Tuesday, May 26, 2009

'Weirdmonger' review - part 5


The Merest Tilt (1994)
Well, a real gem of showgirls and froths and frills and creamy realities that the narrator fashions from a selective use of his own diary written during the events of the story. This pencilled diary needed a merest tilt sometimes for him to be able to read parts he had earlier rubbed out. This seems to fit in with the way I’ve been looking at this whole review! Truths and fictions?
A story with its darker moments, too.
“My companions were surly souls with curt courtesies in the taxi. Humourless asides intended to be funny made me cringe. One was my uncle I think (the diary is unclear). Someone else was there whom I’d once loved but did no longer, somehow. Yet another was silent and shadowy who made me afraid to talk out loud in case I revealed something of myself he wanted to catch. There was also a dwarfish creature, pressed up close to me on the back seat, who kept broaching unwanted topics and expecting us to comment.” (26 May 09 - another 2 hours later)

Migrations of the Heart (1993)
Coincidentally, following alphabetically straight on from the previous story, this one says: “I can only convey things by things I leave out.”
A very brief piece of poignancy about a childless couple haunted by the ghost of childlessness and of their own encroaching old age when decisions (like where to sleep) become arbitrary. Alphabetical by way of its own plot, too, incredibly, in the above light! (26 May 09 - another hour later)

A Mind’s Kidney (1993)
Another quick-change act by what turns out to be (from the point of view of the author) a fast-and-loose I-Narrator as in ‘Angel of the Agony’. Also ‘bed-switch’ repercussions almost in tune with those in the immediately previous alphabetical story! All taking place mid bladder-change during a night in strange lodgings, the room having oversized door-hooks and old-fashioned chintzy decoration. A real ghost that is generated by confused thought. The story of my life!
“Filters can work both ways, I thought, in the tired way my thoughts sometimes made me think.” (26 May 09 - another 2 hours later)

Padgett Weggs (1986)
Archetypal early DFL tale of pub talk, St Paul’s Cathedral, Great Old Ones roosting on London’s roofs, walking heads, brain surgery conducted in a pub lavatory, smuggling ambergris...
Also a clumsy wooden arch constructed over the bed as a second ‘roof’ to keep God out ... or in! [The latter bit was inspired by the novella ‘Agra Aska’ written in 1983.]
This is one helluva crazy author's first published story. It cannot be reviewed. It just is. It needed to exist. Ironically iconic. Cone Zero. A zoo of words that escaped their cages.
Ever since coming to this strange city, he felt that his mind was channelled between two blind alleys – so, although he could indeed think straight, the thoughts themselves were in the dark and ambivalently cobbled together.” (26 May 09 - another 3 hours later)

Queuing Behind Crazy People (1997)
A tale of a film that becomes a tale of its queue outside the cinema, with Ligottian buskers entertaining its length. Some queue-members even have to leave the queue because they spend their entrance money on the buskers. Conversations and friendships underpin the queue. A story of craziness even crazier than the story that tells about such craziness. (This book is a meta-book only crazy because it was ever published in the first place.) Coincidentally, following on alphabetically – in a presumably neat queue of stories – from ‘Padgett Weggs’ which tells of a living human head in separate existence, here a queue-member tells of a head being found in a lobster-pot when fished from the sea by the fishermen. A character called Ken King tries to befriend the we-Narrator after the film simply because he recognised ‘us’ from having sat in the same row in the auditorium. The film itself (which fails to feature in the story because too much time was spent describing its audience’s preliminary queue) was, apparently, banned after its first showing – because of one fleetingly brief scene which most of the audience missed as they were snogging. I won’t mention the toy gun. This story is not iconic like ‘Padgett Weggs’, but it is certainly a memorable busker for you queue of readers who want to read the book as long as you can manage to get into it. Some memorable images, but fundamentally firing blanks.
“That night, we believed Ken King would have an itch in his brain. / A terrible itch. / Such an itch, if it were at a point on one's back which could not be reached without a degree of bodily contortion, was bad enough. But an itch in the brain--well, Ken King pawed at his ear, trying to dig in as far as he could go. The itch became so unbearable, he prodded his eye, until it wept blood. Then thrust fingers up his nostrils. If he had been able to do so, he would have peeled back his face with a rip-roaring wrench, simply to uncover a route to the bone basin of the lobster brain. And scratch it to his own delight. His last resort, of course, was to detach the head in its entirety, with the neck-flashings removed. / Thoughts themselves were itches he could not remove, whatever method adopted.” (26 May 09 - another 3 hours later)

Rosewolf (1992)
“You obviously know I have been keeping these pages for, it seems, centuries now, and I do have the misfortune (sometimes) of dipping into purple prose and, at another point of the literary compass, near-illiteracy.”
I think this is the one story in ‘Weirdmonger’ that more people have told me is their favourite story in it. A ghost story that Elizabeth Bowen might have written – and situated in Innsmouth! A family of oblique children and retainers and many aunts and uncles – excitedly taking a cliff walk (in queue form!) to Innsmouth at which destination one of the Uncles has a miscegenate relationship (with a Deep One?). There is also a renowned description of a specialist fork collection in the family house. Here, in this story, resides the hub of a wheel that is ‘Weirdmonger’ - of dimmer-switch controlled character identities and a Narrator that needs tuning in like an ancient wireless, with the signal coming and going. Sometimes static. DFL was probably the first horror writer to use ‘static’ as a pervading symbol or signal.
“‘Ghosts never use speech marks,’ said Aunt Guide, thus proving she wasn’t one.”
(27 May 09)


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