulu was also distressingly beautiful;”

The story of another trio of characters as in Mysterious Kôr, two women (the eponymous mistress and her pianist who try to make room for each other’s heads and hands) but this time the man is called Lulu not Arthur. And you may infer what you like from that, this day and age you are reading it. Then, it was late November, with fog or a smoky mist when the light needed it, near unto a cliff, and many little girls come for their lesson, with much tactile dress-stuff, changing into dancing and silkiness for legs, including the rucked top of a woman’s hyacinth dress. 

The women go home together on the train, so Lulu has to take them both to a meal as he has his eye on the mistress. Sleepiness and other nuances mean it’s an anti-climax for him, but that is no spoiler as nothing can spoil Bowen, because I could be wrong about what happens. The emotions and the girls dancing, one girl as if in a rat trap and, and with the thump  of another girl’s heart that leads to black bubbles in the throat, a girl that one of the women literally  thinks she wants to kill. A clear tantrum and a nuance, together! 


“You and I, you and she, she and I, we’ll forget each other anyhow – that’s nature.”

A story that crepitates with the nuance of Autumn light and crepuscular sounds and glinting materials and limbs. And emotions that roll with it. If the head fits, wear it.

“As Jean Jones had thought, she was not like a person at all.”

But into whom did this barely noticeable Jean Jones grow up? The captivating mystery of this gorgeous endlessness of an Autumn, nearly Winter, story. Instructed about our physical motions, head fitted over text, but left to our own freewheeling emotions.

“…she melted into the floor. She flowed down into it.”


My ongoing reviews of all Bowen stories:

Folded-Down Paper


CARELESS TALK by Elizabeth Bowen

“As fast as people went wading out people came wading in,…”

“He reminded her of one of the pictures arrived at in that paper game when, by drawing on folded-over paper, you add to one kind of body an intriguingly wrong kind of head.”

The consequences of war, a war ‘in media res’, as Mary from the country visits a now more cosmopolitan London, carrying with her three eggs as a present for someone in these rationing days (trustingly giving them to a waiter in the restaurant to keep safe till she finishes her meal) while meeting some of her old friends in this restaurant – talking of evacuees, cigarettes, the ‘Free French’ and secrets some could not talk about during the war….

“The only men one likes now are always late.”

The movement of peoples, not only between nations, but between each individual people’s houses, recalling, for me, the romantic logistics in the. small rooms of Mysterious KÔR….within this omelette of secret thoughts as well as life’s new habits when in bad times.

‘it can’t be as late as this?’

‘I just ought to keep an eye on the time.’

The time it will take for me to read and real-time report on all EB’s stories from the Vintage and EUP Collections. Bizarrely, this is the first story, after the ones I have already covered for choice personal reasons, the first that has been picked out of a tin of many titles each written on ‘folded over’ paper! Bearing in mind the chance quote above, this perhaps obliquely bodes well for my fearless faith in fiction that has been empirically identified for some years now and such faith’s preternatural patterns of an evolving gestalt?…

“One’s mind gets like that these days,’…”

A very short story, this one. And not much time perhaps for the rest. The Null Immortalis that hard times incubate? Three ‘thuds’ from The Apple Tree, three eggs here.


My reviews of Elizabeth Bowen Stories: