Friday, August 17, 2018

Figurehead by Carly Holmes (part 2)

Carly Holmes

FIGUREHEAD by Carly Holmes
Tartarus Press 2018
Continuation of my gestalt real-time review from HERE.
My further thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

18 responses to “Carly Holmes

    Pages 121 – 146 (2nd half of novelette)
    Possible spoilers –
    “, and the bell was dented where it had been thrown against the wall.”
    The end revelation is to be dwelt on before coming to a conclusive assessment about it. Meanwhile, this work borders on melodrama and contrivance, but is this more from the attic above it all where a Mrs Rochester squats with the cheese crust on top of organic things below? No, more instinctively, the work’s clinching adeptness of feeling and objective-correlative is probably beyond melodrama or contrivance as I gathered by becoming gradually entrammelled by Marie’s disarming narration, where two sisters compare themselves bodily from childhood onward, bony hips or more fulsome spread of femininity, linkage with their own childhood into today’s visions (frighteningly real visions or imaginary-mad ones?) via children in trees or among the mansion’s maze, factored into the respective states of one sister’s pregnancy with a bodily fulsomeness where there was once a greater boniness and of the other sister’s recently gutted pregnancy now offered a re-stocking by one of the past’s cruelly treated souls who once reached unwanted full-term as a small human. A large mansion’s inner doors opened or shut to let others out, or keep them back in. There seems something intrinsically meaningful there, but ungraspable. Shattered eggs within the mansion. A poignancy of sound in crushing bones. The poignant moulding of belly’s dome as part of that earlier jigsaw. A story that counted magpies, “as I slapped slices of cheese between bread…”
    [It has occurred to me that Colin Insole is a writer recommendable to anyone who enjoys Carly Holmes’ work.]
    “Iris purple and stem green.”
    Strumpet sounds like something from Shakespeare; each one is cut from the same family cloth, woman born to woman, no specific man described, yet done up to attract men. Painted tarts, from childhood to older, flighty and flirty borne by textured prose, figure-headed, yet only two pages to count…one or two might eventually come back petulantly with a Maria’s Silence as naked truth?
  3. RUNTY
    “I carried a bottle of red wine and a tumbler into the garden as dust thickened the edges of our street. I dribbled a little onto the ground as homage to the gods of the earth and drank the rest greedily.”
    A symbol of our times.
    This is a well-observed, neo-Bowenesque portrait of arguably justifiable paranoia and eventual self-consciousness experienced by a woman narrator bird-feeding in her garden and chatting with the eponymous jackdaw, imperviously watched by the man — as passing-guest in the tourist house next door — in his behavioural manner of a mutant form of the Maria’s Silence syndrome. The ending reminded me obliquely of GHOST STORY.
    Another 24 hour period of my being similarly haunted by another pervasive Carly Holmes work of the day!
    “She goes into the woods to read poetry”
    Three pages of something that is visually like a poem as enjambmented by, say, DH Lawrence, when he was a poet, with some stanzas starting with the incantatory refrain “She goes into the woods…”. Honestly Holmesque, I’d say, with everything I now find myself loving about this author’s work. The lycanthropic shimmer at the end, included. Tactile, fey, faerie and intravenously Gaia.
  5. ALTER
    “Forcing oneself to behave in a way that can only ever circle in on itself, counter-productively. Animals would never indulge in those compulsions, they haven’t the luxury.”
    I am like the quilt-jacketed old man in this story? Spotting the fruit of her dressing-gown décolletage? Nope, I am a literary critic spotting there is today more than just a shimmer ot lycanthropy or, at least, a feral quality in this powerful, still fey, but less faerie, story of a man whose wife’s body clock does not match his workaday one, her own own bodily and mental décolletage trending in that feral direction, a marriage in decline, encouraging badgers, and the state of the world beyond just sitting at the altar of the rolling news.
    “The rest can be history.”
    A story of two pages, a sister to the previous story, here more a flicker than a shimmer, dug to or from a fox earth … earth her own intravenous Gaia? Vermin or vixen? Royal scion or scab or scarifier?
    “A person: she became a person.”
    Twice-cooked. Short of the permanent measures taken in SLEEP, this is a serious self-therapy method for mothers of young children to become their own women at least for a while, childless and frivolous, with the collusion of the children to become digestive. Biscuits galore and undercurrents of gingerbread houses and fey faery. Jollity and stoicism. Important fable. Even more important within the gestalt so far of this book. A story of one’s bodily foundlings unfound.
  8. Another impressed carpet:
    “Bake, and bake, and bake.”
    Now thrice cooked, not twice. A poignant portrait of Penny and her dog, Penny, whose carpet holds the impress of her history, in her house, near the literally encroaching hills. I mentioned intravenous Gaia earlier, for now some unknown reason, and here is its obliquely negative human-instigated embodiment, as a significant Friday also encroaches as fast or slow as the “jostling” hills do encroach. The slumped curves she left in furniture, bulges of her feet, and we gradually gather, by her phone calls, and italicised thoughts, what Friday brings. Awaiting either clinching encroachment or a crucial breaking out. Rubbish on street verges verging. Sticky pavements, too. Shadows deformed. But no surrender to sleep. Yet. Or a putting to a different sleep (one this book has already encroached upon), the clinching sleep of someone Penny loved, already sleeping?
    An original, evocatively tactile tale of a mother who is a were-tree, her children, the brother and sister, in two minds about this blessing or predicament.
    Intravenous Gaia now in overdrive!?
    Slightly connected…
    My favourite passage from one of my long-term favourite books: MARTIN PIPPIN IN THE APPLE ORCHARD by Eleanor Farjeon:
    “…strapped into a hoist, heaved into position, I gazed upon the sea for the first time…”
    …as I once did upon the wordsea of literature. This book’s flagship story is the pungently punctuated, innuendo-riddled narration of a flighty, feisty figurehead once carved from the mother heartwood of the previous story, on her last voyage, with her Sapphic yearnings for a younger figurehead on another ship – deploying, for me, the essence of ‘hawling’ as mind over matter, imagination over mind, straining, by dint of preternatural will power, her own ship’s sinews towards what may be a kamikaze kiss. Adorable.
    Yellow Wall Paper syndrome replaces ME?
    This is an ultra-powerful narration by a woman, a broken version of the feisty Figurehead, this painful and stylish screed breaking her own version of Maria’s Silence, her teeth, she’s told, holding her madness, now being gradually extracted and later the innards that set her back into the wallpaper, I guess. Effectively imprisoned by her husband and doctors in this lunatic asylum for women where she seeks female companionship against the onset of the world that put them there. Horrific and hopefully cathartic. A major work within a major gestalt, never to be extracted.
    “, passing coded messages from yellow gaze to yellow gaze.”
    A tale of significantly accretive heartwood’s onset of reclamation of the numbered houses in the Close, with creative tension between those who welcome this onset and those who try to escape it. Some of us even welcome back foundlings of childhood fairy story lore – from our own heartwood’s past. One of whom gnaws on a biscuit… I sense that those who “set their faces to the dark heart of the wood” opened this book first.
  13. I reviewed the next story here: and below is what I wrote about it in that context…
    “Fish nuzzled the water’s surface from below, ghostly shapes in speckled bronze and silver floating up through the murk.”
    Were they Tench? And meanings float up, too, through the river of this powerful story, through its riparian renewability, always a new river to touch the next time you touch it. Written in a linear literary style with the feel of the balanced stars of Lawrence, a style that I often admire, evolving, though, into a non-linearity, whether it be of this review’s earlier assumption of man harassing woman or now vice versa? It’s you, not me. Daring to face the curse of Humphrey’s Google temptation. Pearls for teeth. Men pretending to be dogs. Meanwhile, this particular story starts with a striking description of seeing the land differently from a boat. And of the seemingly healthy gestalt of a boatful of men in coxed and coaxed unison. The aspirational gestalt of all the books I continue to review, as separate from their authors. The ghostalt then created by an impingement of a single woman, with all that event’s sexual implications. The male narrator’s fight with alcohol while trying, forgive the cliché, to find himself, together with the act of minding his own business, with slippage back and forth. Then the, for me frightening, human-shaped landscape glitch or monster as symbol or something pretending to be thus, as if imputed to be born from the author herself? The at-arm’s-length of the literary intentional-fallacy made closer and closer to self? A mighty work.
    This is your sacrifice to save your community, feeding him just enough of yourself, “the startled shift of small life”, a bodily re-wilded nightmare of freely given residues of flesh and blood as meat to the jaws of some prehensile precedent of geopolitical evil (I infer) or even of a predatory reader reading what is still written here … a meaty tunnel to thrust into …a recurrent altruistic spell of fiction to keep today’s claws sheathed at least for a while before they sink into the words again? This book is never one to be read lightly. Even when its end is in sight. Because you know it will make you read it again.
    “This is your moment of power and he lets you indulge it. He knows you won’t turn and leave him. You never have.”
      “They wanted this one so much.”
      A coda to this book denoting its overarching spirit’s Proustian selves from youth to age, doubled as a required aching coda to THEY TELL ME, just to look forward to there being no ache at all. A bridge or arch or fey faery cap. A Tooth Fairy as catalyst, or whatever oversees this book disguised as one. Ache becomes agony, each versioned self a catharsis for the others. Hooded in heartwood. Too many biscuits. Never has there been, I suggest, such a Dentist story. One that finishes this book with a promise of returning to milk the ones earlier, a book that has a mighty blend of Elizabeth Bowen, Angela Carter, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Clarice Lispector, Colin Insole, Melanie Tem, Silvina Ocampo, but essentialy unique, Holmesque, and, as I saw someone recently echo my ‘ultra-powerful’ word about this book, I sense it indeed has that sort of transcendent power, a power that now fully starts working even as I write these final words about it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Dreadnought Flex by David Mathew

20 thoughts on “DreadnOught FleX – DaVid Mathew”

    Pressure Points

    “Wish me luck.”
    I’ll need it, but I lap up entering a Mathew world again, with one tantaliser about Bible Street Cars, and more pub names to drink myself to Hell for. I love genealogy as the first crumb in this gingerbread trail, Rene Haabjoern as narrator (cf René (re-born) also as destiny-spinning narrator in Salman Rushdie’s latest, Golden House, a style not completely dissimilar to Mathew’s; I finished reviewing it in the last week or so, and that comparison giving BOTH authors a huge compliment) — and the preternatural audit trail (cf audit trails in Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing generally) to West London to seek the eponymous ‘hero’, the latter’s efficiently just-in-time fixer-ruthlessness in tracking down, too, to Heathrow, finger cigar-cutting in departure Lounge, fingers later turning up in pork scratchings, and giving or receiving advice about finding a Persian Rug (answer: in a carpet shop!). And on this veering timeline, these mapped blood-vessels and ridged veins of genealogical happenstance, the chance meeting with sidekick-type Gary Brooker, whose namesake sang the song to which my wife and I danced when we first met in 1967: Whiter Shade of Pale. In short, this is Mathew in hyperdrive. Glad to be back. Beyond the Lunge.

  2. “The room was humming harder
    as the ceiling flew away”
    “In Dreadnought’s world, I had already come to learn, things often occurred at dawn, in the drizzle.”
    Rene gets absorbed into this book’s characters and its protection racket, as you will, too, if you dare pick it up. Training eggs, pale dawns, cock rings, counterintuitive nicknames (does Fat Gina wear this book’s dress?), pub names galore, and swearing without moving your lips. And “the stench of a foregone conclusion.” Now too late for me to escape reading this.

    “I’m in a waiting room again.”
    A waiting game, plus broadbrushes with sharp focus, a real da Vinci that probably needs framing, a Beef Encounter, a Salami Scimitar, Rene’s backstory memory of Aunt Else and Hektor in a double Long Pig lunge and parry of frenetic sex, a Tribute group suing its source band for altering their line-up…and Dreadnought’s worst case scenario of punishment for those who dare cross him. I dare not do otherwise than not cross him, I guess. Fiction’s friction between flesh and frenzy is the ultimate cheese-grater. Must distract Dreadnought’s namesake book with a juicy fillip to tenderise instead of me.
    “A workman was fiddling about with a problem on the hinges.”

  4. From Tribute to…
    “I woke up with the room spinning madly about me.”
    I think I have myself split my tits on this book’s Bone, by reading this often SF chapter with AI bouncers and “prophylactic software” in night clubs. Decapitations less culpable than Deceptions. And dreams that may not be dreams but just different versions of self. One dream of Flex as an old-fashioned highwayman. There is at least some sense I see: Brooker is indeed pale, even albino. Picnics with a girl called Goose, but I don’t care about letting Goose down. And Flex and his family backstory. All making more sense, in hindsight. Indeed, as I have been writing this entry, actually WHILE I thus review it by fingering my iPad’s keyboard, the chapter gets better and better, saner and saner in my mind. Less of a Trite of Passage. A drug called Bone that works with delayed action? Following schoolgirls in the street who thankfully grow older the closer you come?
    “For some, dead means dead — and you have to live with it.”

    “Mickey had the impression that he was being ushered out on a flying carpet of one of the fatman’s sighs. / Brooker realised that he’d been chosen to sit overnight guard in the front of the van for reasons other than his status as a rookie.”
    Lightweight Brooker, in contrast not to the flying carpet or the ceiling flying away or the room spinning, but to fat FAT. This is a rumbusted blend of an early Carry On and an arthouse film like BLOW OUT. With another ruthless protection racket headed by Dreadnought, who, for me, is a sort of Heath Robinson submarine as bent shark under “Maggotville”. Here, now, two enormously fat Japanese men are featured, one trapped in a van and force fed. Scatological plot that distends with every word. A wrestling match of such fatmen.
    Procol Harum’s Tale of the Miller with fat arse outta the window…beyond the pale. Chaucer as chancer?

    “Eventually we found a space — sharking in on a motorbike that was pulling away, its rider a cube of black leathers and an obsidian visor.”
    Chapter title and such space finding the Null Immortal who is DreadNOUGHT, I say…as we are reminded of Rene’s genealogically audited lines of least resistance in coming from Denmark for Dreadnought… with whom he is collaborating on a cookbook as well as protection work, a cookbook to be entitled flexibly, shall we say. Mazza, Dreadnought’s woman, is a bit of a tangled maze herself, not sure which bra is which, which section of this chapter is numbered correctly and which paragraphs have been switched, in this maze, for other underwhere. Better get their act in order before they do the cookbook. A mock suicide mission of kamikaze proofing!

  7. BOOK TWO:
    Inspections of the Wounded

    “: did even Gary Brooker know the story?”
    I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one.
    I’d like to leave an after glow of smiles when life is done.
    I’d like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways,
    Of happy times and laughing times
    And bright and sunny days.
    I’d like the tears of those who grieve,
    To dry before the sun
    Of happy memories that I leave
    When life is done
    (Unknown Author)
    “; the watery clicks, dripping taps, submarine pulses,…”
    “Quis hic locus, quae regio, quae mundi plaga?”
    The Epigraph to TS Eliot’s MARINA poem.
    751BEC37-A42A-4217-A778-0955F1EBC6A4 E0DB833F-FBB7-49F3-96E1-0CE205381641

  8. ii – ix
    “I had shaved my face to the bone (not literally).”
    Which face above is bone? More protection jobs, delivering a monkey across town in an hour, and later tailing protection-cheater Stroker (one of whose fingers he can’t stroke with because of the earlier cigar-cutter?) to Melbourne! Another funeral – SPOILER – Mazza of the soft bra. I suspect Rene of betraying omniscience in his narration, vis a vis who killed Mazza or whether it was murder at all, and who had sex with her, or with 14 year old Monelle. And suspect him, too, of disrespecting Dreadnought’s omnipotence. And of still making (i), (ii), (iii) etc. into a Joycean stream of consciousness order, if not now caused by kamikaze proofing. In fact, I now take that accusation back. IT IS MEANT TO BE LIKE THIS. And most of me loves it. Most of the time.
    “He’s on the throne? I want a report on how many splashes.”

    “: an amalgam of earlier and well-used, parts: Gary Brooker. Gary Brooker…”
    I sniffed SF earlier, didn’t I, and even Dreadnought himself now begins to sniff SF writer in Rene. Co-narrative magic-realist with the René (re-born) in the Golden House, too? Here, veering timestreams, allowing Stroker a stroke of luck between airports on the way to Melbourne. And pure fiction, if not SF as such, the only excuse Brooker has now to be moonlighting at Bible Street Cars or slapping around pre-teenage girls. This is stuff that allows you to read it with impunity. A Tribute Book as mock-up for the real book. Or vice versa? Makes more sense that way round. Whatever the case, the cocksure style is straight between the reading eyes. A Man Booker not a Gary Brooker. Troggs’ Wild Thing, not Procol’s Whiter Shade, after all. No sign of the frame, though.

    “Des Lewis told me all about it, Dreadnought.”
    More vice versa, I’d say. This stomach-turning chapter is about our apparent need for a full English. Breakfast, that is, not Brexit! And that cigar-cutter again! Rene blurts it all out. A lot comes clearer, and I sort of feel sorry for Brooker. And the Bentley is a real hoot! Literature that truly hurts, through laughter and pain, by turns. And sharp-edged words as things, whatever their semantics in strung-together syntax.

    “Des? I’m trying to tie up a couple of loose ends.”
    Well, like Gary Brooker, Alan Price was a famous 1960s singer, whom I actually saw perform live at the Winter Gardens in Morecambe, one of his biggest hits being ‘Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear’.
    Meanwhile, a lot pans out in the chapter, about under-age Monelle, Gary again, and Rene’s meeting with the cigar-cutter, even with his neighbours like Alan Price, and a burglary … A lot to chew over. I am consuming this book at a pace, (a) to escape its clutches and (b) because I am compelled to do so, this being a page-turner of a book where the pages are each a real-time protection racketeer even worse than their collective force as the eponymous gestalt. Perhaps (a) and (b) are connected?
    “; Des had given himself one up the knot.”

  12. V. BONE
    “‘Yuck.’ Grits and couscous and semolina and tapioca: yuck. Otter puke.”
    Cf earlier in the 1st description of Des Lewis: “The suit made him look like an upper-class otter.” And the “oxters” that the narrator now wears in possibly the most rapturous scene (seriously) in all hard-hitting hyper-imaginative literature, while cuddling Dreadnought amid flowers, towards the end of this chapter and thus of this book, after being through realms of freezing cryology and timestreaming and Bone; “The Bone went straight to my bones.”
    Like your question at the very end: “Did you set me up?” Course I did. Framing is my thing. And I cold-shouldered you by not even bothering to mention your name!
    When fully Boned, this book’s a Beef Encounter, its own collaborative Crookbook. While, at the end, it feels as if it is becoming dressed as a beautiful work of literature, by first wearing its soft bra.
    “It sounds like the lyric of a love song.”

Monday, August 13, 2018

Transit – Rachel Cusk

10 thoughts on “Transit – Rachel Cusk

  1. Pages 1 – 24
    “, we are only the result of how others have treated us.”
    Much thematically in common with a Kathleen Alcott story I happened to read and review this morning here. Or how the stars have treated us? Pleased to see the first use of ‘transit’ is that of planetary interaction. I was once obsessed in the 1970s with the synchronous nature of astrology: as above, so below, NOT cause-and-effect. An expression at relief in being thwarted. The woman narrator – who obliquely we already start to get to know – debates buying a house she can afford, a good one in a bad area or a bad one in a good area. Then she meets by chance an ex called Gerard, now with a daughter called Clara, married to Diane who, like him, is a Horror fan. We read his recent backstory AS IF he has told the narrator, and she us. The narrator in turn remembers the view from his flat – in an area where he is still living and whereto she is hoping buy a house – his flat having a view overlooking at some distance a woman’s prison … but also where you can see the lighted cigarettes of the prisoners at night? Words that slip in and out of their integral meeting, I guess. Losing Diane’s poodle called Trixie, thus letting her down, as a matching of his vulnerability with her vulnerability ironically leads to Gerard and Diane getting together…
    I won’t continue trying to describe the plot, in case it isn’t what others see as the plot, if a plot at all. If I lose the plot, you might think better of me, though! I’ll try to codify the transits and synchronicities, meanwhile.
  2. Pages 25 – 36
    Marriage mooted as a form of story for which a suspension of disbelief is needed. The panoply of shopfront flats in Toronto where Gerard has lived in the interim where he met Diane in a cinema queue before their coming back to his old London flat, with a view out, not in, become now a merging of tableaux as our own fiction gestalt. I should add that the narrator has two sons of her own, as now becomes clear. And Gerard’s relationship with music and his own parents making him perform, his daughter Clara now with a violin at school…the need for “paying attention not to what comes most naturally but to what you find most difficult.” Like reading this book, where difficult seems easy, easy difficult. Not Philomena Cunk, but Rachel Cusk?
  3. Page 37 – 58
    “…above the front door, where a curious feature was moulded into the white plaster, a human face. All the houses had them; each face was different,…”
    The narrator’s London house or part house she’s bought, strikingly described, is, for me, like the type of downbeat property in Doris Lessing’s ‘The Good Terrorist’ (my review) plumped right down in the middle of a posh area! Its entropically crumbling state and the nature of the neighbours downstairs represent possibly the core nightmare vision of all property fiction literature, at least in my mind, anyway, today. Frighteningly hilarious, too! Deadpan and full of the ‘calculated drift’ of the Alison MacLeod story ‘We Are Methodists’ (my review) and with a hired builder-for-renovation in the Cusk who is reminiscent of the boiler-repairer in that story, whereby an accretively conversational relationship is built up between a handyman and a woman who is employing him. Meanwhile, in this novel, I guess she’ll probably have to farm out her two sons to her ex Gerard’s flat nearby while her house is such a horrendous building site….
  4. Pages 59 – 82
    “In fact, where hair was concerned, Dale said, the fake generally seemed to be more real than the real:”
    This is the narrator’s hairdresser scene (please see also as semi-resonance my 2015 review of Anita Brookner’s ‘At the Hairdresser’s’), Dale, her hairdresser, being another ‘handyman’ in her life with a homespun philosophy and Damascene moments and he himself even has a handyman friend who is a plumber who makes sculptures from plumbing materials. A philosophy of countering FEAR and not following the herd as represented by the dead-end, line-snorting world of his other friends. Dale also has semi-adopted a boy from Scotland who makes a telling contrast with a boy customer described in this chapter. This storefront tableau, like one of those earlier Toronto ‘shopfront’ flats… with one fractured moment. A scene and interaction to relish and ponder. Factored into the accreting gestalt.
  5. Pages 83 – 104
    “All writers, Julian went on, are attention seekers: why else would be sitting up here on this stage? The fact is, he said, no one took enough notice of us when we were small and now we’re making them pay for it.”
    Making them pay for it, by writing about your parents when they originally thought your secrets were as secret as theirs! Something nasty in the woodshed, perhaps. Our lady writer as narrator (still nemonymous, as far as I can tell) is now a guest at a discussion forum at an important writing convention. These pages tell half of it so far. Including the authors (famous ones, I guess, including the narrator) who become soaking wet while getting to the marquee from the main house. There had been a shorter covered route for them, however, that they missed! The unspoken thoughts — inferred by us around their spoken admissions of attention seeking, the shed where one of them was made to live as a child, a pet cat tussling with a bird, and more — tell us more about the first two male writers to speak, than what they actually speak about, or, probably, vice versa! Like reading this book, where difficult seems easy, easy difficult. The same with this review, perhaps, with more left unsaid than what is said in it. If sometimes mis-said!
  6. Pages 104 – 127
    “It was amusing, if faintly sad, to see people call disgusting the things they themselves did on a daily basis.”
    …in retributive texts or books generally. This is the second half of the literary festival, more than just a writers convention, our narrator in her wet shoes choosing a part of her book to read aloud, a part of the text known only by us as another character’s spoken reaction to it, unless the part read aloud was this very reaction’s account by this author (as that other author) of it? The whole chapter is like travel literature, where we are described the genius-loci of the other two writers’ writerly methods and landmark emotions, by dint of personal fables (inferred from what we infer they said, a bit like that earlier inference about Gerard’s backstory that we infer he told the narrator), fables of cat and bird fighting one-sidedly, and of a childhood visit to a petting zoo. Later, the Chair’s leading foot! I felt the book was Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing its own text. Humiliation, as well as fear. I really believed in these characters. And inferences of inferences by others. Transits of transits. And more calculated drift.
    “It was good in a way, to be reminded of the fundamental anonymity of the writing process, the fact that each reader came to your book a stranger who had to be persuaded to stay.”
  7. Pages 128 – 151
    “They were more like thoughts, thoughts in someone else’s head that she could see.”
    The story of this book? Is Cusk pronounced as the Tusk in Donald Tusk or an elephant’s? Here those thoughts are paintings. Now, the narrator is home again amid builder’s dustsheets, her sons farmed out, unpleasant food smells coming from the neighbours downstairs, and today she is sitting with a student called Jane whom, as a famous author, the narrator seems to be mentoring. Jane takes professional photos of arguably less unpleasant food (Waitrose brochure being Jane’s latest) and she has 300,000 words of notes about a painter of the sea….for her book. The connections derived are fascinating, vis à vis the narrator. Thoughts for this book as if this book is a person thinking. About identity, doppelgängers as people who you think are repeats of you, Gertrude Stein’s sofa, and again (to echo that of the narrator with the Chair) the tentative mind games of predatory but sometime well-intentioned picking up for sex….here for Jane built up over a meal, with slowly withdrawing chaperone. We are gradually being made prisoner, likewise, of this artist’s vision, this book. A new capacity for selfishness or even self-value, as a result? Becoming paradoxically more real via the process of reading?
  8. Pages 152 – 175
    “Today the grey tint of fatigue lay just beneath her made-up skin;”
    The narrator’s friend Amanda, whose backstory makes me think that existence is one long building site, renovation and capitalisation, renovation again, each a staging post, including the staging post of death, staging posts in the gestalt of Liferature (sic). The structure that is each of us, in each other’s building site. Meanwhile, the narrator talks Albionglish with the Albanian labourer-employee of her builder, make-up crusts of dust or plaster, as she tries to pacify those downstairs about the noise of ripping out the floor for the future benefit of a more sound-proofed version. Is death sound-proofed, I wonder? I feel that life is indeed becoming “the butt of some immense practical joke.” Ligottian like all Liferature. Some very funny deadpan wisdom and aborted decisions and moments of being in denial, here in this chapter. The book of Liferature. And Translit.
    “‘Whatever you do,’ she said, ‘don’t have a relationship with your builder.’”
    “I said that perhaps none of us could ever know what was true and what wasn’t. And no examination of events, even long afterwards, was entirely stable.”
  9. Pages 176 – 207
    “It was the day the astrologer’s report had said would be of particular significance in the coming phase of transit.”
    Transit as generic, rather than ‘a’ or ‘the’ particular transitory planetary connection with another planetary connection….whichever the case, it was and it is. Was for fey Faye (I now believe this to be the narrator’s name) and is for the reader. She talks with an unpolished Polish labourer, but polished enough for him to pick up in her room a Polish translation of one of Faye’s book’s as if she was the freehold author with leasehold characters now passing it over to a different freeholder, in tune with the heavy-duty rebuilding tantamount of this her house today, this structure of Liferature. The Polish man wanted to be an architect. But forgot to build any walls so they could see him shitting? A bit like building a novel? We transit now in Faye’s thoughts to the writing-fiction class she runs and the moving pareidoliac cloudscape outside the window and someone leasehold in the class trying to freehold her lesson, and the man who talks of special dogs who act like music….with “neediness or sheer ennui”, almost human as a dog, and then the gestalt real-time triangulation of thematic coordinates: “…the ultimate fulfilment of conscious being lay not in solitude but in a shared state so intricate and cooperative it might almost be said to represent the entwining of two selves.” Then the evil “trolls” downstairs who need their hate of Faye to be further incited by the builder so that he could get on more freely with the noisy work as her fictional ‘victim’. Life as an act of reading, just to find out what happens next. The art of passivity. The literature of adoption. Faye’s later lunch with the man who once regretted not helping her when her car alarm went off. As a real-time reviewer I line up my tools in my head methodically so that I know where each one is and what it does. But as I get older they begin to get muddled. But I am clear there are significant transits that will haunt me in this chapter, transits that make one transit towards the staging post of final transit that is never studied in hindsight. The hawk or whatever bird of prey I try to follow in the sky wheeling closer to my muzzle.
  10. Pages 208 – 260
    “She read so many books, she said, that they tended to blur together in her mind.”
    This last chapter is a discrete, if indiscreet, novella as coda to this book’s symphony of reported thoughts as real-time narration. Each man ray and woman ray broadcasting their current versions of self, ambushed as they are in this dinner party by children, children older and younger, with their whims and tantrums. Baby chickens on their plates, not cheese sandwiches, causing all sorts of childish mayhem and tears. Lawrence (a food fascist), the friend Faye is visiting via a difficult drive in the dark of precipitous roads, has invited her here to meet his new partner Eloise with whom he has betrayed his wife who is also a friend of Faye’s. The guests and children are a nightmare to read about; they even manhandle their mothers, and I have a sense of deja vu about them. At least gestalt real-time reviewing fiction books helps to stop them blurring together, but this same process incites more and more deja vu, real or fake deja vu. Deja Faye even has a phone call in this far flung place from her own two sons with their own tantrums thus transmitted into this remarkable dinner party. These characters are so beautifully done, I even wonder if this final chapter is not the raison d’etre of the novel itself, the rest being a preamble of jerry-building, jury-rigging and multi-transiting to this final single superseding transit. It is all so cinematic, I wonder if I have seen it in the cinema. Afraid to go to see the film of it, but I know it is something I must eventually do see on the big screen. Faye’s sons, one knocking the other unconscious, a sort of distant marriage-breaker. I am like a fold in the curtain; I try to unfold to see one of the children’s past birthday cakes: “…a beautiful tiered structure of meringue and berries and fresh cream, the best of them all.” A building to die for. Yet, I may end up eating the cheese sandwich instead. Then to decide which is this book: that cake or that sandwich? The sadness of Tiffy or Taffy? Opaque fog pressed to the window or the earlier pareidoliac cloudscape? I am glad my son found this Cusk book for me. Fate is always right. As the book itself claims, somewhere in this final chapter. Preternatural.