Friday, March 06, 2015




As a series of reflections upon my own six novellas continued from HERE, I shall now be concentrating on the book below.…

A Visit to the Narrative Hospital
The InkerMen Press 2010

My commentary will appear in the comment stream below as and when I happen to re-read it…


  1. Pages 5 – 11
    Gregory Mummerset is in some form of hospital…
    The passage from these opening pages quoted below relates, for me, to readers or reviewers visiting this book, one in particular. Like a visit to the narrative hospital, as the book’s subtitle has it.
    Gregory is visited, though, by the first of my many fiction characters from over the years. As this book is due to be visited, I recall, throughout its narrative by such characters…
    Gregory tussles with words meaning opposite things disguised as meaning the same thing – such as ‘nemophobia’ and ‘nemophilia’, before being released sadly along with his haunted, as yet unhealed, dreams. Care in the Community? Or a way to let his words chase hares beyond the hospital….?
    …I had spotted a certain visitor being entertained by another inmate; I felt sure it was not that inmate’s visitor by rights because the visitor resembled my mother. A woman had looked plaintively over at me but left without visiting me. So, indeed, I knew she had visited someone whom she had not recognised at all. Brings tears to my eyes, even today.
  2. Pages 11 – 24
    This work is at least partially about ‘dream sickness’ and, unlike its sequel ‘Nemonymous Night’ the novel, it doesn’t give the reader this sickness, but gives it in real-time to the author himself, or so it seems to me today, as objective viewer of it as far as I am able to imagine being objective about it! There are some passages in these pages concerning the physical Weirdtongue as a tongue itself rather than a language, and about the sea voyage, the circus, the ‘Friques’ show, passages that will blast your mind, but below are some more modulated passages that hopefully will give you a flavour or even link into the book’s controversy that became, in hindsight, part of the book’s ‘dream sickness’ itself…
    ‘Anyway, how are you really? Got rid of the gremlins?’
    The word ‘gremlins’ was a euphemism for Dream Sickness, a plague of which had only recently been taken under control by the authorities. The difficulty was to trust that the doctors weren’t under its influence themselves because different forms of the complaint would have caused them to practice equally different methods of treating it. Now the plague was effectively under control, indeed almost one hundred per cent eradicated, anyone claiming to be suffering from it was immediately branded a malingerer or simply work-shy. Gregory was one of the very last patients credited with the validity of the sickness.

  3. The things in his head made the skull feel bigger. He was getting older without having fully planned for death. It was as if life itself expunged death with a brainwash of busy projects and a false claim for fame. Fame was never immortality.

  4. ‘Can you speak Weirdtongue?’
    The Captain shook his head up and down and then from side to side, as if the very question was in a language he didn’t understand.

  5. Humouring old-timers was an art in itself. Reliving their highs and lows of life. Encouraging them to prattle on about this, that and the other. Learning, where you were able to do so, about aspects of life that were dying out with the people who had lived them for real….

  6. Proustian, without the necessity of understanding what the word meant.

  7. Gregory had just remembered the hospital’s promise of a Grand Tour of Middle European health spas, including the famed Magic Mountain retreat in one of the more forgettably estranged countries that used to be part of the USSR.
  8. Pages 24 – 39
    Gergory and Suzie, shrugging off maternal duties, follow their star to the Glistenberry Festival, while Feemy Fitzworth negotiates the European market for his cat’s meat wares.
    Some separate passages below to tag into the brain for when you reach them in real-time.
    Mothers were like that. She had brought him up on a pittance and, despite exposing him to all manner of drunken step-fathers and the intermittent periods of her ignoring Gregory completely, she had seen them both through. Gregory was Gregory because he was his mother’s son. She deserved trust even if she couldn’t be trusted.

  9. Middle-Fast fighters churning across the sky in the hope of finding the saint who carried his own skin.

  10. It is difficult to pinpoint the precise moment when Feemy Fitzworth no longer needed a physical meatcart to tote his wares around Victorian London—but, if pinpointed, it was the moment when he became the meatcart himself. So many words had been ingested by his ‘persona’, swelling his glands into even fattier tissues—and he used the steaming heat of the weather that often attacked London in those days to cook the slices he would later slice from his belly quarters and hocks from his hind-calves and heifers from his humpback. A walking carvery.

  11. Goldwrap’s supporting group ‘Nemophilia’ that was already rehearsing in the nearby tent (currently closed to the public) filled the fields with haphazard shafts of jagged music startled from synths. Either tuning up or the real thing, Gregory wasn’t sure. In his quieter moments, he rather enjoyed Classical Music, even the more avant garde versions to which one needed to acclimatise (almost self-brainwash) before the seemingly strident sounds reached the parts of the soul most other music couldn’t reach. He also enjoyed the sedate conversations of chamber music … Schubert, Brahms. Then, in other moods, the decadent prefiguring of modern warfare in turn-of-the-century Mahler followed by moto perpetuos by Shostakovich. ‘Death In Venice’ music by Mahler reminded him of his earlier dreams-of-promise visiting all the Middle European health spas as part of a necessary convalescence from too much dreaming. The mountains were pulmonaries of shiver-veined delight.
  12. Pages 39 – 57
    Gregory and Suzie’s sojourn under the Summerset Tor in Glistenberry draws to a close and when they travel home they find that he is to be sent by the NHS to Krakow (see the book’s long footnote below about the Yellow Valley Clinic) on a working-convalescence as part of his treatment beyond the hospital. Feemy Fitzworth is working in its kitchen, too, in a form of self-flensing the food. Much that works and much that doesn’t work in the text for me. Perhaps, they will be switched when you read it. It’s the sort of book that morphs into the cracking sounds of bones in butcher’s shops over night.
    With regard to ‘Nemophilia’ or ‘Nemophobia’ as human identities and relationships with others forming like those normally happening in babyhood but still forming well into old age… Cf my review of ‘The Buried Giant’ by Kazuo Ishiguro that overlaps with this review.
    ‘Our faces are pressed up against the mortal shell like a child wanting to go out to play but kept indoors like the ‘invalid’ in The Secret Garden.’

  13. ‘Good God!’ said Gregory. ‘There’s the lead-singer of Goldwrap!’
    Suzie looked to see someone fleet past in their own ring-cycle, evidently far more proficient at such self-transport than Suzie and Gregory.
    ‘How do you know it was her?’
    ‘She called out ‘ooh-la-la, I’m the number one’!’ He laughed as if he hadn’t really convinced himself as to the true identity of the other ring-cyclist. Followed by a non-sequitur that he’d rather like to have Goldwrap music as a mobile ringtone.
  15. Death is a hobby.

  16. Fatted calves crawling further up the legs to corrupt the genitals.

  17. The Yellow Valley Clinic—known as the Choker when translated from the local language’s rough cuts of dialect—was originally a hospital for consumptives during the Second World War. It seemed to be a strange place to site such a hospital because a self-perpetuating gentle smog or curdled mist—evidently needing no modern-day exhaust fumes to bolster it—swept along the ribboning valley from sources it has always been difficult to identify. Hence its Choker nickname. In the fifties it shook off its image, if not the gentle smog itself, by catering for more amenable illnesses than those afflicting the lungs or, even, the body generally. In other words, they began to cater for illnesses of the mind, where there was no need to have official reports about the weather conditions including the breathability of the air in the gardens. They just needed patients and doctors—and the rest seemed to take care of itself. An ideal front. There was a plaque on the gateway’s structured left support—a drawbridge-type operation disguised as a door dovetailed into the castellated edifice itself that had seen more bellicose days than even those of the Second World War—and this plaque honoured a local freedom-fighter hero who had lived many more years than mortality would usually allow, a life with several names, the most famous name of which was Yellowish Haze. At the time of Gregory’s period of internment in the clinic, he was overdue for this character’s next appearance in the homeland’s cyclic challenge-and-response, hence this simple observation as to his existence, if not to his complete history, as a footnote within a footnote. Regarding the clinic’s own claim to have spa facilities, it is indeed a legend that I cannot currently address for lack of space or, more vitally, because of the availability of the requisite words without adversely affecting further necessary procurements by the narrative hospital itself.
  18. Pages 57 – 71
    I shall now abandon you to certain extracts from the text. A mixture of the arcane, the mystical, the absurd, the workaday and the trashy. And don’t let anyone tell you there is no linear plot in this book!
    He saw a distant disturbed duststorm churning into a section of greyed-out pinkness. He spotted the blotchy ink of rorschach shapes within its moving weather-systems, betokening a racing stampede of cattle, a situation that often faced Rowdy Yates and Gil Favor in the once popular and prime-time black and white ‘Rawhide’.

  19. In fact, Gregory and Suzie had both sensibly agreed that she would not accompany him. But against all the odds—buttressed by love—they had set off together, tears streaking their faces, intent on saying farewell, as if she had boarded a train to kiss the departing loved one as he set off on his journey but staying on the train when the whistle went for the train’s own departure. Or in denial that the train would ever leave.

  20. It was that a single dust mote in a duststorm could be a hero.

  21. When in waiting-rooms, it is a common anxiety that the official at Reception has not noted your arrival correctly in accordance with any system of waiting-in-turn and that patients are being seen before you, even though their appointments are scheduled later than your own. This included a feeling that other people were looking through you rather than, at least, round you. Gregory suffered this concern (technically known as nemophobia) to such an extent that he frequently asked for evidence that he was in his correct position in the ‘queue’, forcing any receptionist to keep renewing acknowledgement of his existence.

  22. Proustian in colour woven with the flowering of dyed cattleyas.

  23. Suddenly the dinghy grounded to a halt upon a mass of such bodies, many bony and thin (belying the scope of their contents, mental or physical), elongated in height by the torture they had suffered at the hands of history. They were intertwined like fleshy rush-mats from shore to shore. Some moaned, others weltered noisily with mud upon their whipping tongues, a few as silent as the previous silence broken only by plashing oars and the wet raw planky vessel itself.
  25.  Modal, knew deep within himself, that this was a dream. He was the Clown of Dreams, and within certain layers of these dreams-within-dreams or dreams by other dreamers infiltrating his own dreams, his job was to lighten and entertain the audience of co-dreamers with antics of farce or black humour, cart-wheeling in his baggy suit through false doors to baths of custard or slews of porridge beneath his huge skidding banana-feet—all a front or subterfuge, when he reached the bottom dream or the head-lease dream, for him being the reincarnation (or actual equivalence) of Yellowish Haze himself now set to put right the wrongs of centuries, including all those killed by history rather than by natural death.

  26. Gregory was separated from Suzie at some point between his own separate dreams. He found himself waking time and time again from an operation on his head (he felt fingers manipulating his brain) as he glassily stared up at faces that floated in the yellow gloom of the theatre. This was not the convalescence he had expected. Not the lazy afternoons in a wicker chair by the side of the lake to which he had looked forward, being waited on hand on foot with all manner of medicinal cocktails. This was deep-rooted surgery itself. The convalescence, in hindsight, had been conducted at the previous hospital ward back home, a pre-illness convalescence, as it turned out, as he had then not been ill at all before then. Rest and care and recuperation and, yes, convalescence, prior to the disease hitting him. A vital pre-cursor (or pre-cure) to an illness that was incurable. It should always have been such with incurable illnesses. Because most incurable illnesses lead to death, with no subsequent chance of convalescence. So best to have it first.

  27. Surrounded by the heady aromas of washing-powder, Blue Daz, Surf, Tide, Fairy Snow, and the neutral smells of tins with smelly foods inside. And a small Off Licence, too, which was a money-spinner, but still difficult to wring a proper living from all the time he spent serving behind the counter. He rented out DVDs. And held a small stock of CDs. Old Sixties stuff, Rolling Stones, and Pavarotti, and country-and-western compilations, a few light classical CDs although Modal preferred less light music and often wandered towards both Pink Floyd and Penderecki, mixed with modern things like Goldwrap, Keane, Snow Patrol, then Top of the Pops compilations from the eighties…
  28. Pages 71 – 81
    This is amazingly bad or amazingly good stuff; I leave you to judge. It astonishes me every time I re-read it. An emerging proof-within-itself that fiction characters live more readily as real people when embodied in crass language? But then, as if in contradiction, the words present a threnody upon the physicality of words themselves, prehensile letters dripping, say, pus, and then Gregory’s name itself begins to deplete letter by letter – as he does, too, as a real person, as if a demonstration of this text itself working. I cannot comment beyond this.
    One major event plotwise in these pages, too, where during the old Black and White TV Crackerjack with Eamon Andrews and Mr Pastry, the Weirdmonger as a boy was tripped up by another character, leading to a life-long or fiction-long antipathy or duel of tactics…much like the Weirdtongue palaver itself having been created by this text that was once independent from it!
    There are many additional matters I cannot cover in this hindsight commentary (it was first publicly drafted during 2007, independently published in 2011 when, soon after, the palaver began).
  29. Pages 81 – 122
    The text has sent me mad, literally, word by word. I feel incapable of commentating further on such dislocating passages of prose and dialogue. The author has been de-authored, de-spined. I shall leave you with the whole text of these last forty pages as its own self-commentary: HERE. You see, I dare not meet Simplon again nor explain such passages even to myself, Yellowish Haze’s dispersement amid the killing chambers under Poland, notwithstanding. Important, though for any new readers, to read them first for real in context and within a book of paper and spine, as I have just re-done.
  30. My self-commentary upon THE APOCRYFAN will now take place HERE

No comments: