Saturday, September 17, 2016

Something Remains (3)

Something Remains

CONTINUED FROM HERE: SOMETHING REMAINS – Joel Lane and Friends (part two)


PART THREE of my gestalt real-time review continues in the thought stream below…

My own long-term on-going page for Joel HERE.

22 responses to “Something Remains

  1. CONTINUED FROM HERE: SOMETHING REMAINS – Joel Lane and Friends (part two)
    “The morning was already close and humid, but he was still wrapped in his old leather jacket. He made me feel hot just looking at him.”
    Literally and metaphorically hot? And indeed, don’t tell me, it IS still hot and humid today, despite MacCulloch’s snow!
    This is an affecting threnody of a city-dysfunctional life in a residentially tenanted ex-warehouse, a world of bruises, forced sex, self-euthanasia, grabbed casual jobs, and the endemic “staircase lady” crying in a different language.
    This is the tale of the narrator, his relationship halted due to the circumstances of his girlfriend’s pregnancy. You know, I do not know much about the type of music Joel enjoyed (but we often had conversations on-line about classical music but he would have loved Bowie’s Black Star, as I do, and the latest Nick Cave) – yet, I can’t help noticing that many of this book’s stories mention some group called Joy Division, as this one does. This fact seems obliquely significant, especially now when we discover the name of this story’s version of the bruised waifish girl is supposed to be Joyce, and during this story’s wonderfully striking ending (especially in conjunction with its title) we learn that the narrator was once called Joey….
    Then, of course, there is the Joel Division…?
    My previous Chinn reviews: HERE and HERE.
  2. THE MEN CAST BY SHADOWS by Mat Joiner
    “Morbid but beautiful.”
    This story is powerful not necessarily as a plot that stretches its legs convincingly as a series of compelling causes and effects, but more as an art installation or textured poetic vision in the form of prose. This one veritably cloys and congeals with an elusive human emotion – a triangular structure of three men, one now dead from suicide, and one creating photographs as a twelve-man jury on jury-rigs that are allowing bits of themselves to impinge upon the world and the remaining relationship, and all the cross-intentions and recriminations. The actual style, too, crepitates with many images that take you by the scruff of the neck, like “People say ‘lived-in’ of a face but someone had used Marc’s as a squat.”
    The dark emanations from the art installation of the soul and of human existence here subsume and increasingly loom as more and more worrying to the reader like “crimes without witnesses”.
    This work seems, at an inchoate level, to present an apotheosis of Joel Lane’s soul-searching works as angel-monster “Rorschach blots”, the subtle photographic fiction of some of John Howard’s works, the tracing-paper palimpsests of Quentin S. Crisp, and more. Such a rich cocktail I am sure is an acquired taste, one that needs working at, laying yourself selflessly open to?
  3. THE WINTER GARDEN by Pauline E. Dungate
    “‘You like the cold?’
    ‘It seeps into all of us in the end. Numbs the pain.'”
    The male protagonist – down on his luck, alcoholic and losing his love life with his girlfriend Jo – visits (somehow for the first time) a sort of semi-secret garden attached to the building where his attic flat is situated. He meets a fey youth from the garden, brought indoors by him inadvertently, and a woman gardener stockier and older, and he has a one-night stand with a skinny Goth who becomes aware of the fey youth. And thus spooked by all this and by the scent of a plant he had also brought in, he seeks out the support of a woman friend whereby she and her own house also somehow become entrammelled by the spell…
    Often nicely written, but it was a scenario that did not convince me, but that is probably my fault.
    I noticed another reference to Joy Division in this story, and, perhaps, significantly the Cure…
  4. NATURAL HISTORY by Allen Ashley
    “Humankind does not deserve such an alchemical treasure.”
    This is satirical-modern stuff – a crisp, cleverly word-playful monologue by a Daytime TV viewer, with a backstory about his parents and love of ‘Peter Pan’ that he is keen to impart, with business ideas about an elixir of life, local politics, conservation, interest in the natural history museum, and I am afraid, on one reading, I got rather confused. On the face of it, genuinely brilliant, witty stuff, but I could not see where it was going or why.
  5. THE SECOND DEATH by Ian Hunter
    “The wool moved and I could see it was a sheep trapped in the barbed wire […] certain if it opened its mouth it would speak to me.”
    From a blend of Dungate, as I said “significantly the Cure…”, and Ashley’s elixir of life (here, elixir of death) and his Doolittle talking to the animals, we now have this extremely poignant and haunting Hunter work, with a second more lasting death, I guess, better than the first, whereby the protagonist’s father is dying in a hospice and the son abducts him out into moors in Scotland for a last ride, to somewhere adumbrated by a grey woman at the hospice…
    Cutters, embedded spider-scars, and blood blossoms, and much else to savour and suffer. And an open-ended ending with an implicit musical ‘dying fall’ that perhaps echoes on forever.
  6. BLANCHE by Andrew Hook
    “Things happen.”
    A work that seems a seminal subliminal work for this book, where the eponymous character becomes the thing his name DOES as a verb, as well as what the name IS as an adjective or noun, amid references that haunt subliminally, together and separately; Man Ray, Tennessee Williams, Joy Division, Nancy Sinatra, architectural Brutalism, bone as skin, skin as bone, as well as music group names from fiction or truth that populate this striking genius loci of a dance hall reaped from its existence over the years, even this multi-palimpsest one that the gestalt of DVDs — DVDs that student Gavin is given by Blanche in the sexual-oubliette or backroom while a tribute band or, even, a tribute band of a previous tribute band, performs in the main arena — a gestalt that presents a striking visionary dance hall’s temporal cross-section of an experience. Eraserhead or Freezerhead, the subliminals hang on…
  7. THE BODY STATIC by Tom Johnstone
    “And he began telling her the story of the ‘first people’ whose god was in their image rather than the other way round.”
    …as told to the bereaved mother or distrusted grandmother by the “thin stranger” or “strip of a man”, a mother whose son, oblique-tellingly for this book, had died from tantamount to corporate manslaughter. And this story is as if a message is passed through it by static – the most non-static static possible as it travels faster and faster by powerful audit-trail through the events of this ingenious work and, via that means, reaches a form of ironic retribution for those guilty of that corporate tragedy. As if whatever Joeline fragment Johnstone used was that very static-in-utero.
  8. THE BRIGHT EXIT by Sarah Doyle
    A particularly beautiful poem in the context of this book. A beautiful poem, in any event.
    [This is what I said about a previous work by this poet – “…of a death of sleep, like birth, prefiguring a yearning for life itself…?”]
  9. YOU GIVE ME FEVER by Paul Edwards
    “He was the only one who could have known what it’s like to be me.”
    Evolved from another Joeline fragment, no doubt, this presents a curdled but memorable vision of a many things in a relatively short space, mother and son reunited, Frankenstein’s monster, Jekyll and Hyde, another ‘Fred and Rosemary’?
    The subtext, like many subtexts after the texts themselves have fled the mind, lingers unknown and unknowable?
    You give me fever, or you give me forever?
    “Soon winter’s chill reached my bones and I was so desperately glad.”
  10. THE OTHER SIDE by Lynda E. Rucker
    “‘Let’s go on a picnic,’ he’d say, and two hours later you’d find yourself sitting with a spread in the middle of some godawful housing estate…”
    A yearning, aching, meaningfully dream-meaningless story of the narrator Mark’s search for an ex-lover, the missing Adam, Adam who found sacred beauty in the ugliest places, whose sex was usually casual and recreational, who often spoke of the ‘edgelands’, which concept this story deploys wonderfully.
    Mark, in contact with Adam’s twin sister and in difficult relationship pangs with his girlfriend Polly, eventually reaches some form of catharsis, in the terrain where Adam was last seen, a catharsis that arguably I would include in this review’s concept of the ouroboric self.
    There are some very striking scenes in this work, rhapsodic as well as disturbing.
    “Really important dreams don’t come true; you go on dreaming them, and they change you.”
  12. SHADOWS by Joe X Young
    “There are so few angels these days.”
    Angles, too, as Google now allows the world to look from all angles at once? This work starts as a portrayal of a grim world of the homeless making the best of things, aspiring to sheltered property run by Shape, progressing to benefit claiming. This protagonist tries his hand at pavement artistry, receiving drawing materials for free from a generous market trader. Then, in a deadpan, inexplicable, almost absurd outcome (like most things in life, I find), he turns out to have been put in apparently haunted room no. 104 in the Shape accommodation, haunted by a mathematics professor whose shadow sort of gobbles up people from the wall, including Osram, a man who also lives there and looks like a light bulb. 104 is a primitive imperfect number, inter alios, with many divisors, as I Googled here:
  13. I NEED SOMEWHERE TO HIDE by Steven Savile
    “The first numbers were written down by the Egyptians, and the first real mathematical puzzles solved by the ancient Greeks.”
    The previous story was a sort of mathematical one. And the number 99 is mentioned in two separate contexts in this Savile story, and one of the 2 sisters playing fancy dress in this plot (the one aged 7) ends up with makeshift angel wings. Except I hope desperately that they are not makeshift but real.
    That is just my way of procrastinating before needing to face my review of this powerful, nay, devastating story. But one has to face things eventually, I guess. It is a story of a girl whose 13th birthday is tomorrow and, later in this story, today, and she is given the Blue Falcon hero costume by a friendly shopkeeper (like the market trader in the previous story).
    The characters of the parents of these two girls are built artfully, accretively, and their battles with life end up as battles with themselves as well as each other, particularly the mother. The father, however, has already lost his own battle with the ouroboric self and the repercussions can only be conveyed by the way the story tells it, not by a bald statement in a review such as this one. These repercussions are also tied up, for me, with xenophobia and the nature of Brexit Britain.
    Not often do I come away from a story feeling so shellshocked.
  14. COMING TO LIFE by John Howard
    “They need to escape into the air, not into something else, like paper,”
    And in many ways this Howard text is this book’s attempt to let a Joeline fragment regather and fly with the wind from the tenement window, take the claustrophobic boards off, having put them there in the first place – a spinning outward from the inbuilt textual diaspora or regathering of Souls, Angels, Monsters, or just ordinary folk depicted by, say, Brueghel or Lowry, those Lane-like diasporas or regatherings mentioned earlier in this review…
    On another deadpan or dream-like level, of today’s existence in frail, inadequate housing, in a blow the house down wolf city, this is the love story of Justin and Paul, their attempts to stifle Britain’s own eternally Windy City, and to summon or neutralise or evacuate the people from the walls – ironically, those thousands or millions today without walls at all, as a trope, possibly authorially unintended, of our desperate times, a trope that works.
  15. THE ENEMY WITHIN by Steve Rasnic Tem
    “There was something vaguely outside geography about navigating the narrow canal path, passing under signs that always pointed somewhere else […] as if he were travelling through no place to anywhere he liked.”
    This author seems to have crystallised the atmosphere of Birmingham canals (where I once spent some holidays narrow-boating), whether from his experience or through some tapping of forces close to this book? I sense this book is indeed more than a book. And this work is, for me, a fine restrained coda, atmospheric and evocative, revisiting the often unequal relationships of lovers, a toing and froing, going and flowing, some lies, some jealousy, some leakage, some interpretation of the other one’s dreams, and an inchoate outcome, a coming together of the gestalt of repercussions, including crimes, even murders, and corporate manslaughter as a result of dangerous machinery, repercussions often cathartic, sometimes simply emblematic of life’s cruelty and urban dereliction. Simply there to be there, or that ‘travelling through no place’…
    This story also echoes the previous one, a fighting by the two lovers (instead of between themselves) against the entropy of bad housing and general existence, together, despite their differences. Until they are simply not together at all.
    Killing me softly with your song. Killing us, killing someone already dead, killing someone who was never born, softly with renewed life. Joel’s song, that this book sings, fragment by fragment. Dispersed and regathered simultaneously. “…as if he were travelling through no place to anywhere he liked.”
  16. AFTERWORD: THE WHOLE OF JOEL by Ramsey Campbell
  17. Thanks to Alchemy Press, Peter Coleborn, Pauline E. Dungate, those who excavated in a Tyesley Road, and all the writers.
    A special book, a worthy tribute. My comments above about its fiction should be taken as a gestalt.

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