Saturday, December 09, 2017

Behind You – Ralph Robert Moore




15 thoughts on “Behind You – Ralph Robert Moore”

  1. I read the first two stories where they first appeared and below is what I wrote about them at that time and in that context:
    ***********************
    NOT EVERYTHING HAS A NAME
    “I lost track pretty early on how many hands I let grasp mine as they shuddered and went lifeless.”
    You MAY be pleased to know that this is up to the high RRM benchmark of disturbing fiction that lingers afterwards with you and continues to grow increasingly disturbing for possibly years afterward. This work has a last line that is something else – one, with its implicit meaning, exceeding even THAT benchmark.
    Without giving away spoilers, this is a tale of an 18 year old girl, a virgin in two out of the three ways, and a 30 year old swaggerer in a bar who wins her in a bet over pool play from her young diffident boy friend…
    She has four tests for him, the fourth one being a bit like coming out of this work’s closet, if fiction CAN have a closet to come out of, a closet perhaps more powerful than what the closet-leaver alreaady is. Like she has her own Dines gloryhole from earlier in this magazine’s fiction, built in as a portable voyeur. You won’t get it from that, and if you do get it before reading this RRM, you may wish you hadn’t EVER got it, depending on who or what you think you are or who or what you see yourself becoming.
    I think now that I must have seen, relatively recently, RRM’s thin things retreating while I was in a hospital at the point when I finally let go of someone’s newly lifeless hand…
    ***
    MEN WEARING MAKEUP
    “No sadness like a child’s sadness. They haven’t learned yet to hide it.”
    A boy called Buddy, I imagine, caught in the headlights… But that is not whom this story is exactly about. It’s about YOU. And that’s just the author striking a note for his orchestra of words to start proper, I guess. And, indeed, this proper story — telling of another one of those ‘special needs’ kids, bullied and bashed out by humiliations of life, now grown up as that very YOU in this off-the-wall, off-the-forest-track fable of clown tribes and haul masters — is, excuse my language, f**king inspiring.
    For the ‘lost boy on the beach’ to the ultimate YOU, this ultrafiction does its own bespoke Holy Hosanna! A perfect coda to this set of stories. For all woe cakers, coffin makers, door turners, stamp lickers, rabbit owners, dying drowners et al, a perfect exhortation of a story. A perfect story simply in itself. The only way to do justice to it and to discover what bits in it I have missed out telling you, just you f**cking sit down and read it.

  2. *Even the Cops Didn’t Make Jokes*
    “Years went by. She learned not to smile. Hard at first, then after a while, you know what? Not so hard.”A social worker called Claire, her backstory, elements of gender and other chauvinist presumptions surrounding her in the world, default Sapphic herself, I guess, and her somehow visually pregnant 90 year old female client in a poor area of the city, later a scene with people arguing about plastic surgery on that client’s TV – and I invite you to project from all that into your chosen audit trail of what happens next and you have a RRM work, amid a canon of his work that is like being mugged by literature. If you wander into one of his books, you simply ask for it, even if you are armed with your own pepper spray and indestructible molars.

  3. I read the next four stories where they first appeared and below is what I wrote about them at that time and in that context:
    ************************
    All Your Faces Drown In My Syringe
    “Maybe it’s enough to just remember that at one point in our lives, early on, there was that time of unconditional love.”
    One gem follows another. I am sure horror writers are working exponentially these days, reaching further and further in their art of fiction, one upon the other’s shoulders, old shoulders and young shoulders, dead or dying shoulders and shoulders still being born.
    This story is a serial version of the single umbilical throughput entity of this magazine’s first story as well as a resonance with the normal restoring and restauranting life that feeds such exponentiality. This RRM story is a devastating one, sensuously conveying a young couple’s love life with a sense of passing along and exorcising — with the passive help of some mule-like creature akin to Cluley’s ‘Crow’ — the ghosts of the past as living forces within the child-bearing produce of their love. The ending is perfect and cannot be given away here.
    “To get through life, you have to ignore so much.”
    ***
    NEARNESS
    “…isn’t just one dark colour. There are speckles of emerald and sapphire along one side, and a jigsaw splotch of pale topaz on the other side,…”
    I have been looking forward to this, having read much work by RRM previously in Black Static. This story deploys the highly believable and importuning viewpoint from a toddler as she learns to walk, and as we follow the slow-motion pointillism of, say, grass blades and a butterfly, and the approach of birds like pigeons, and the tutelary shapes gradually growing definition, from the lessening attenuation via a small child’s adaptive sight, the definition of two women looking after her. Alongside her, we eventually reach our own growing definition of what might be going on. The experience is tantalising and disturbing. I am still sitting here dwelling on what I found out about those two women and what other things the toddler saw, with increasing disturbance of my equilibrium. Subtle and exponentially worrying. Nearer and nearer to nearness, without quite reaching it, like a nightmarish Weird Fiction version of Zeno’s Paradox in media res.
    ***
    Ghosts Play In Boys’ Pajamas
    “His dad told him, never pet a dog while it’s eating. Even a dog that likes you.”
    The dad who is the pa in pajamas? – as the parallel between the cynical sex of our society’s regrouping adults is mis-reflected by their own mid-teenaged children, and this is a worrying story, an oh too too dangerous story of our times, too effectively written, where giving or losing slimy head under the azalea bushes resonates mutatedly with both previous stories. The ghost nested in the pajamas connecting friend with friend, boys who should be playing with better monsters in the fields outside, I guess, than with each other. Not an elbow fight or a wrestling match, but who’s the biggest monster? Being a year younger at a certain age is a thousand years at another age especially where growing out of things matter, till it’s too late.
    ***
    TRYING TO GET BACK TO NONCHALANT
    “The manufacturer doesn’t sell coffins for their dolls.”
    A truly startling story with quite an unpredictable audit trail, where section-breaks work along with plot-breaks until there is no section-break at all at the biggest plot-break imaginable, a plot telling the story of an ex-boxer man at the doctor’s suffering, one guesses, more than just a trivial illness, who befriends the doctor’s receptionist and her young daughter named Jasmine, a daughter, precocious for her age, a girl with a doll.
    I could go on, leading you through the plot’s audit trail, the man’s physical affair with the widowed receptionist, the imaginary games of his relationship with the daughter. You would not believe any of it if I told you. But you DO believe it when you read it in the accretive context of this story. About the semi-cremation as mock healing and later burial, as perhaps prefigured coincidentally by the previous story’s planned cremation and its buried bones in the desert. The later discovery of paperwork such as the ex-boxer’s high school diploma and copy of his will, and the wetwork of his goldfish aquarium. But that tells you only part of the surface plot and its potential meaning. Only the text itself will suffice to take you deeper. A question remains: who leaches into whom, the woman-the daughter-the ‘cancerous’ doll, and their own battle-scarred action man? You will hopefully discover your own answer, as I think I did.
    “He used to love swimming.”

  4. *The One Who Always Gets To Sit in a Chair*
    “With my large scissors I cut the genitals off his corpse so he cannot continue his bloodline from beyond the grave.”
    That’s only the least of it, perhaps!
    Also poached eggs, poach as in steal although via the candling of my own eggs for chicken elbows, I scried that it was also a method of cooking them. Poached fish, too.
    “To steal is a terrible sin. But to then lie about stealing? Unforgivable.”
    Which is all about the Trump/Brexit tipping-point in my book. Meanwhile, in this Mexican ambiance – very well characterised ambiance amid the reader’s mugging – you learn of the poacher’s punishment by being in his head while walking to the boat for escape assured that you will never reach it. What ACTUALLY gets you would be a spoiler to reveal. But you must know that already. Some readers recognising they are already side-finned with disarmingly poached ballast.

  5. 7B580BFE-AF36-4906-85C7-37D10A939732*BEAST*
    “Fortunately, the roots are thin.”But which roots? Hair or plant roots or even cables? You know, the disarming quality of this story spurs me to mention that RRM has an aura or audit trail in some of his stories that resonate with that of Ishiguro’s THE UNCONSOLED (my review here). And I mean that as an enormous compliment. There is ALWAYS something or someone BEHIND YOU in THE UNCONSOLED. If you have read it, you will know what I mean. I think RRM has got a style that is irresistible if your mind is mine. Here, meanwhile, a relationship built up between dental hygienist and her patient, and then an AMAZING set-piece scene on the outskirts of the town, where relationships shift in the shadow of a big brown beast and trail tracks caused by tyres if not by giant brown toothpicks. I made that last bit up. Seriously, a story I found immensely satisfying, in spite – or because – of its thin inscrutability of disarming progression. My mug now being caved in by missing teeth inside it. My scalpel of critique now registered, though.

  6. *Grappling with Urine*
    “Keep walking backwards down the wall.”In many ways. So simple, yet so complex. Dealing with walls, including the walls of self, and sense of disguised ‘white goods’ embedded in the walls like air conditioning units and their vents, the OCD of keeping them clean, entailing spelunking or pot-holing as an indoors mountaineer or aerialist, and this makes a good mutual companion for my coincidentally concurrent review here with a M John Harrison book. Sense of Beckett, too. A report on the logistics of probabilities. And digging bodily into oneself beyond the sex barrier. It is as if the woman on the floor level is remote controlling, from behind you, a grappling penis aloft to clean her vent.

  7. *You Dry Your Tears If They Don’t Work*
    “Carlos’ two hands, grasped together on the kitchen table, struggled against each other, knuckles whitening, like angels.”
    Carlos is an altar boy, or I reckon alter boy might be more apposite. Boy come amid two priests, one of them new to this church, practising his beguiling ministry on the boy.
    “Splashed deep down inside the pit, helter-skelter across the caved-in sides, lines and triangles of what looked like metal.”
    Talk of God and confession but what if the confession, informal, outside the box, in kitchen with a TV depicting riots in the snowy area around, it is as if we are embroiled in a Weird Fiction as dark and strange and knee-licking as this one with an abrupt gobbo-gritted ground-breaking spiderous explosion outside in the courtyard, and then we as two of its readers arrive on site while dressed as Homeland Security, and the other one as Doctor come to inspect the boy…If all these things, then our lingering unconsoled emotion makes me laugh. But makes you curse.
    “Cursing. When something terrible happens and yet you survive, that’s what the evil do. Curse, instead of laugh with joy at being spared.”

  8.   D9AC0594-F1BE-4AB7-A0CE-C765850C4D0C 
    *PICKLE JUICE*
    “In Indian culture, we believe the coal that takes time to light eventually burns longest.”This is EITHER a previously unpublished and genuine absurdist masterpiece satirising the politique of sexual relationships in a triangle of knowing and unknowing permutations, a theme and variations embodying race and seafood OR it is the most outrageous tentacular cock-teaser in the history of literature which should be condemned.
    Seriously.
    It ends with the word ‘laughter’, arguably making it also a Brian Rix Whitehall Farce of the old school, whichever of the above shoals of thought you are. Or Whitebait if not Whitehall!

  9. *ZOMBIE BETRAYAL*
    “A woman must convey her sexuality with her body. A man can do it with a look.”But by the end of this work, it seems the reverse is true?
    This is another example of Ralph Robert Moore’s Literary Sordid or Sudden Absurdist Shock genre, which I imagine both repels and excites, sometimes – but not always – with both these conflicted effects simultaneously upon a single reader. This substantive work is about a middle-aged woman who tells others, with attritional obsessive relentlessness, about the history of her sex life, over breakfast and while her husband deals with his loose bowels elsewhere, involving a filmic horror sex genre community surrounding this scenario, with its tactile, literally-sick Weinsteinery. The transformation of one film director’s pervading pent-up brinkmanship of cockteasy culmination with this woman, as a bodily degeneration, through cosmetic and culinary filmic make-up and other aberrations, is heart-rending. And the gratuitousness of various objective-correlatives induces acceptance of the repellent-as-read with the disarming at-one-remove diffidence of authorial voice in collusion with a reader’s own at-arm’s-length reading that hardly veils that same reader’s potential literary admiration for the consuming sordidness, even while still trying to veil it upon recognising this tendency.

  10. *OCCULT LIFE*
    “…but I didn’t know what ‘intestinal’ meant. I thought it meant something like ‘insatiable’.”
    Somehow this rings a bell from earlier. An egg-shaped bell whence you see Jupiter and believe you are in an idea-sparking SF story with a nifty metaphor that the story itself reveals without the need of a gestalt real-time reviewer to discover the preternatural occult of its internal literariness. The discovery of alien life. And more culinary sex and shifting relationships for this book of 110,000 words.
    And a toilet that speaks to you to inform you that you have blood in your stool.
    And a moral that every item of supposed good news has to have its counterpart of potential bad news for the good news to exist at all. Stoicism and death running in the family.
    “Just asking, but are you guys deliberately synchronizing my colonoscopy with Brittney’s drilling down through the ice? Like it’s some kind of metaphor?”

  11. *THE GOLDFISH TRICK*
    “You think something is true, but then you glimpse the scaffolding.”
    An older man (who is you later?) warning you today of spiders in bananas, the dating when you are this young of an older woman, missionary position, until you see her meeting ex girl friend in your company and their sex role-playing tricks with fruit instead of goldfish and teaching a cat to talk like a parrot, then talking about making weird cooing faces at babies so as to warn them of the weirdness of their later life, the Weinsteinery of business life, and much more, living in a prop house where, later, actors will be acting out horror films. Take it as red. Take the broom pole prop for granted, skewering your eye socket. There is nothing like a RRM story like this. It makes you feel you were still that baby. Or a mindless banana. Deadpan. Sexy, even old men feel it.
    “It’s amazing to me we don’t fall over more often when we walk. Our feet are so small and our bodies are so big.”

  12. *THE 18*
    A long-seasoned married couple, new Balcony love at the youthful outset, now the last Balcony, the wife dies, he does not tell anyone. No funeral invites to any other than himself. I can empathise with this as in the near future this will be my own dilemma. Unless I go first. Much comfort in this IMPOSTER SYNDROME scenario of there being many of us only just a notch away from the real us. I gained extra comfort from this book being subtitled and advertised as ‘18 stories and novelettes.’ I wept, but I also smiled.

  13. That gobbo concrete again, but this is a refreshing contrast to death-from-old-age in the previous story. Here a sparsely peopled island where naive or native nakedness and childishness are no bar from their furthering the island race, even with first cousins still practising the inducing of almost innocent erections. Taken on journeys off the Texas coast to where those who are hard bitten still subsist … but I did draw breath when I later saw the two orange fish, upon a very young couple’s return to the island following their induction. Fish and flesh do not seem distant from this book. Oyster bites, too. Or goldfish.

  14. *BIG INCHES*
    “Long enough, diligently enough…”
    Staggering stuff, if you imagine officials searching anyone to the nth degree beyond even his teeth and the car he came in and even the gobbo concrete under his car once the car itself was sieved. EVEN the concrete under which he might one day be buried. I made that last bit up! An intensely relentless apotheosis of Evenson and Beckett toward even the umpteenth UNCONSOLED level where I still seek this wonderful book’s gestalt in a similar manner of ultra-grinding perseverance. Big inches that even small sexual urges can maintain.
    Too busy looking under every word to be able to summarise the hawlistic core of everything in this book. More and more Moore to the end of Moore is not even insight yet.
    end

      
 

Pretty Marys All In A Row – Gwendolyn Kiste

8 thoughts on “Pretty Marys All In A Row – Gwendolyn Kiste

  1. chapter one

    “But they’re better than I expected, the tune of their terror brimming with the elegance of Glenn Miller, the wink-and-nudge charm of Frank Sinatra, the indelible class of Bobby Darin.”
    I am excited by the well-written panache of this opening chapter, as we meet Rhee for short or Resurrection Mary for long (one of other such sisters?) who haunts passing cars and their passengers in the (if different) tradition of the protagonist in Michel Faber’s Under The Skin (my review here) and I am already becoming imbued with Rhee’s character, her seeming status as a ghost, her ‘home’, and those joyriders in this chapter she haunts perhaps inimically – and others she might haunt familiarly. Very promising. Not surprised as previous works of this author have impressed me.
  2. chapter two

    “Our bodies are skilled at make-believe, carrying out the sacraments of lives we lost long ago. It aches inside me how close we are to existing yet how agonizingly far away.”
    I am genuinely astonished and beguiled. This promises to become, if not already become, the only work of fiction that my disbelief is so suspended I actually believe in ghosts while being able to be spoken to by one of them in this narration. There are so many nice and original effects to give some delightful truth and, equally, some character differentiation between the ghost sisters and where they live and how they live and what they think and what trials and tribulations they face. Unrequited and rhapsodic.
    Meanwhile, isn’t Mary in the plural Maries?
  3. chapter three

    “Fortunately, the highway is generous tonight.”
    I feared I might have been over-praising this book yesterday, but this latest chapter proves to me the opposite. This is something really special. So far. Like all lives, books can also attenuate while still in the hands of the reader on each tomorrow’s opened screen of text. I love this Rhee, who is a ghost of herself and how she is shown herself in a book when she was still alive, a ghost story for a ghost. Her relationship with David, he being one of us, but also someone who has actually met her, picking her up as the hitchhiker that some say she is, as well as being a ghost. I love that mirror in which some ghosts live. I love the other ghosts with whom she lives. I love the limpid style. I love her love of Glenn Miller, but do not necessarily share her disappointment when she gets in someone’s car playing Bob Dylan. A highway revisited?
    “How strange that the most permanent part of most people’s lives are the monikers they leave behind in stone after it’s too late to matter.”
    [cf “People are expected to leave monuments to their tragedies, even though that makes them harder to forget.” – from a book I am simultaneously reviewing here.]
    Each ‘a dead monument to once ancient hope.’
  4. chapter four

    “I still haven’t confessed to anyone about what I’ve seen and heard in the shadows. I nearly laugh aloud to myself. And what will I say? I don’t even know what the voice is.”
    There is a fey quality here. A feyness itself fading. An aching attenuation. But if fey fades, does it become less fey, paradoxically less fading? Meanwhile, a four year old girl sees “four pretty ghosts”, a girl seeking scares with her Daddy who happens to be David. And meanwhile again, Rhee and Red have seemingly connected in the mirror where normally Red resides alone. But overall there is a yearning lack of connection… or a near connection like, I guess, the fingers of Goddess and Ghost stretched out to each other but not yet touching? A tantalisation of these Marys (Red, Rhee, Lew, Mack…) here amid shadows that almost flow for me like syrup. Unyielding and yielding by turns.
    “You know we can’t reach each other. That’s against the rules.”
  5. chapters five & six

    “The darkness can come, but he won’t stop us. My sisters won’t fade. We’ll be together, and we’ll become stronger than we’ve ever been. We’ll get out of here. Not even darkness can keep us.”
    Lew, Des Moines… and more that makes me think I am in this book already. Am I the man’s voice in the darkness? I certainly hope not. These Marys don’t deserve me, if so. They should resist my hawling them into this review, my dreamcatching them…
    “But if I can pull my sisters toward me, maybe I can haul others with us.”
    Meanwhile, I follow Rhee’s attempts to steady their fading, by bringing others who are like David, including David, to a party at the Marys’ house. Their pet people from our living world, but has their fading now started making these people fade, too? The text is full of yielding and unyielding, evocative of blood and horror and eventual slippages of two of the Marys… they say they have never been so powerful, never so vulnerable. Even one of their coffins seems fluid.
  6. chapter seven

    “Once upon a time, the darkness stole my life from me. Now it’s stealing my hereafter too.”
    Death of her hereafter, but it not deciding where it dies, Rhee decides…
    But if I tell you what happens or what she decides to do, I shall likely become my own spoiler. And the following quote from this chapter, I surmise, may give you at least what in hindsight was a premature hint?
    “They brim with rage the color of late autumn when all the trees have blistered to orange ruins and blackened bark. A fury that wanes more with every passing moment because the darkness pulls her farther from us.
    Lew.”
    —————————————————————-
    “And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.” John Donne
    “And death shall have no dominion.” Dylan Thomas
    “And with strange aeons even death may die.” HP Lovecraft
  7. chapters eight, nine & ten

    “We float through the here and there, our bodies suspended in nothing.”
    “I have to pick between two impossible existences: either he devours me tonight, the same as he devoured the others, or he spends an eternity devouring me in another way.”
    I am not sure I can fully devour the gestalt of this uniquely fey book, by telling you what happens at the end. You will not forget, though, the ballroom and the dancing to Glenn Miller. The rows of Marys. A seeming maze of rows. Row as in rank not squabble. The tension between being and not being, between wanting to scare and wanting to comfort. Rhee loves to scare, perhaps to scare me more than I can scare her by her pretending that I exist simply to make her stop existing. That’s what reading fiction means. Two way and synergistic between the book and its reader. The power to believe that you are inside the fiction, whatever necessary role (good or bad) you are given by that book to play in it. To stop myself fading, even at my age. At my age, when mirrors are no help.
    A ghost story for a ghost. Where exorcism is its opposite.
    end

 

    Theatre of Curious Acts – Cate Gardner

    13 thoughts on “Theatre of Curious Acts – Cate Gardner

    1. Part One: Shrapnel From a Broken Smile
      (i) The Collector of Memories 1915
      “There hasn’t been a train on that line since it closed in the 1950s,”…
      From the wartime trenches, via inscrutable characters, to an aspiring alternate world in the future? I am not sure.
      I do know for certain, though, that the vision evoked here evokes a hauntingly crafted language and style that in turn evokes the vision that created it. I do not pretend to yet understand the significance of the eponymous Theatre and the nearby Coffin factory.
    2. (ii) & (iii)
      “One day, I imagine we’ll all be jumbled up and not know what day it is.”
      I have reviewed a number of Cate Gardner’s works before (linked from here) and I just browsed through what I wrote over four years ago about her Punch & Judy novella and I feel similar now and so far constructively part of the above quote! However, it seems appropriate that Theatre of Curious Acts was published two years before that Punch & Judy review of four years ago. Retrocausal powers now panning out?
      A vision as if emerging dead or alive from the First World War trenches for Daniel, led by others, into a parallel present or a real future or an alternate future of an absurdist theatre with motley characters and much more. Suffice to say, there is something tantalisingly unique about Gardner the Cate’s work, and it is dream-incubating to the Nth degree.
    3. Part Two: Paper Dragons
      (i)
      “At nineteen, Daniel felt like an old man.”
      “The White Horse Inn reminded Daniel of his father. It listed to the left as the old man always did after a long session and they wore the same stale-beer aftershave.”
      1918, we’re told, and I am being lured into this book, come what may. A reunion of those men from the trenches – some glimpses of the ghosts of dead ones in the theatre audience – together with what I imagine to be a preternaturally felt sense of that war’s aftermath, the sadness, re-visions of war’s horror, the character differences between the ex-soldiers, the labels on beer bottles and confectionery packages of those days, the variable nature of grief and guilt; it is almost as if we are there. Perhaps we are there. I am even visited uncannily by another book’s central character of a single crow as part of my concurrent gestalt real-time review here.
      “A solemn crow, perched atop the theatre, regarded them.”
    4. (ii) & (iii)
      “Am I the only one aware of the insanity of this place? Of these women?”
      If any fiction can have more Lewis than Carroll, this can! The soldiers, still youthful striplings, fall through a rip in literature from the theatre to a fairy tale sort of place where four women or girls choose between the five of them… lightsomeness hiding dark, I guess, while presenting an extraordinary and disarmingly naïve nonsense which nevertheless gives me a sense of some intrinsic meaning to grab hold of but remaining beyond my grasp. I don’t think I have ever encountered a work of fiction quite like this one. And it still remains to be seen whether I can actually stay who I am with this story ever becoming something else.
    5. (iv)
      “There is a dark shadow in your words and on your heart, Daniel Cole.” She pressed her hand against his chest. “I’d hate for it to seep into your veins. You have something the others lack, a capacity for love in comparison to the fear, hate and ambition that fuels them. Your scent is intoxicating.”
      This book is really bearing out my original preternatural expectation that it would be a potential past classic of weird literature. Or of Nonsense Literature, upon which it borders constructively. Gossamer delights and budding love underlain by the horrors of war. Needs to be read. My retrocausal view of a work that might in itself be either ABOUT or CAUSED BY retrocausality… naively or disarmingly so …. or at least this specific chapter within the foregoing context I have read so far promises all that. We shall see.
      “And you might find your finger rotting on the road if you poke it at me or my sisters one more time,” Blanche said.
      “This new enemy came in packaging intended to beguile.”
      “water or whatever”
    6. (v)
      “If you followed your timelines in the proper manner, you’d realise that time is done.”
      1BC9029F-8B42-4BBF-8B59-485068155202I have been defeated, but in the end it is my victory. Victory-Defeat, this book’s oxymoron? Its “sleep-monger”, amid counting his sheep mentioned, turned into my version as Weirdmonger. Wagger Market! Wagger Market! They said my stuff, that sort of Wagger Market stuff, in the old days, defeated the readers in the same way! Here, my own victory at last is letting the images flow over me and soak into some dream sump for later tapping. Let’s hope the rot lurking within the heart’s shell is just part of some gestalt that strengthens it instead of dissipating the fairy story and the potentially new mythic archetypes displayed here radiating back towards the dream sump, from the cuteness-pent dark trickery of women to the dragons and the market worm (in Spenser, Worm being another name for a dragon, I recall.) It is the boy soldiers who are naive, not this book that is naive, when they question what is happening around them in that very book that has now taken on a more ‘knowing’ look about it. The naive reader, too. Not the author.
      The world around us today in itself seems to be a veritable theatre of curious acts…
    7. (vi)
      “You’re not the only one who has seen things,” Daniel said. “We stand with monsters and I can only guess at their names. They told us of them in Sunday school, they warned us of them in battlefield services, they’ll carve their names at the end of the world and yet I dare not repeat them. If I choose to ignore their true forms, I do so for the sake of my sanity. I can walk beside them and think there is a way to defeat them. Haven’t we witnessed enough monstrous things?”
      Forgive me for quoting so much. Or put me in a cage or sarcophagus. If I retell what happens here, you will never read this book. Obversely, if you read this so far retrospectively landmark Weird Dark-Wonderland Wagger-Market Fiction book, you would be pleased that you did and thank me for bringing it to your attention. Also, now the men encounter and are asked to perform in the eponymous theatre, a theatre now in reverse or in mirror image, that makes more sense from today that I remember my earlier mentioning retrocausality in connection with this book?
      “We can speak for ourselves,” Daniel cut in. “My friends and I have no wish to perform in your play. We’ve had enough of that nonsense already.”
      “For a moment, she looked crow like, her shroud visible.”
    8. (vii)
      “In this place, there was truth to the saying you can never go back.”
      But does truth lie or not lie in any one place to the exclusion of others? In one head and not another? We all feel we at least FEEL the truth. And that statement’s irony, for me, UNDERlies the soldiers’ Tontine, where one by one they attenuate. But who wins the prize of this Tontine of war, of all wars? And not only the songs of the First World but also those of other Wars impinge alongside concomitant Blakean wing-furling Angels and a boozy Boschian Inn…
      “Daniel felt the same and wondered, not for the first time, if they cowered in a trench while bombs tore apart men. It would make more sense than this.”
      My Facebook memory-anniversary of Hieronymous Bosch today –

    9. (viii), (ix) & (x)
      “Daniel considered this place a delayed punishment for surviving when so many other men had died.”
      This is EITHER an inchoate masterpiece with an as yet undiscovered coherent significance to our times, the coordinates of which need to be triangulated by any number of gestalt real-time reviewers, a masterpiece lost within a past amorphous mass of small press publications all striving to outlast posterity OR a throwaway nightmare vision gratuitously controlled by one of the four horsewomen of the apocalypse in a moment of frenzy. Either way, it is worth having a view on it, with its Tontine of dead and dying soldiers some of whom are dredged from the lake in a bus, with disconnected descriptions of festering sores, too, plus a paper dragon that sometimes appears real in different tranches of this vision, and much more, including the numbered traintracks of time … I recall often playing in my friend’s garden during the early 1950s seeing and hearing a mighty behemoth disguised as a steam train (at the end of the garden) as its passing-by did soot-smut the clothes on the washing-line, all of them, I now suspect, pegged up containing the ghosts of those who had died a few years before in the then latest war. I have already glimpsed ahead to the following part of this book and seen that the next chapter has at its head: ‘2018 (“The end of the world was just around the corner.”)’
    10. Part Three: Anticipating Pitchforks
      (i)
      “The end of the world was overdue and everyone knew it.”
      Well, it seems now we know which man won the Tontine of a hundred years before, still alive, but I won’t reveal his name in case it’s a spoiler. Somehow, I am not surprised the newsreader on rolling BBC News wears an orange jacket. Nor that our Tontine winner has been invited to an ArmagedDON ‘do’ at the eponymous theatre. But do such ‘dos’ entail a dress code?
    11. (ii) to end
      “Cages constructed from human ribs hung suspended six feet above the ground. He’d seen them occupied many times—by men gnawing their hands, by women digging their fingers into their ribcages—but never by a living girl.”
      I think the girl has been trqpped by her own book. By a pirate ship, with some of her characters on board. Not a Tontine after all, but an invitation to have a bespoke straitjacket fitted. By other visions of the past and the past’s future. A sheer panoply of things that got to me without touching my brain, these last sections, a panoply that needs triangulating, nay, traingulating, by several gestalt real-time reviewers before assessing or hawling out its worth and significance. If it had all ended before these final sections, I would have been more happy with this work as a finished masterpiece, if a constructively ungraspable one, but now it becomes a wild monster. Seeming to point to what followed the OR above not what followed the EITHER. But I could be wrong.
      I need YOU, other readers to triangulate, dreamcatch and hawl alongside me, upon what has become either its own inbuilt pirate Flying Dutchman of weird literature or simply the madness of today as we face the edge of 2017 into 2018. I admire its pluck.