Saturday, May 30, 2009

'Weirdmonger' Review - Part 8


The Spigot and the Speechmark (1996)
We return to the world of an old couple as in ‘Season of Lost Will’ and the use of speechmarks as in ‘Rosewolf’. This story has a ‘snorting monster’ – if sat on a motorbike or on a lavatory.
I remember it getting good reviews when it first appeared in ‘Deathrealm’. But it gains even more power here in the context of this book, I find. Yet some have told me that many of my stories lose power by being in this book's sheer textual overpowering. Who is right?
Meanwhile, I find myself wishing to go back and edit all these stories. Even destroy them. Can’t do that with a book as easily as I can with all my other stories that I've spent some years posting on the Internet. Who knows what I may do when ‘I’ become like this story's two characters in real life. Not long to go, I guess. (30 May 09 - 7 hours later)

Sponge and China Tea (1989)
This was one of the eight stories by DFL that ended up either in ‘Best New Horror’ or ‘Year’s Best Horror Stories’ in the Nineties. DFL was, however, never really a Horror Story writer as such, but, as someone once said, he is a writer who writes in a genre of one. The big question is – does his work have an audience of one, too?
This story was first published in 1989 in the ‘Dagon’ DFL Special. It is about a daughter and mother, as the latter dies. A horrific, yes horrific, account of this relationship – and the arrival of an old school friend as a travelling salesman whose products bring ... hmmm, what shall we call it? ... scar tissue (cf. that in ‘The Scar Museum’). He also brings a variety of ‘small talk’ that borders on ‘pub talk’...!
A borderline Ghost Story, too. With marked DFLisms of style.
“The body wherein she lived toward the end had been little better than a wrinkled sack of rattling bones, which sometimes spoke up for itself with a voice I no longer recognised.” (31 May 09)

The Stories of Murkales: Twelve Zodiacal Tales (1987, 1988 – in separate issues of ‘Dagon’)
Re-reading this substantial mini-collection-within-a-collection reminds me that ‘Egnis’ was not the only story in ‘Weirdmonger’ representative of my much earlier writing times when I did not expect ever to be published.
These tales stem, I guess, from the late seventies or early eighties. The twelve tales – highly wrought, containing many astrological references, conveying a Biblical feel of (to coin a phrase) Baffles and Fables – are each representative of a Sign of the Zodiac. There is a strangely Arabic air, inter alia. And a scatological / eschatological feel that is emblematic of later work represented in this book. There seem to be astrological harmonics to which any chance reader of these tales should – the then ‘author-self’ surely hoped – slowly grow attuned. My present-self has severe doubts.
“Each. Sentence. Is. A. Word. In. Itself.” (31 May 09 - 4 hours later)

Stricken With Glee (1992)
A companion story to ‘The Christmas Angel’, with pathos and absurdity in symbiosis. There are back-stokers who live behind all the roaring fires in the large many-chimneyed house – living in tunnels and intermittently opening the backs of fires to throw on more coal. One of the protagonists (protagonists who sit desultorily in front of these many roaring fires to dissipate the aching cold) will need to dress up as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and climb up on the roof to choose which chimney he will use...
Pity he has upset the back-stokers throughout the year!
That’s a story spoiler, by the way. But I love spoiling things –
These stories often work better if the readers fear the author they imagine behind them.
One consolation: the back-stokers are here brilliantly described and I will not quote anything for fear of spoiling your enjoyment even further.... (31 May 09 - another 3 hours later)

The Swing (1997)
This is, I’ve now decided, the perfect DFLism! It works on many levels – the ambition of a swing’s upswing – young love that matures (symbolically and sexually) into a ghostly future – the religionisation of life’s characters such as parents – the full blooming of the story’s swing-emblem into something or someone other...
This whole book is now firmly back on the upswing – having been on the downswing for a while...
There is also a subtly implied re-visit from ‘The Christmas Angel’.
“As they say, whilst human beings reach out for Heaven, angels die the other way". (1 June 09)

The Tallest King (1988)
This, I’m now reminded, is another pre-DFL DFL-story like ‘Egnis’ and ‘The Stories of Murkales’ written a number of years before the late eighties. This is in a simple style -- a fable or fantasy story of islanded communities that reach beyond themselves by the power of individuality.
It stirred the then much younger Mark Samuels to write in the next issue of the magazine where it was first published as follows: “The highlight of the issue was undeniably Des Lewis' beautiful little story, 'The Tallest King'. A wonderful faerie-tale told in perfectly child-like manner, and singing with the glory of descriptive prose. Really delightful. What a talent this fellow is.” :)
“There came a time when the tallest king in the city was a man of strong mind. When he first went up the stairs to the tallest room in the tallest palace in the whole city, he stood with amazement on his tallest chair, peering through the tallest window near the tallest roof, and gazed for the first time on...”
(1 June 09 - 2 hours later)

Tentacles Across The Atlantic (The Story) (1996)

Presumably labelled ‘the story’ to differentiate it from the regular non-fiction column of the same name that DFL wrote in ‘Deathrealm’ during the Nineties.
This is another very long monologue like ‘Shades of Emptiness’ – with some amazing separate images but, ultimately, non-synchromeshing. Or at least my present self so judges. The opening seaside scenario is, however, worth reading the whole book for alone ... perhaps.
This is one of the half-a-dozen similar unreviewable stories in this book under ‘S’ and ‘T’ in the alphabetical contents that make the whole book ultimately flawed, and predominantly why I have assumed it to have foundered since it was first published – despite the excellent production qualities of Prime Books and the stunning cover and internal design by Garry Nurrish. Or it is simply wishful thinking to believe that, given a different contents list, it wouldn’t have foundered in any event. A tentacle-tangled wreck on the ocean-bed of misbegotten literature.
“I will have shown Max my old marbles – the ones I played with at his age. I will have taught him their names: Big Red, Split Dark Blue, Blur Green, Spot Yellow, Thin Red, Big Green, Large Light Blue, Thick Red, Bubble Red...”
(1 June 09 - another 3 hours later)



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