Wednesday, May 20, 2009

'The Weirdmonger' Real-Time Review


A Brief Visit To Bonnyville (1995)
“‘Which way in?’ asked the guide.”
You can ask that again! This is an ostensibly substantial story about a visit to the seaside, written, I recall, immediately after my move in 1994 to the seaside of North East Essex (where I was originally brought up in the Nineteen Fifties) - after living in a South London / Croydon no man’s land for 22 years as a Company Pensions expert. It turned out to be longer than a brief visit to the seaside, as I am still here!
The story is now too salacious for my taste and imponderable. But I am now just another reader. Not a very sympathetic one. It does have its enticing moments of conundrum and inscrutable vision, however. ‘Claura and the Gulls’ would have been a better title. In a strange way, it now strikes me as very Restoration Comedy with disguises and inferred asides and set-piece tableaux.
“At a point where two prayers cross.” (20 May 09)

Caretaker (1993)
Upon re-reading this recently (for reading aloud purposes on-line), I decided this was my favourite prose poem of all time and of all writers. But I have a very narrow definition of prose poem.
It tells of a communal gas oven where its caretaker operates inside it arranging for wool to be pulled over our eyes that it is a beauty parlour. And then wheeling my readers in. Haw Haw.
Treat both triumph and disaster as impostors – Kipling (20 May 09 - 2 hours later)

The Chaise Longue (1998)
I suddenly thought - I’ve been second-guessing an earlier self of mine above – and I should be reviewing each story in the cold light of today... as it appears on the page uncluttered by any memory of creating it.
This story then has a strange mixture of Pinteresque / Ivy Compton-Burnettesque dialogue as a misguided sticking-plaster for a relationship under ancient duress. Fustian to the nth degree. An experiment in re-coupling the de-coupled. With a sting in its tail. It does strike me as being a powerful scenario, splatting the fiction-reading-head with a de-boxed but still fully ripe wine-bag.
“...decked out in a floral print frock that hugged her bosom tightly enough for the nipples to show through even a heavy-duty brassiere.” (21 May 09)

The Christmas Angel (1995)
This, for me, is a DF Lewis classic. Quite perfect within his own then perceived terms. With the most pathos in any story’s ending that can be squeezed into Christmas Day’s start. Didactic about a then future credit crunch as well as free-wheelingly ‘l’art pour l’art’.
“Unfurling its sugar-glass wings, like silver spider-webs, it peered down with pearl-bead eyes at the piles of presents at the foot of the Tree.” (21 May 09 - 3 hours later)

Dark They Were And Empty-Eyed (1995)
An incantatory monologue of dungeon-dark buffet and pain, whereby the I plops from its socket, just as, indeed, many of this book’s story narrators nil out (pre-figuring the concept of Nemonymity in 2001?)
“... my own mind’s bony meat haven...” (22 May 09)

The Dead (1995)
A Joycean (I guess) dinner party, where items of furniture have finger-holes like ten-pin bowls – and prandial conversation has bizarre innuendo. There are skeleton girls and/or servants haunting the backdrop. It means far more than one would ever expect from that summary! Now after 14 years can I scratch more than just its surface. Also, this story’s Ligotti-like ending is the loosest ending, I feel, that has appeared at the end of any story – ever.
“There was silence, save for the wireless’s residual fidgets of warming down.” (22 May 09 - after 4 hours)

Dear Mum (1990)
A SF story in the form of a letter from a man on an exploratory spaceship to his Mum back on Earth. In hindsight, a sort of email. A bit like Dr Wormius opening the sash-window with his back?
It is potentially very good with a highly poignant ending but it’s not quite carried off, I feel.
Apparently, immortality’s only half of it.” (23 May 09)

Digory Smalls (1989)
If it is possible at all for there to be an externally favourite or most well-known story by DFL, this possibly one of them. A master and his ‘disabled’ servant explore the interlocking attic-systems of a large house, with horrific and absurdic results. A family’s generations ooze back and forth over time...? An amorality tale. Fiction for fiction’s sake. It certainly remains startling, even to me!
“‘Come, Mister Smalls, no time for larks. We only have a few more attics to negotiate.’ He looked askance at me.” (23 May 09 - 2 hours later)

I am trying to summarise the stories real-time-reviewed so far ... in an ambition to match my own apparent success at identifying leit-motifs and gestalts when conducting such reviews on other writers’ books. So far I seem to have drawn a blank with ‘Weirdmonger’. Possibly, then, as an interim measure, we all have attic-systems to traverse towards our eventual heaven – heaven being, for me, an optimum thought that is one’s last thought before expiring. One needs to face the genuine monsters as well as the absurdities of existence: facing them out by absorbing them (but are you the parasite or them?), eventually becoming ‘the old man of the sea’ who perhaps takes on board one’s own internals like the experiences, illnesses, sadnesses, joys etc. of your previous selves (as well as taking on board, altruistically, externals like loved ones and you readers and, by so doing, their internals) along with oneself in the journey or quest for that optimum thought. (23 May 09 - another hour later)



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