Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Dark Eidolon

The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies – Clark Ashton Smith

I have just received from Amazon UK the PENGUIN CLASSICS (2014) edition of selected Clark Ashton Smith works entitled The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies.
Edited with an Introduction and Notes by S.T. JOSHI.
My previous gestalt real-time review of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath by HP Lovecraft
Please see comment stream below for any of my on-going comments about the new Penguin CAS book…

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23 responses to “The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies – Clark Ashton Smith

  1. The first two stories THE TALE OF SATAMPRA ZEIROS and THE LAST INCANTATION are, I guess, stories I have likely read before in the 1960s when I read my fill of the wonderful, richly textured, fantasy-tentacular prose of this author, where, as in these two stories, horror fitted the vessel it flowed into – you? – or beauty, too, reincarnated itself within the vessel of the beholder who flowed into its own new affective shape older later now like me in my own 60s…
    I would have thought a new edited version of CAS texts in Penguin Classics would have been free of typos at least – but on page 18 there is a typo, third line down.
  2. THE DEVOTEE OF EVIL – I am reminded by the gong machine of my lifelong interest in Avant Garde classical music – and its border with the Malebolge. A mage’s summoning of sound like the liquid monster earlier to shape us from within by penetrating us from without – combining John Cowper Powys, L.A. Lewis…
  3. The Uncharted Isle
    “There was nothing that could break the spell of their obsession or force them to notice me;”
    On one level, a page-turning, richly deadpan (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) tale of being shipwrecked on an island and meeting a mysterious busy race under mysterious skies. However, we become the narrator himself who is our own mysterious island, as he himself compares what he is to the island, on an island or this island within him, and he can touch these people and their artefacts like galley oars but the people remain oblivious of him amid their obsessive perplexity of purpose, calculating with astrolabes etc. and sacrificing to their gorilla god…who is you? What is your purpose? And it may relate to the previous stories in an oblique way of self’s mystery amid horror’s inhabitation of you, or you of it. This story will hang about forever, I guess, shedding a renewed perplexity of purpose or doubt.
  4. The Face by the River
    He had a phobia of rivers – I guess – to avoid any such river completing the circle and making him this book’s earlier island between … where he would become a castaway upon his own accidental or half-intentional crime of passion in this Poesque tale. Geography as a face. Sunk into its own skull, to kill that life that once was his. Riparian legal rights are hardly clear cut; if you own the land whence the riverbank extends, that does not mean you own the moving beast that is the river itself…
  5. The City of the Singing Flame
    Some of the CASian boulders where I live that I photographed over the years now about to be ‘dismantled’ – synchronously reported by myself earlier today here.
    This story, in tune with the previous ones, seems to yearn to ‘immolate’ the reader particularly with a love, as I have, of all manner of tonal and atonal ‘classical’ music, and those aliens who watch me drawn as if by a magnet into its embrace take it for granted, too. They are drawn into their conventions and leave me to it, like Nemonymous Night. Drawn into the Goddess Isis? Like the world today?
    A classic story that I am glad I just re-lived from my youth about to re-die in ageing. More Ligottian than Ligotti. Casian, Cathrian…
  6. The Holiness of Azédarac
    “…vague doubts and vaguer fears.”
    Evils embedded by an evil book within a Christian Bishop of Averoigne is stylised here by a rich satisfyingly complex High Weird style, but depicting a relatively simple, even tongue-in-cheek, tale of finely-tuneable liquid concoctions of time travel, laced by a conspiring with the reader’s knowing humour when hinting of the sexual attraction between characters with supposedly higher purposes of good and evil. The ending was with a cute wink of predictability, too. There is a collusive CASian deadpan quality that grows from all these stories so far, as if we are in the same “smoothly flowing river”, as this latest story has it, of gently sucking funnels of time and of succulent words.
  7. The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis
    “– something too horrible and outré to be mentioned even in a myth?”
    This is a set of Martian octaves to fit a symphony, nay, a synaesthesia of dust, a descant of desiccation, as time atomises upon an expedition exploring a city assumed to be more dead than death itself, yet individuals in this expedition as barely told to us by one of them, by the skin not of his teeth or even nails but of the skin of the carapace of his skull with invading sharp pixel-seething Casian caps (my words, not the story’s). It is an all-consuming succulence, betokening a welcome death beyond death itself…one can imagine modern suicide bombers feeling before they ignite themselves drilled wearing insidiously uniform cradlecaps as fontanelles. The language is equally hypnotic to induce such behaviour as disguised by succulence and seeping aeons.
    Unless it is a deliberate Casian misspelling, there is another typo on page 95: ‘prestigitation’ instead of ‘prestidigitation’.
  8. Ubbo-Sathla
    “Death became birth, and birth was death.”
    This story seems to be not only about the merging by means of an ancient artefact of a modern man with someone else in an oozy “retrograde stream“, not only about the discovery of a sort of Azathoth at the core of bubbling time’s eternity or of space’s infinity or of the Nemonymous Night earth, but also and more importantly about a fantastical treatment of the astrological ‘Prenatal Epoch’ (or “antenatal” as this text terms it).
    There is another typo (i.e. on page 117: “…his curious fear of failing bodily into the visionary world that he beheld” where ‘failing’ should be ‘falling’) although that typo itself arguably could take on a new meaning in itself bearing in mind my theory about this story being more about ‘as above, so below’ astrological harmonics than about the removal of free will or the imposition of predeterminism.
  9. The Double Shadow
    This prose is double rich, as if two textured shadows have slid ever closer and then overlapped with a language that a single shadow could never have mastered. Not a collaboration between two effusive authors, as they would merely have cancelled each other out with wordy overheating or arguments as to which ornate phrase fitted where. No, this is a single writer who somehow created both shadows, a writer stronger than the master magician whom he created by writing about him in order to create two such overlapping shadows. The writer did it deliberately but the master magician he created by writing about him in order to do it did it accidentally! And one can only shudder at that thought. A double shudder.
  10. The Maze of the Enchanter
    There is more to Casian fiction than its characterised prose succulence and thematic unmentionabilities of aeons – and this story again touches on the stoicism of mankind, here an imperviousness of slumbering captured damsels or voluptuous odalisques; a heroic trial of strength to thread the maze of human emotions including lust: as well as threading a tyrant’s own hybrid cruelties, the tyrant who built the maze, with some motives secret even to himself as well as sown with prehensile man-manipulating plants, and the tyrant himself has moments of breaking his own routines by granting gratuitous favours to those he’s captured…
    Our own world politics today made Casian, creatively amenable, maliciously cutthroat, as we follow our own paths in each mazy life that is ours, with bodies hidden but our faces bare.
  11. I real-time reviewed this book’s next story in 2011 – and I hereby copy/paste what I then said about it below (from the context here):
    Genius Loci – Clark Ashton Smith
    “…the dead willow was leaning across it at a prone despondent angle, as if mysteriously arrested in its fall toward the stagnant waters.”
    If anything can follow ‘The Shadowy Street’, this better-known Classic can.  It is  by the sheer contrast (with that earlier story’s constructive diffuseness that needed focussing): the focus here of the locus is paramount and needs diffusing: and the narrow-channelled ‘Fall’ or ‘Autumn’ that ill-luxuriantly pervades  the day (today), and the single-minded mind, for me, of the pool’s spreading influence, i.e. here diffusing the focus of the ‘ley-line’ in the morbid spirit so as to capture the strength of (what I have long called) ‘The Ominous Imagination’. But here, finally, to ‘capture’ literally, whereby the weird writer as narrator depicts his painter friend painting by that heady pool and its haunted willow focus: painting Pre-Raphaelitely, I guess, judging by the events’ outcome!  Reading this story is like suffering a fever illness with visiting deliria that linger deliciously or outstay their welcome (depending how you look at it), i.e. after you have put the story down. “The human terror, which perhaps had driven him back toward his normal self,…” [Cf. the earlier John Fowles quote in this review]. (11/11/11 – two hours later)
  12. The Dark Eidolon
    “Anon there appeared the singers, who were she-ghouls with shaven bodies and hairy shanks, and long yellow tushes full of shredded carrion curving across their chaps from mouths that fawned hyena-wise on the company. Behind them entered the musicians, some of whom were male devils pacing erect on the hind-quarters of sable stallions and plucking with the fingers of white apes at lyres of the bone and sinew of cannibals from Naat; and others were pied satyrs puffing their goatish cheeks at hautboys made from the femurs of young witches, or bagpipes formed from the bosom-skin of Negro queens and the horn of rhinoceri.”
    No amount of quoting from a Casian text will convey the relentless power of the whole text whence it has been quoted. It is unwritten madness made succulently literate. This substantial story of revenge is no exception. Any piecemeal recital of its plot will equally fail to summon up its surging sense of a minimalist music of event when coupled with that same ‘unwritten madness’ made not only succulently literate but hypnotically methodical with that page-turning sense of caliphate ‘event’, the clash of word-sword within word-flesh now become a real swordblade’s nail-biting or tooth-grinding ricochet upon our reflective mirror of self, as if Casianism has become, by hindsight, the direct but unintentional precursor of a smashing by such uploaded images through our damned TV or Computer screens, damned for carrying them as far as our eyes may yearn reciprocating such distances of cyberspace so as to watch them.
  13. I ought to make it clear that I am so far only reading the Casian texts and attempting to form a preternatural gestalt from their having (been) chosen to share existence together in this book – and I am leaving any consideration of the book’s Joshi material (including footnotes) until I have completed reading and reviewing all the stories, prose poems and poetry .
    The Weaver in the Vault
    “…not to be disobeyed without the incurring of penalties that would make mere death a pleasant thing.”
    This tasked adventure to another dreaded city, one thus not to be disobeyed, has the pervading sense of the suicide mission that seems to fit my proffered gestalt so far for this book. Yet the end of this story, where the act of the Weaver continuing the ‘glory’ of weaving in the darkness of the now otherwise untenanted vault seems to be a heartfelt message from CAS to myself not to forget that literature should be l’art pour l’art and should not be a roman-a-clef. I agree, dear CAS. Such fiction as yours is adventurously and fantastically hedonistic for its own sake, and never to be deemed didactic, but that does not absolve any budding critic from seeking and then shaping the many preternatural messages from within any text, messages for our modern ear that you may or may not have intended to issue from your conscious mind.
    Just as an aside, dear CAS, on page 202 of this latest story, we read that “The mythic terrors of Chaon Gacca began to assume a darker imminence;” – and I wonder if the ‘slow pervading’ of IMMANENCE would not be more your intention as to the word to be used rather than the sense of ‘immediate brink’ indicated by IMMINENCE, especially when taking into account the epithet ‘darker’ and the characters’ subsequent ‘fearful’, presumably stoical, passing through ‘the hushed sepulchral hall’. Having said that, though, I agree that the words ‘mythic terrors’ would arguably suggest that IMMINENCE was indeed what you intended? But can ‘imminence’ actually be dark, either dark as lacking light or dark as in pertaining to a pervading immanence of evil?
  14. Xeethra
    “Like a dreamer in a dream, he was wholly absorbed by the mystery on which he had stumbled; and at no time did he recall his abandoned duty.”
    There is something about the name’s deanagramatisation as ‘A Three X’, the Holy Trinity? Three levels as one. On one level this is a rite of passage like that of Christ, from carpenter or, here, goatherd, a more pagan awakening, stoical path, death, each overlapping, resurrection, redemption, and the half-hearted lack of necessity for punishment in the last paragraph by a diffident ‘God’, just attrition or leprous entropy. On another level this is like the history of the world, a Toynbeean challenge-and-response…till we reach the tipping-point of endless attrition that today has brought us all?
    Again, on yet another level, the prose is resplendent, a new Biblical threnody of dark cave and elegiac effulgence. Visions and dreams: pure, undidactic adventurings in alien, titanic lands… I feel that another writer to read, if you enjoy CAS on this third level, is John Gale – and my review a few years ago of his collection is here.
  15. The Treader of the Dust
    Another descant of desiccation, but if the earlier story had dust IN it, this one, by comparison, IS dust, as a studious recluse returns to his house whence he earlier fled, to find that the book of spells he had left on his “lecturn” had been inadvertently helped along by his aged, yet cerebral, servant reading aloud from it, summoning a fabled cursed dust-inducer. Not a death wish as it sometimes seems with students of dark tomes, not even a brush with death, but more a brush by death into some cosmic dustpan: the condition of death simply for its own sake, the ultimate Casian nihilism beyond even the strictest Cathrian or Ligottian nihilism.
  16. Mother of Toads
    “Her huge breasts, pale as frog-bellies, bulged from her torn gown as she leaned toward him.”
    This book has just presented a strikingly interesting contrast between contiguous stories, this one as an inundation by slimy sex and the previous one by death dust. Make of that as you will. These two stories have uncertain degrees of experience welcome or unwelcome, spoken or inferred – art for art’s sake or didactic? These are, for me, a form of painterly arousing and deadening, uniquely abstract as well as representational. Nowhere else in literature, I sense, can there be such interplay. An atomised and flabby diptych.
  17. Phoenix
    The section of full-length stories in this book ends perfectly for the leitmotifs I have built up for the book’s potential gestalt. A deceptively old-fashioned inversion of a Jules Verne SF story from the middle of the earth outward to save that very earth rather than to escape from its surface for its own sake – a quest by a small band of men who, as I always felt, from the beginning of this story, were to become inevitable suicide bombers to re-ignite a ‘blind sun’ for the benefit of what they deem their residual race (here described explicitly as a mixed race), then ironically returning as the sunlight itself in a sense of hope for others if not for yourself. Sown with ‘cyclic repetition’ and ‘resignation, vignetted, as it were, on the verge of destruction‘, the dust and slime of the previous two stories are transfigured into a stoical if beautiful form of unrequited love.
    Pages 261 – 266
    “Perchance ’tis something to know that bodies are made of dust and water, the last of which is evaporable, and the former capable of dissolvement. For this is all our knowledge, in spite of much that is known and spoken of hierophant and philosopher. However, unlike the lore and wisdom of these, it may be contained without discommodation by one skull.”
    I quoted that passage at first for its own sake, or possibly as evidence of the first few prose poems’ testing of the verities of existence, like beauty etc., with the backdrop of infinities, in a prose even more poetic (predictably) and antique than that of the short stories. However, having now quoted it, I wonder whether the word ‘by’ should have been inserted between ‘spoken of’ and ‘hierophant’? Another typo? Comments, welcome.
  19. Pages 266 – 271
    Stoical and Aeonic Ennui, and unrequited love, if not requited by reaching Cocaigne … or by reaching the optimum sumptuous prose itself, prose that is unmistakably Casian… tinctured Cathrian upon the shores of Lethe.
  20. Pages 272 -276
    Sometimes, I think nobody can or could ever write prose like CAS: it is as if someone has dreamed up ‘greatened’ and ‘overfraught’ word-clusters and dared to ascribe or blame them to a form of depersonalised print… I dare no longer even quote them here in case I am blamed for letting them loose cyberspatially…
    Nevertheless, here is a relatively mild passage, where I possibly discovered myself: already implicated as an arriviste reviewer or typo-hunter, one who is disguised as a mock-philosopher:
    “He was a philosopher, from what land there was none to know or ask. Nor was there any to ask what knowledge or delight he sought in the ruined palace, with eyes always upon the moving shadows; nor what were the thoughts that moved through his mind in ghostly unison with them. His eyes were old and sad…”
  21. Pages 276 – 280
    “…in aeons that are too recent.”
    As if CAS needs to transcend human measurement altogether, to reach beyond the ‘indesecrate horizons’ where, however, he fears to find the ‘moldy ‘or ‘mouldy’ that is himself dead …. or still alive as a spore, a remembrance of his words on paper (they have to be on paper not in an ebook so as to become that spore, I guess)… A touch-stone with words so floridly clotted they cannot possibly die.
    The Lethe-rich prose poems contained in this book and reviewed above are: The Image of Bronze and the Image of Iron; The Memnons of the Night; The Demon, the Angel, and Beauty; The Corpse and the Skeleton; A Dream of Lethe; From the Crypts of Memory; Ennui; The Litany of the Seven Kisses; In Cocaigne; The Flower-Devil; The Shadows; The Passing of Aphrodite; To the Daemon; The Abomination of Desolation; The Mirror in the Hall of Ebony; The Touch-Stone; The Muse of Hyperborea.
    Both Lethe and a woman named Ethel featured in CAS’s life…
    My photos taken today…
    image image
    image image
  22. I shall be attempting, mainly for the first time in my life, CAS’s poetry HERE – i.e. just the poems as published by this book.

Harvesting The Moon

Harvesting the Moon – Ursula Pflug

I have just received this book after purchasing it from its publisher.
Harvesting the Moon and other stories
By Ursula Pflug

PS Publishing Ltd 2014
Introduction by Candas Jane Dorsey
Ursula Pflug appeared in Zencore (Nemonymous 7) 2007 and in Null Immortalis (Nemonymous 10) 2010 with ‘Red Velvet Dust’ and ‘Even the Mirror’, respectively.

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25 responses to “Harvesting the Moon – Ursula Pflug

  1. The Water Man
    “…asked me if I did gift wrap. I did by ripping a strip of red off the velvet curtains…”
    An entrancing portrait of a store for ready-mades that can be used in Carnival…as if the words themselves are here used as new water with which to see. Has to be read to appreciate what I mean by that. No way to convey the touch of this near perfect story from the female storekeeper’s point of view and her encounter with the Water Man, no way to convey it without copying it out in full. Near perfect because it needs to heal or complete itself as part of its passage through you. Marcel Duchamp – and almost Ligottian with its downgraded ‘town water’ etc. Almost, because, here, death is Donne to death?
  2. Version City
    “It’s been such a slow, slow process that until quite recently we hadn’t noticed it at all.”
    And even with just two quite short stories so far, there is already something emerging, a prevailing genius-loci not so much of place as of soul, a slow business, a deadpan business, yet seeping beauty somehow, earlier water, now bug powder in this slow SF dystopia, in an entropic deadpan, Chinatown-bordered scenario… where everything is a version of itself and not itself itself, like the films projected on walls or designer substances that are designed to kill engorging insects but are graded in colours and numbers, versions that are di-versions…
  3. Telepathic Fish
    “Water is everywhere; all the water on earth is connected through the convection cycle.”
    …like all books are connected by gestalt real-time reviewing, as Melanie’s life with Danny and others is also connected by this barely touchable story’s rarefied meniscus skein in a unique combination of time travelling and switching alternate worlds shaped by destiny or chance or fish mouthing silently through the skein’s water…
  4. Bugtown
    “I didn’t want to check the author’s name at the time. I liked the anonymity of someone writing about me, someone I didn’t know.”
    Another version of Version City, where bug-killing powder doubles as coloured drugs. I feel I am working blind on something that every other reader sees very clearly. However haunting it may be (and it is), it leaves me the outsider, as I watch the interactions, powerless to understand them and thus to help them. But, selfishly, it is good to feel like an outsider of fiction; it helps with being an outsider of real life. I have no complaints.
    “Max, unlike me, drank like a fish even back then.”
  5. Once
    “Powders. Brown ones, white ones, pink.”
    There is a light touch to these stories, but with darkness or depth pent up in them, love lost and regained, as such words appeal to real people out there, memories of children they had together, wanting to write letters on real paper for the smell, rather than using the gestalt of the Internet. Yet, my dreamcatchers are codes, dreamcaptchas, “…connecting to the Earth in a more direct, immediate way, bordering, at times, on the telepathic” like knowing that the bugs and coloured drugs have come from the previous stories, but now the bugs are “hidden mikes, the cochlear implants”… But it is still this story’s Game that we invented together, reviewed and reviewer, “So beautiful one couldn’t fairly put it into words.” Pity it wasn’t committed to paper.
  6. Repair
    “It is a house with her name on it, calling to her, even though she doesn’t know where it is.”
    It’s called HOME from where I’m sitting, on my own repair kit with a screen for life. This ingeniously accretive story is a theme and variations on hoarding — electric devices, like dishwashers, irons etc. that Sam seems to collect in huge bulk, saying he is due to repair them because their owners are at some inscrutable war and so have left them with him – or they were at war with the devices themselves! And Mandy who collects different eventually useless things in cardboard boxes, a woman who locates Sam’s house whichever temporary city she happens to live in, knowing one day she will find her own yellow house. Of course, that does no justice to their gentle relationship and, indeed, to the whole of what I have just read because it seems as if everything is so natural in this story it is not fiction at all. Maybe it is right in seeming like that to a reader who lives as an outsider in a fiction more fictional than what he is reading…seeking his own recurring HOME, “too embarrassed to ask where the stairs are, feeling momentarily lost in his endless upstairs hallways”, intent on repairing to places where others can’t.
    Because of that war.
  7. Stones
    “…we meditated long before we knew the word.”
    I lived as a baby on the earth long before I knew about stones and whatever else kept me above ground. This poetic Joycean monologue, yet possibly more WB Yeats than Molly in Ulysses, where, perhaps for the first time in literature, there is a symbiosis of unrequited love between dimensions that keeps both lovers in being.
  8. Rice Lake
    “She longed to be Played, to be in a story so real and true it took on its own life, shaped the storyteller, a reverse creation.”
    That summarises so sweetly the ambition of my gestalt real-time reviewing (or ‘dreamcatching’ as I now call it): the reader in reverse creation. And here the Game plays the characters, and not vice versa, where everyone, in life’s requital or not, seems to be part of some unspoken Commune communion of like souls, not hippy so much as happy to be sad, as do all the readers of and characters in this book so far, all with Game Forfeits like, in this particular story, a mother’s suicide as well as a disabled son in a wheel chair and the hoarding of many household artefacts, screws and nails and hammers, too, for that very repairing in Repair. Even the Fountain for the Water Man’s water, here a Fountain almost seen as a dish-washer hoarded!
    And the Tree whose only carer is the Tree for whom it is caring.
  9. Gone With The Sea
    There seems something retrocausal about this longer story; ‘hippiesque’ echoes my casual mention of ‘hippy’ yesterday, ‘meat bags’ to match the ‘debugging’ of cyborg food computers, where computer code could be actual physical provender, those bugs and drugs earlier, say, now antibiotics, and the earlier telepathic fish are now ‘information fish’. I feel the shape of my brain changing as I sink further into this book. Here a futuristically aboriginal shrimp-farm, racial and temporal and environmental and mental clinch-points, the oldsters still holding by their own ways, and the younger 42 year old heroine foolhardily bodysurfing the Hawai’ian waves as she tries to close the gap with her son and someone else who may well save her shrimp business and give her love, “red road dust on his skin.” Living information, antibiotics, biotech, genealogical, one feels this proto-Dickian story more strongly than one understands it, especially in the context of the whole book so far. The latter understanding is still coming, though, even as I speak.
  10. Just as an aside or intermission, this book caused me to revisit a story of mine (in tune with but different from this book) entitled ‘Dream of Real Air’ first published in 1992: http://weirdmonger.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/dream-of-real-air.html
  11. Sewing Forgetfulness
    “We carried it down the stairs. That’s the thing about living and working in warehouse buildings: there are always stairs, so many breath-stealing stairs.”
    As a child, I had a long relationship with an ancient Singer sewing-machine: my beloved grandmother, ash-fragile cigarette kept between her lips, as she treadled away with her feet, the large wheel spinning and its threaded rope making the needle jab up and down between her guiding fingers. I can see and hear it all now. Here a sewing-machine, inter alia, is used as a pole-dance prop for a stripper. But, above all, it is one of the Repair artefacts that our heroine collects, following mystifying instructions to collect such artefacts – amid a louche cocktail artistic collective, an ‘arty group’, bi-sexual, upon a gentle fate rhythm or new futons, Proustian unrequitedness again keeping such souls in a delicately pent balance of existence with each other. This is a wonderful story.
    “Some of us are meant to stay under water, to never surface. I’m one of them.”
  12. Late For Dinner
    Please. Fish. Let. Us. Go.
    …despite being “unbelievably beautiful fish”, with different colours. That inscrutable war from ‘Repair’ is now a new state like IS with fluid borders, featuring rebels, escape routes across such borders, etc, and this is all caught up within a reader’s grasping at rarefications of fiction as if they are slippery fish, slippery drug creatures, along with the female protagonist whose purpose – within such a modern war as our de facto default piecemeal world’s war today – is equally ungraspable, and her rite of passage, is it via alternate worlds or time travelling or space travel or whatever path one takes to speak as oneself or to speak as the person to whom one speaks or vice versa? – an interface between father and daughter, lover and loved, mother and daughter: all caught upon those tantalising borders where drug meets dream or blade meets flesh when those escape routes across borders don’t work? Topping and tailing the fish for cooking a late dinner.
  13. Holy Mackerels
    “What a dangerous thing. Hope reawakened.
    She looked for fish.”

    Fish now go exponential in this story, despite my playful Pflug acronym above. But this story, perhaps the whole book so far, is a solipsistic rhapsody, both delightful and edgy, and here the perfect city of waterways and alleys is what you created by the very words you are reading or have yourself written, where you live seeking your daughter, intent on green issues vis-a-vis the fish – or are you the daughter herself seeking the mother you think plays on the edge of these words in deliberate attempts at dying through them rather than living? There is a sense of not only infection from genius (like the genius of poetry – but is the crass city poet laureate you meet in the pub your daughter’s father? Holy Mackerel!) but also infection from a different genius, this actual ‘genius loci’ where you live or which you created or both. Fish as the common symbol for Christ, but Christ as Messiah or drug? Water as drowning air or baptism? Infection or infiction?
  14. A River Garden
    “Both River and his mother Gifted spoke cryptically on occasion, a kind of metaphoric Life Poetry. Sometimes I knew what they meant; sometimes I didn’t; sometimes I felt stupid for not knowing and sometimes I was irritated.”
    And that seems to sum up this still-growing-on-me book itself, as if growing a garden, and, having now finished this story — a sort of love story, with a hippy-like care for each other, a sort of awakening, a knowledge that one needs to prod the aliens once to draw the venom and then prod them again for the juice — I no longer feel stupid or irritated. Not that, in hindsight, I really ever did.
  15. In Dreams We Remember
    “A queen alone on a windswept hill. She traveled with an army of fifty four thousand, was never alone, and yet I remember her as being alone. She carried the fate of her men in her hands.”
    …like the Goddess Isis, later known as the Queen of Heaven? Isis and her hordes today, based across frontiers, for whatever the cause, for whatever the religion, or split religion? This is at one level a wispy tale of feminine yearnings, eventually a quest for the maternal, in an Irish mythological setting. At another level, this story is a didactic attempt to blame astrology for predestination, while, in truth, for me, astrology is empirical scryings from synchronicity rather than from cause and effect. At yet another level, this story is a retrocausal rhapsody from lipstick and city dinner parties toward the myths or mist of time, for its own sake. On that third l’art pour l’art level, I enjoyed it. Whatever the level, it is one with this book’s still enticing, yet inchoate, gestalt.
  16. Black Lace
    “‘…You can’t help but believe elves.’ / ‘Why?’ Issa asked. / ‘Because they’re impossible beings,’ the girl said, ‘and if you go so far as to believe what you see is magic, you might as well believe what it says.'”
    Also, because ‘elves’ is embedded in ‘believes’? This is a magical story, not real magic, but a literary magic that blends a number of unbelievable things into one believable thing, leitmotifs into a gestalt, amid a scattering of wild thoughts: the bolstering drink Black Lace, Issa and her man as a double show act, the Critic is an old man like me… And, of course, the elves, the least believable as entities, but believable nevertheless in what such entities tell you. I believe this author is such an elf, an elf as self. Beyond criticism.
  17. Isolde, Shea, And The Donkey Brea
    “The invading army had left, leaving behind only the so-called peacekeepers”
    None of us are peacekeepers, I fear. Here, we have two middle-aged women, accompanied by a donkey treated by one of them as more than just a donkey, as they seek the Secret Library, a story that reminds me of fairy tales and legends such as Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard –
    “We continued clearing wells and streams wherever we went. There were more fish, hence less starvation.”
    – and it is a fable for our times, speaking of being shape-shifted before you are shifted back, speaking in the most believable fashion I have ever read: a sense of being as a blend of two states, that of what you appear to be and that of what you really are. A gestalt.
    “…between the lingering moon and the bright, bright snow.”
  18. Border Crossings
    “Somewhere, she woke up. And he fell asleep.”
    Having absorbed the household article collection in ‘Repair’, the pole dancer from ‘Sewing Forgetfulness’ now fan dancer, the delivery of coffee as a sort of ‘double agent’ for can openers and dog portraits…well, this story is a mind-stretching, literary-absurdist interface between tangerine and orange, between alternate worlds or dreams and real-life, the woman visiting the man, and Pflug has a plug that felicitously allows us not only to keep the water in but simultaneously to empty it out again, a definite aura of Pflug-identifiable short fiction, just as Alasdair Gray has his own Gray Version (and if you enjoy Pflug, you will enjoy his work, too, and I reviewed his complete short fiction here).
  19. Airport Shoes
    “…crossing a border far away from home.”
    Another collector (here of toy objective-correlative robots), another dancer, another woman … seeking her Home key again… I have gradually realised that Pflug is more than a gulf of water between people and things and differentiating dreams from truth, but Pflug is crammed with many of those uniquely oblique objective-correlatives that are those very people between and with whom one wanders, engages recurrently – and those things like lost homes and lost home things like can openers and smoothing irons and dreams and other alternities…
    “We don’t know how to go to the moon anymore, but I know how to get to my old apartment.”
  20. The Things In The Box
    “Songs and stories with water in them scared her.”

    Friends with Fred who ‘steals’ from the Salvation Army Box – she has a schizophrenic vision of him and his friend as Jesus and the Devil and their wristwatch her soul…or she at least fears it’s schizophrenia. There seems to be a love-hate relationship with drugs in this book, transcended by fear of them. This story has things in it like the box, like its assonance the book…And it’s up to us to sift and categorise…the story itself doesn’t help but by not helping us really does help us. Moon has assonance with room –
    “I want to paint the moon, and I don’t mean painting a picture of it, but painting the actual moon the way you might a room.”
  21. Even The Mirror
    “I inherited money I hadn’t been expecting and bought an ancient little house in Berlin but rented it out, only keeping a tiny attic room for myself….”
    …being words from this classic exquisition of fiction (sorry, I have an axe to grind, a mirror to search, a “handwritten note, by an anonymous author,…”) and the rest of those words’ context crystallises much of the book for me…as does the whole story.
    In 2010, I reviewed this story in the context here and I paste below what then I wrote:
    [[ "Sometimes I liked to pretend I live in a world where such things don't exist. They make things too easy, and in another way, too hard. They make it too hard to access the other kind of magic. The real kind. They erase it."
    This book and its physical accoutrements are part of that ethos while this story itself is a vision of Venn Dreams (my expression, not the story's) - the narrator's dream life where most other people have what they call their 'love life', their real life, while discarding dreams as simply, well, dreams...
    But dreams that co-exist and trammel: do they represent a sickness or something far more positive? This story uniquely poses that question. It too haunts beyond mere memorability. (3 Aug 10) ]]
  22. Harvesting The Moon
    “I could buy a proper house in town to replace my mother’s seaside shack…”
    To bury the berry?
    For me this work represents the true meaning of the expression ‘null immortalis’. If the previous story was this book’s exquisition or core, this is its coda, a perfect theme and variations for this book, a coda for a work as if colluded by a Stravinsky and a Debussy. A painting colluded by a Burra and a Millais. It feels personal, familial, symbiotically maternal-sororal-daughtersome, fraternal, too; the poetry of this work’s words will stay with you, the ‘objective correlatives’ reaching full maturity, the ripeness of the berries, the Mirror Friends, the carved rudders, the Heaven Tree, the rain barrels…
    “She is an elder now.” Her mother now a berry? Or a tree? The self-forgiveness discovered at last?
    “…I no longer knew my own mirror; [...] …the pain of a child, gone too young and too long gone. If I’d looked into the water I might have seen not my spirit but my memory of its yellow smile,…”
    “When I tell people I used to harvest moonberries they mainly don’t believe me…”
    “…the tree is no less important than the carver.”
    My yieldingtree, latest photo as taken today: