GESTALT REAL-TIME BOOK REVIEWS
Saturday, December 23, 2017
The Smell of Telescopes - Rhys Hughes
Book’s dedication: For Charlotte
THE BANKER OF INGOLSTADT
“I remember attempting to galvanise a dead horse when all my friends wanted to do was arrange flowers or tie ribbons in their hair–”
A rolling conceit-to-conceit classic of this author, with a probably unique style for the year 2000 when it was published, and only this author has maintained such a supreme level of fictionatronic absurdity since then. My theory is that this author’s work is a living banker, a slightly flawed gestalt experiment still in 2017 on-going, one-off, but the flaws make it perfect, and not at all so that one can unscrew the works to see how they work. The tale of the would-be student (of colour and female gender) and the would-be racist and misogynistic banker of her grant has possibly become its own Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s monster. Frankenstein was Mary Shelley’s monster, the actual monster being Frankenstein’s. This book of telescopes is the author’s own monster towards hopeful fiscal self-reliance – and telescopes, if not necessarily their smell, are central to another Shelley, Percy Bysshe’s PROMETHEUS UNBOUND, a major work that for me puts a new meaning on this book, for the second decade of the 21st century. Next decade, there will be yet another meaning to uncover, I’ll be bound.
“My rooms are very secluded. They have never known a female presence. Even the fleas are exclusively male.”
TEN GRIM BOTTLES
A Rhys Hughes Welsh pub talk story, where a stranger tells locals, including the incognito village poet, that he is the egoectomist of poets. Collects their egos in bottles. If these bottles drunk then the poet’s ego mutantly affects the drinker by thinking they are a poet. To cut a short story short the last two sentences seem to indicate that this poet-fiction troubadour himself called Rhys Hughes, given time, may yet attain the status of creative genius. I reckon he already is, but you are not a creative genius until a quorum of the public believe so, too. And thus I now write stories, too, sometimes with horror trappings galore and other wormy tropes. Or was that something I used to do, before I met the egoectomist. Or the cannibal under the bridge, Billy goat gruff notwithstanding.
Thine eyes are like the deep, blue, boundless heaven
Contracted to two circles underneath
Their long, fine lashes; dark, far, measureless,
Orb within orb, and line through line inwoven.
— Shelley (Prometheus Unbound)
“The Italian republics did not like former pirates settling in their towns.”
I say this a lot. One day it will be true. This is the story that moves into Rhysian overdrive that overdrives beyond my mind’s previous measure. An overdrive of simile and conceit and utter meaningful madness of meaninglessness, where an ex-pirate called ‘Ceti opens a barber-shop in an Italian town. No way I can do justice to it here. It sort of flows, leaving a story to simmer in a sump it has made for itself in your brain.
THE BLUE DWARF
“But, unfortunately, this is the real world; life is a sour cream poured on stones.”
A told amoral fable where those told it join in with quick fire changes of their trousers and souls. I am beginning to think some of these stories in this TELESCOPES book are seen via orb on Shelley’s orb or through the wrong end or genuinely iconic. I seriously suspect, over time, since 2000, that they are becoming iconic like the stories of Grimm or Hans Anderson. Given a quorum of readers.
THE PURLOINED LIVER
“Instead of placing the glass to his lips, he held it under his cheek and lowered his prolapsed orbit into the murky depths.”
Making the eye smell of real ale. At first, from the title, I thought this would be a skit on Poe, but instead it’s a Monty Python type journey into Shropshire with the names of beers and villages outrageously believable. A long-cut to the motorway around the theme of girl virgins being more easy to burn than other people.
THE SQUONK LAUGHED
“A constant stream of tears from two enormous eyes had worn deep furrows in his cheeks; his lower lip curled down to his feet, which protruded directly from his neck, as if the rest of his body had fled this source of misery.”
And if you think this is sad, wait till you face the debate between two such sadnesses – with the ulterior motive, admittedly, of kidnapping a wife disguised as a blunderbuss. Edward Lear-like iconicity in the shape of something quite different. Guns can sometimes be like smelly telescopes, I guess.
It seems more than just synchronous that this afternoon I took a rare trip to the cinema and saw ‘Victoria and Abdul.’ Dench was monumental. The film was both funny and moving. And now I happen to read this, where the traditional telegrams are sent by a Queen not a million miles from. Victoria to all THINGS as well as to all people that become hundred years old, even to the the tradition itself!
It all seems to fit in. Gestalt real-time reviewing has come of age, too, with its own, if premature, hundred years telegram.
THERE WILL NOW BE AN AS YET INDEFINITE SABBATICAL IN REVIEWING THESE THREE MIGHTY BOOKS. I HOPE THIS PARTICULAR SABBATICAL DOES NOT RECEIVE SUCH A CONGRATULATORY TELEGRAM FROM OUR CURRENT QUEEN.
Linked the Queen Victoria reference here:
DEPRESSURISED GHOST STORY
“You have beaten me to a pulp, but I shall beat you to fame.”
I was born in Colchester, my parents’ home there, and, as a reader, I now have a beard, and susceptible to avalanches of meaning. This is a high-ranging tale of acrophilia, climbing rivalry, discussion of spirit and body, of geography and ghosts, plus namewords used in the old-fashioned anonymous way disguised with end to end en dashes, ordinariness as miraculous, a number of self-aware footnotes and a reader’s missed footing.
They don’t write them like this any more, since the heady days of the turn of the century. ‘A Scorn for Stress’, being my suggested subtitle for it. A story where I found a literary E——.
I have tried to read this and then decided to check whether anyone had reviewed it in the past. It seems not.
I could not understand any of it. I was hoping to be the first person to review it, but even I have failed to become that pioneer. I sense nobody could ever have READ it, let alone reviewed it, except perhaps David Rix who republished it. I leave it for better reviewers or readers than me.
THE TELL-TALE NOSE
“Truly, she was the
mandolin player on the globe, and as I have already intimated, it is the
sounds which I cannot
I think I can safely say this is not only a Rhys Hughes classic it is a classic per se in all literature. An obvious skit on the famous story by Poe, it goes into realms of puppetry, recondite urges of concealment, and strange behaviour. It is worrying and hilarious all at once. With this author at the height of his powers at the start of his writing career, an acrophiliac-literary height he has since sporadically maintained.
To clarify, as this story was first published in 2000, it was not necessarily written at the very beginning of this author’s writing career! Possibly it was the middle (so far)?
A GIRL LIKE A DORIC COLUMN
A shy story about stalking Pickfaces on an underground train switching heads for personal gain.
Another sabbatical from smelling telescopes, while I read this author’s newest book WORLD MUSES.
THE ORANGE GOAT
“I hungered to find the alchemical formula for pastry — the philosopher’s scone.”
Awhile since I picked up this book and I am faced – nay, graced – with a real force of power in words perhaps beyond any Rhysian work before or since. A work to work up to not from. You need training in reading Rhys before expecting to fully appreciate this one. An alchemy, in itself, towards both gold and constructive dross in literature, telling of the narrator’s grappling with loss of his loved one and the loss of a tooth, with the long-term rival for this love, and with getting rid of squatters, as part of creating the perfect blueberry pie. And that only tells you a small fraction of this story’s equation.
NOTHING MORE COMMON
“There was a woman asleep on the bed, her face contorted with mighty effort, as if she was digging a pit in her dream.”
Ghosts are nothing? First appearance here of Captain Nothing? And Rosemary Gibbet-Pardoe and Mr Longhorn. Meanwhile, Mr Bloat is helped to collect a tin mine to take back to Porthcawl while staying in a hotel elsewhere that seems to house some mutant version of MR James’ Oh Whistle!…Damn I just wrote a plot spoiler before I could stop it. Might as well go the whole hog and tell you fog is the ghosts of dead tin-miners and Waverley houses a large number of novels by Scott, some he never wrote but intended to.
Like Thanatology Spleen, I am afraid this is another work I just could not get into. Some stories like Spermaceti Whiskers of potential similar ilk I can allow into my sump and it does pay some relatively immediate dividends. Not so Muscovado Lashes. Perhaps it will do so as a delayed reaction. But how long can a delayed reaction in literature take – weeks, months, years?
A PERSON NOT IN THE STORY
“‘Never mind him,’ whispered Emyr, ‘that’s just Mr Homunculus, local poet, embittered and drunk as a study-toad.’”
I recently stayed in a pub/hotel (named after its local poet of yore) where the WiFi pin was ‘OurLocalPoet!’ The pin included that exclamation mark as part of it! This story is about Dr. Pin who goes backward to Holdall, sorry he goes forward to an Eisteddford at Lladloh which is not the standard Eisteddford but I am sure it must be full of local poets as well as Druids! This story teems with ideas, and Pin is an engineer looking for Kingdom Noisette another engineer who turns out, I think, to be an automaton, and everything reminds me of of an Ealing Comedy as much as an MR James tale. But above all it’s an iconic Rhys Hughes story, at the root of such stories, complete with Lost Hearts, whistles, and cake-tins as cogs. And a finale fit to swaddle you with an MRJamesian bedsheet become a collapsed marquee. And much more.
BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED BLOOD
“There must be fifty ways to cleave a lover.”
And that cleaver seems connected over a whole generation of this author’s writing to the scythe on the cover of
his latest book
? Except it being 80 lovers there? Meanwhile, this is an incredible love story; a vision of Sapphic or Lesbian love I have never seen in literature before, even if with the bathos of what was inside it. Not Simon and Garfunkel inside Mrs. Robinson’s brazier or brassière so much as some godawful songs and a bridge that tapped into her exploitation of students’ blood during her job as a University counsellor.
I cannot possibly convey to you the words, conceits, wildnesses of a story that should have stayed in my mind more powerfully than it actually has over the years. That delayed reaction I mentioned earlier? Perhaps I was then more interested in Arkham than Fictionatronics and did not read it properly till now.
Thanks Des! A good example of one of my comedies that have annoyed so many fans of the serious ‘weird’ over the years. I remember getting a lot of flak for this one, not so much for mocking the Lovecraftian elements but for doing so by bringing pop culture into it. I was berated for being ‘postmodern’ — the ultimate sin!
BURKE AND RABBIT
“For the sake of my buttonhole, I pounced on one with a scythe.”
…an orchid in that quote, but later a sickle is referred to in connection with the decapitation of a woman called Rhowen Clot, one of this story’s many necrophiliac lovers of its narrator. There are Biblical cut-ups, too, akin to this author ‘s interest in OuLiPo, I guess. As a whole, it is another Lladloh classic whose mayor once he has shafted all the town’s women – including the hilarious encounter with Bigamy Bertha – is himself mine-shafted! Towards Hell or Llanelli (the town where my father was born). And there is also mention of iOLO Machen, “a panophobic Shepherd.” Plus a cat called Pushkin whom I think I have met before? A mean trick in extending the women whose pussies were to be serviced by the mayor to those already dead like Rhowen Clot. “And they won’t be available till the Last Trump!”
Most of these stories so far are so utterly rich, I sometimes need sabbaticals to regroup my critical chutzpah to match the book’s own mighty chutzpah!
I shall return here in a week or so to continue this marathon review,..
THE YELLOW IMP
“My notion was for the barbs to stick in our destinations, the three points of existence, and for the turning wheel to gradually pull them together, so that the planet was no longer triangular but folded over like a samosa.”
A wonderful Dunsanyan hawling of pulleys in a psychogeography more in tune with the pub chains of Welsh villages and pastoral Christian care than with leylined land-grab madness, gnoled and knurled and gnarled and with impish Romance to the most beautiful of Welsh lasses now travelled to meet me in that Welsh shadow called Shropshire. Whitby, notwithstanding. So rich with Lladloh coincidences as miracles, or vice versa, so rich it sends me constructively insane upon this dark December morning.
“Each oval cobble on every road is a protuberance on a whole body, not a separate element. The environment is integrated with itself. It is one.”
The gestalt of wood and flesh, a body with two skeletons of bone and furniture. Anarchy and wild madness sent through the reader as part of a gestalt real-time review the story itself conducts about arguably philosophically explained self-perpetuating crowds from merely seeing them as undoppler gangs, before I had even invented such a concept of gestalt real-time reviewing. “The life of a craftsman among ruffians is difficult.” As some authors also have discovered since the invention of the internet which was only in its infancy when this story was published. “We are fathers between blinks.”
THE HAUNTED WOMB
“I’m not here for small talk, but I’ll briefly mention the time the clock of Salisbury cathedral was possessed by the spirit of a sundial.”
Where do I start, other than with that non-sequitur? A woman’s womb possessed by the ghost of her past lover as discovered by her new husband on the wedding night being the source of
audit trail of events and characters
. You can only describe something like this story with itself – and never before has this been truer. The end of reviewing as we know it is thus built into its start because all future reviews will BE the things being reviewed themselves. Each review with its subject-matter ready-made in its womb? Which in the end brings us back to – where do I start?
From the haunted womb to the haunted clock…
MISTER HUMPHREY’S CLOCK’S INHERITANCE
“Chaud-Mellé was an urban pit more gloomy than Ipswich—“
If you are a new reader of Rhys Hughes, then start with this one. It combines all the complex skills and conceits of his best stories AND with an engaging accessibility. Arguably, his central masterpiece whence all else stems. If I try to describe the plot of this licker of antiques or tell you of its secret, possibly unreliable, narrator who is only revealed partway through, you might be deterred. And if I wanted to demonstrate its mind-blowing wordplay, I would be spoilt for choice and be forced to quote the whole story. Which brings me to what is hidden in the grandfather clock, but, too late, telling you that has already spoilt the surprise, because inside is this story itself. Unless I have covered my tracks by becoming an unreliable reviewer to match the rhythm of something in my soul that has been infected by years and years of reading all the books of Rhys Hughes – or of licking them?
THERE WAS A GHOUL DWELT BY A MOSQUE
“Omar liked to imagine that his attic was a cave beneath a garden —“
Probably the most successful Horror story written by this author. I actually felt a frisson of genuine fear while reading it.
THE PURPLE PASTOR
“Our Planet was no longer scalene, but it still wasn’t round, and it was my fault, so I had the responsibility of tucking up the loose corner, which was flapping in space, to make a parcel, a world-pie containing the future. To be blunt, the task seemed to be beyond my talent, which is modest and clumsy, but lovely Myfanwy had faith.”
A Mr Pastry Parcel of Pies, Pasties and Pastors, a continuation of the unravelling or ravellling of the turban in ‘The Yellow Imp’, a wild grappling with ungrappleable things between Wales and England. Absurdist psychogeography in the round. A “cake-tartarus”. And a “letter-bomb” that made me wonder if these are now obsolete with the full-blooded arrival of the world-wide web? “But perhaps I was muddling two meanings of the same word, a bad habit which I hear can now be kept in check in a Prague sanatorium.” Get thee to a punnery!
THE HUSH OF FALLING HOUSES
“Before I reached my own aloof building, I was buttonholed by Padgett Weggs, the postman.”
So that’s what happened to Padgett Weggs. My father was once a postman, so was my father-in-law. And with this next wild Lladloh story also containing a character called “D.F. Lewis”, it only seems appropriate that an hour before reviewing this, I was quoting from ‘Journal of a Disappointed Man’ by WNP Barbellion
; it is a book recently recommended to me by Rhys Hughes, and what I quoted from it today was a meaningful lesson for life by several men hawling a pile on the pier. Here, in the Rhysian work, the protagonist is hauling things from the sea at the edge of a pier. Today, he hauls an astrolabe that becomes astrologically significant, along with subsequent exorcism, in trying to divert the apocalypse of Lladloh. Much absurdism and rich wordplay and now familiar characters continue to engage here, too. And in those old days, I, too, was a believer in astrology, while Rhys himself was always an astrological sceptic.
THE SICKNESS OF SATAN
“Why was Swansea elected for the venture?”
Because of its future in missing out on the City of Culture accolade. A student lodger to help with a couple’s budget and the arrival of an advert through the letterbox for a local Indian eatery that turns out to be at the address of a church, a mind-eater of a story reaching levels of religious philosophy that will make death and its aftermath seem relatively simple by comparison. Sickness making eschatology deeply scatological? Or vice versa?
Which end of the telescope is the most smelly?
“Odette told God that the student deserved to die, because when he broke wind in the bath he leant over to bite the bubbles.”
“Are you cousin to squonks?”
“Squonk? What sort of word is that?
“Name of a creature. A weeper from Pennsylvania.”
A mighty novelette based in Spain that if the book has not already sent you creatively mad, this will now utterly destroy you, triangulating many of the previous wildnesses and eschatologies and raw flesh-eating scatologies but in unimaginable female-chivalrous adventurous overdrive – and my gestalt real-time reviews have long publicly acknowledged the need for many of us to triangulate the coordinates of all hyper-imaginative literature, but here the work itself triangulates some of the other story titles from THE SMELL OF TELESCOPES (
a vastly under-noticed book deserving of a permanent literary monument
) while using actual geometrical diagrams printed within the pages of OMPHAGIA ANKLES. And talking about that ‘weeper of Pennsylvania’ regretting that the State had voted for Trump in 2016, and this work first published in 2000 pre-evokes the Brexit-spawned Trump himself in the form of Ugolino who, among other things similar to what Trump has so far done, morph-magicks geography itself akin to the promised Mexican wall and false crowds at his inauguration – and the potential phenomenon of North Korea as an item of an Atlas’s fake news? And he destroys the scribbler Humberto, too. And he no doubt tweets still today. A remarkable prophecy of our times…
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Tuesday, December 19, 2017
KA: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr – John Crowley
KA: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr – John Crowley
SAGA PRESS 2017
When I real-time review this novel, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
You Should Come With Me Now - M John Harrison
In "comma press"
THE SCARLET SOUL: Stories for Dorian Gray
In "john howard"
Written By Daylight - John Howard
In "John Howard"
October – Quentin S. Crisp
Horror or Weird Fiction?
37 thoughts on “
KA: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr – John Crowley
Pages 1 & 2
Section of a painting by Edward Burra:
Meanwhile the crows, if not a gestalt of fictions?
“, they see themselves not as a mass but as
: each of them is one, one amid others, keeping a careful distance, never touching, each one able to see where all of them go.”
PROLOGUE (page 3 to end)
PART 1: Dar Oakley in the Coming of Ymr
Pages 13 – 24
“Crows beside one another are, in their way, face-to-face.”
The narrator, creating CrowDar as sub-narrator, mentions a single human life, his life, I presume with concomitant climate warming, can now witness more change in global life than in his own life within it! Very telling. He befriends a sick crow, our CrowDar or Dar Oakley, Dar for short in this review, who tells the Prologue narrator and thus us as well ….. well, I will not tell you Dar’s incident with the Falcon in the past or seeing a HumanitYmr or two and their sticks, resulting in other crows calling Dar ‘Sticks’ in ridicule. I sense you and I will need to acclimatise ourselves to this rarefied Dar narration that so far promises much to savour slowly over the years between other books.
I think, by dint of my own bespoke circumstances, it also promises extra synchronicities as I am currently reading
the Sarah Crowe typescript or transcript presented within the novel The Red Tree, that this very morning mentioned the story ‘Sticks’ by Karl Edward Wagner, whose named-after award I somehow received in 1998.
“What I wrote, and then went on writing was nothing like a transcription. Crow talk, Crow jokes,…”
Pages 24 – 32
“. The doors of those for whom the Crows had as yet no name (“
How do they know “whom” is correct and not ‘what’? Tantalised by this told told story mixing unknowns like two-legs and a “thing of branches” with explicit Deer (that Deer Dar sees gutted by the two-legs) and, later, by “People”. Why People not Ymr? What’s the rationale of upper case use? Perhaps reading this book is like learning language as an infant does, the process of whom we have all forgotten or think we remember but misremember.
Cross-referenced here with latest Interzone that I happen to be concurrently reviewing:
Pages 32 – 53
Why they do it and what they use, why one stick is right and another not, nesting and fate! call it what you will, and an intrinsic sense of getting into the minds of crows and their sense of seasons and instincts, of enmity or help, perhaps with no idea of future finality, and becoming “meat-drunk” on the results of our gory battle, and why some creatures allow certain things to happen upon their dead but not cannibalism. All inchoate mysteries.
Crows and Power. Auto da fé. Auto of Fate as Faith.
“Her eye was not on him. If she saw anything, it was a thing not present, not yet in existence — that thing that Crows, female ones, know before its coming to be: can know because, in them, it already has.”
I sense this about this book. Although I am not a female reader.
Cross-referenced these crows with those in Bremen that I coincidentally read just after writing above:
Pages 54 – 73
“How, he wondered, could you know the names of things, and not know the things?”
I know that language’s name is called language but if it slides easily from a People girl in a Fox Cap to a Crow whose name she gives him as the sub-eponymity of this book after he, the Crow, now called Dar Oakley, helps her find her home after being lost then it not the thing I think it is the name for. Disarming, touching talk between them, after earlier in this chapter, we learn, by various means, the concept of death and its difference between Crows and People. Then later Dar’s talk with a Raven is also disarming, but gruffier perhaps. You know, I somehow think this book is reading me, not the other way around. Finding words that later appear on these gruff paper pages with uneven side-cuts that I think I just read. Pages like I remember those old French books needed to be cut in the 1960s. That’s the way the language slides between us…
Pages 73 – 80
Poignant when Dar takes Fox Cap to see his prideful, long-collected but ultimately worthless ‘treasure’, but the most important discussion here is that of ‘realm’, what you are or where you go? I cannot do justice to it here. But, as an aside, during the 1990s there was a well-known American magazine called DEATHREALM to which I contributed a regular article from the UK, one called ‘Tentacles Across The Atlantic’….
Pages 80 – 94
“Dar Oakley did not know what regret might be; no Crow then had ever felt it.”
Singer’s mother a wave on water? Who is Singer? Is he Crowley? Anyway, he is intrinsic to Dar’s helping Fox Cap escape from another People. All rarefied with being or going, being here/there or being himself, or becoming the story itself. A story that seems to evoke, for me, a new religion or form of fiction as religion that I hope my ongoing gestalt real-time reviewing will help to bolster. Something related to the Realmish, I suggest.
[From one of my DEATHREALM ‘Tentacles Across The Atlantic’ articles in the 1990s shown
: “…part and parcel of a revolving realm with Death at its core: and, in this realm, all the flotsam and jetsam of life (and the richest life is one generated by the imagination as well as by the day-to-day interaction of our minds and bodies) spin round, some colliding only to ricochet off, others sticking together, some being swallowed whole or bit by bit…. Eventually, the various items are sucked into the core where they are minced up or refined into streams of sense (or apparent sense or, even, nonsense) which are then released from that realm into other revolving realms which create new collisions, fusions and spin-offs. This is using Death as a positive tool, as it surely is. Without Death, we’d be nothing.”]
Cf hints of the Realmish in another concurrent DFL reviewed Oak fiction here:
Pages 95 – 104
“She had come away from the realm where he’d sought and found her, but in another way she hadn’t, and remained there still.”
In an oblique way this Fox Cap originally as ‘she’ is now somehow onward transgender with a “fistlike face”, and in another oblique way I remain convinced Crowley is indeed the Singer, even now when the latter is dead, his human carcass opened up to be rifled and carried by eating similarly onward by crows who’d helped eat him. This work becomes stronger and stronger, yet diffuse, oblique, but its words are a murder swarm, too, carrying life, like a gestalt. A living gestalt of those they ate? The crows who carry meaning like words on a rough cut page? Who can tell yet which realm is which?
Pages 104 – 117
“There was, he thought, some strand of something that connected them, something they couldn’t see or feel, some tightening web.”
I need to take this book in small bites at the moment, as it is so rich, so musical, so utterly Realmish, if I can continue to coin that word. With a soupçon of Biblical turns of phrase, I sense. Here, themes I have already adumbrated above continue, with increasing clawhold upon me. Plus in these pages tantalising glimpses of how Dar and Kits create chicks together amid the variable ambiguities around them. A whole new world that is rhythmically pungent and punchy.
Pages 117 – 126
“We’ll have to find the right path, and keep to it. We’ll go neither to the right hand nor the left. Unless the right way is wrong.”
I shall keep to it, whatever. This book’s exponential entrancement of my reading mind assures that. Now follow, alongside me, the path of Fox Cap and Dar, not because they may find the eternal elixir of life beyond death’s realm or something more amorphous that we cannot yet predict them finding in some far-off barrow, not because the moon is also listening to this story, not because we now skirt with them the sea, but because these are words that seem to have their own soul separate from us all, separate even from the suitably named author himself. A name with the dark tones of others with the same name, but because it embodies Dar as its vantage point.
Correlate with Sarah Crowley’s Red Tree (Oak) typescript that I just finished reviewing and ‘
You Should Come With Me Now
’ that I have just started.
Pages 126 – 150
“There are five directions: North, South, East, West, and Here.
is the one that measures all the rest. It’s where you are and where you may be next. That’s the way to go.”
This seems to measure the book’s own journey. I felt as if I have just experienced something more religious than religion itself, something that only fiction can give you. A ‘very special thing’ beyond death itself (being sought here by Dar and Fox Cap), something that only previously John Cowper Powys has managed to fully conjure for me. The only way is for you to experience these pages for yourself, and a review cannot describe it other than to point the way. Suffice to say it evoked the root system of my own long-term Yieldingtree and, even if with just a glimpse, by means of the “…there came down through the waters a thing…” passage, Powys’ own crucial “
Is it a Tench?
And the conundrum of mutual beheading….
“There’s only one of anything. It’s only come upon again and again, and seems to be many.”
My real-time review to be continued shortly below…
This review cross-referenced here:
NB: My KA review will resume in a few days’ time.
Pages 155 – 166
“Maybe you can call it folie à deux: I came to believe he speaks, and because I believed it, he came to believe it too.”
From the onset’s vantage point again, we see through eyes that see through the eyes of Dar by dint of slip-easy locks of language’s canals, I guess. We also sense instinctively how Dar lives amid this book’s concept of ‘excarnation’, now enabling us to comprehend ‘carcass-openers’ upon decoyed, later decayed, animal fodder. And now the religious Brothers and Crows in a new teetered-upon deathrealm… and this narrative becomes even more engaging.
Pages 166 – 173
“Words are greater than meanings, and can live without them.”
A relatively short tranche of text read today, but one with even more meaning than some longer tranches. Dar’s relationship with one of the Brothers. The communication methods between them. The oratory with a saint’s reliquary of bones. The eventual pent up prayer with its own eventual wing,
And I am tantalised by the word ‘fubun’. Previously in this book, I merely sense. I am getting too old to remember things….
“All these words he knew, words kept in a realm of nothing else.”
Cross-referenced this book and my review of it here:
Pages 174 – 190
“Everyone knows. In the night the Willow can pull up his roots and go walking like a man around and about; and might come up silently behind a traveler, take him in his long withies, and
And everyone knows of a book where there is a wonderful vision of a golden ladder and exodus from Realmish death… well, they do now know! A Crow be my witness.
The interaction, in a distant day before we know who we are now, of the between People with People dressed as Wolves and there were Brothers who fought against their ways, more like us today. And interaction of People with crows, crows who eat carcass-opened People, while People do not eat each other …. usually. Or perhaps then they do. Crow would know.
Crows did not count Brothers among them, but crows had Biggers and Ones among them. But they do interact with People. This book be my witness.
This is a book of Ymr and possibly TransPeople who WerePeople. Crow be my witness.
Though we know not how clearly or crowly a Crow can know…
Pages 190 – 209
“He, Dar Oakley, was himself inside a story, which was also inside him, packed within him like another Crow, and he knew now why he had for so long felt crowded and empty.”
This book is clearly inspiring, but how it is inspiring is unclear, but it is more than just fiction. I have long had views about fiction as religion or an aspirational preternatural gestalt that illuminates the human condition in all its paradoxes of existence. Imagination and awe as well as spirituality amid bodily survival, as we know not the numinous expect through fiction that is equally inspired itself as it is inspiring. Here we follow “odd undying” Dar as ‘discipulus’, addressed by the Brother as ‘Discipule’, that Brother whom Dar in turn follows into a vision of perhaps some of us will recognise as Hell, whereto the golden ladder appears again and so does Fox Cap in the guise of the Saint that the Brother seeks as part of a penance. There are revisited previous lives and experiences of Dar as a part of a moulded gestalt under our reading fingers.
“He remembered how the dress of those here seemed not put on, but a part of them, like his own plumage.”
I had cause to use these quotes earlier today in a concurrent review
“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
Also cross-referenced this book to a review of another inspiring book (recommended to me by Rhys Hughes) here:
Pages 210 – 224
“The Brother had once told him: the sea is the water round about the land. Even so Dar Oakley had believed the land was large and the water was little. But it was the other way.”
Crow follows the Brother’s penance pilgrimage to an island by travelling on the same ship, and meets different seabirds there he’d never seen before. I feel this book is an island of fiction-as-reality whereto I have followed Dar from a place that they in the book may feel is my own Dream Archipelago that happens to be what I call the British Isles. Dar, meanwhile, learns that the world has two icy ends, which may be a euphemism for just one end? A single Crow in Heaven may prevent it being Heaven at all. Thinking aloud.
Pages 224 – 244
Yes, yes, yes,
they cried to him,
yes, we go.
He asked them,
Is there really a big land to darkwise, far, far off? Not only sea islands?
And with the most stirring tuition of Dar by the terns breathtakingly to ride the wind like them, even sleep on the wing, and amid the momentous building of a boat and the Saints’ ancient voyage from the island … to seek me out in the lair on my archipelago? No, perhaps, not! But, with each other’s synergy of flight, they did lead the boat onward past an island that appeared as a pareidoliac mermaid or even a real mermaid (cf my concurrent Drowning Girl review
) … yes, amid, all this, I saw a passage in the middle of page 228 that startled me but it told me something that I somehow knew already, even though I am not the one to whom Dar speaks directly, because he speaks directly to the ‘I’ in this passage, a passage I dare not quote for fear of spoiling it for you. I shall just leave you with the boat’s kitchen boy who himself may or may not have become a Saint… And so ends Part 2.
‘The Drowning Girl’ has a mermaid in a concrete ocean: cf the mermaid island in KA.
Pages 249 – 262
“A being who could see nothing at all could see anything.”
And that is how this book should be read. Knowing instinctively the instinct of those People and Crows in it, even if those two separate instincts are different means to the same ends. The way they understand each other. Or at least some of each of them. From feral to fine-tuned. With captives among People as replacements for those lost, but also captives as captive meat at least for crows and other birds. Some captives are readers of this book who understand it through their own bespoke instincts, some others who throw it aside early on through lack of finding themselves or their instincts of understanding in it! And the questioning of Names, and why a Nemonymous state does not prevail instead. A being who could see Nemo can see anybody at all. Also death as an instinct, too, one that can be transcended – by some Jungian collective unconscious? Hence, the Perpetuation of Dar. “that realm Ymr”
(I took with a pinch of salt, by the way, that this excarnation of Dar married a Beaver!)
Pages 263 – 294
“You’ll live so long you’ll think your life’s forever, and you’ll call it forever, but it’s not. You’ll see.”
This sporadically Swiftian book itself is a sort of Crow like Dar, with its rough-hewn edges of pages as channels for the reading fingers. It speaks to you as Dar hears his own story via People of different dimensions or sizes, some uglier than others, at one moment a story direct, then interspersed with stories indirect by storytellers or captives like One Ear, all making the gestalt as a single story that is truer than the separate stories that make up that gestalt. Stories or stones of transcendent eschatology. Kits or Kites of meaning. Utterly unique. Including one stone or story that is born from piss and then paradoxically kept in a scrotum? Crowley – and Swiftly, too, in a deceptive eking-out over time.
“…and Death itself is dead.”
A photo taken this morning (At-Swim-Two-Crows) –
Pages 295 – 311
“Crow destinies had converged in the place where Death had for a moment conquered, and there became a nation, great, mighty, and numerous. In that nation Dar Oakley was honored, heard out, followed.”
That quoted above, after our being reminded tellingly of the narrative conduit that is Debra’s widower, if I recall correctly. A conduit that is this book itself with its flights of narration by another, a sub-eponymous point-of-view as told to us, a member of some secret Ka-tet? One day to find a Dark Tower? Meanwhile, we follow now a stoical status quo that has more change than status, a potential mating, somehow a homely instinct in open skies, and a tale of fishing by two crows, one that the other once thought a kingfisher. The natural bringing of words like harvest. Barley, Gold, Honey. Gossip, Food, Nests. “Love.” (I used to drink something called Barley Gold.)
Pages 311 – 331
“And Dar Oakley took a stance —I’ve seen him do it —a stance that has the same uses, I think, as a shrug.”
Meanwhile, we follow Dar — following him by means of transliteration through that ‘I’ above, who may be me, may be you, may be Debra’s widower — again and again into that Deathrealm whereby a number of years ago I described it as ‘spinning’ etc. (see my quote above earlier in this review). It is a sort of quest, with the help of the Snowy Owl, to visit Deathrealm itself to rescue his latest mating-squeeze called Na Cherry from her own death. This is transcendent and rhapsodic material …. and I sense, if this book is read properly or read by many readers, even if improperly, then Dar may become an archetype of life and death, even stronger than merely dubbing such existentialism as a new religion, one that promises actually to work.
It is that significant.
It is what I earlier gave the word Realmish, as inspired by this Crowley book.
“Wherever we are is in Ka!”
Cross-referenced this book and its cover here:
Pages 332 – 347
“‘Well, I don’t know,’ Dar Oakley said. ‘You never know, about People. You can never come to the end of what they’ll do, or stop doing.’”
Crow-wise, billwise, wingwise, whatever-wise, they certainly have their naïve eye on People throughout history, and during the Battle times, we share this view from on loft, a very striking image that either shames us into amending or encourages us to do worse as we see our nature is not amendable. Yet, through this book, and the links it creates between them and us, we learn more about Death, as their lofted view can actually focus down – through the facilitating existence now of this very man-made but Dar-wise book – focus down on a single Person, even knowing her name and, by some sort of poignant mutuality, learning more of the nature of People and their treatment of and contact with their dead. Meanwhile, ironically, Crows battlewise do exploit People by feasting on any unburied bodies.
“A dozen new names were earned for feats of gluttony never known before.”
Linked again by this review today:
Pages 347 – 364
“Forever, heaven had been distant: the lands beyond death lay at the end of a long astral journey, a shining city, a far shore. Now when everywhere on earth had come closer to everywhere else, trains and steamships, and telegraph lines, heaven too had come nearer.”
And now with the Internet, nearer still?
We focus even closer – a blind woman, whom this Book of Dar created, seeing enough to transcend Death. There are so many convincing metaphors and tropes and other strikingly worded images between Heaven and Earth in these pages that even I can believe in the Deathrealm, and now see it for what it is – not Tentacles across the Atlantic all those years ago when I appeared regularly in the pages of that Deathrealm. But more a black-feathered Darstalt across the gulf between literature and truth? Across the battlefields of Civil, but truly uncivil, War. “Mental Sympathy.” Elizabeth Bowen’s ‘shoals’ of blitzed London’s Dead rising through the ruins. “The great commonwealth of the dead,…” “The beautiful uncut hair of graves.”
Pages 365 – 384
“It was Death’s own siren,”
I should have spotted this use of ‘haws’ before now. “, the haws slid over them.” My own ‘hawls’ and ‘hawling’ like hitchcocking a line of crows on a telephone line? Or simply drawing meaning from a book or hypnotising a book rather than a book hypnotising a reader. That is hawling. Here in these amazing pages, we learn about crow decoys, crow hunters, scarecrows (‘false People’) sinisterly described … and vengeance, amid a relatively modern age’s new farming methods that prevent crows’ pickings, against a man that hypnotises and hunts the crows with his crow-carved whistle, a man ironically derived from the blind woman and there is also a crow traitor also ironically derived from a brood of young for whom Dar had acted as Servitor.
Scenes that cut the hair within your own future coffin, and get to your dead or dying heart to liven it with rage on behalf of empathy with crows. “A dead Crow was a dead Crow.” Except when Dar dares.
Pages 384 – 401
“He seemed to have lived so long that he had come to the end of things possible to happen, and from now on what would happen was only what already had.”
I know the feeling! But a book like this one and its reading experience do put the lie to that…
Meanwhile, People are ‘planning’ people, a concept beyond Dar’s ability to describe? But through him and his interlocutor or interpreter in this book, we know exactly what planning means, by simply looking back at this book’s planned turnings and flights of expression as part and parcel of random instincts embodied in the crows, who now inveigle Machiavellian justice by plotting to destroy the insidious Doctor Hergesheimer (a villain who will long go down in literature’s planned history of great and memorable villains, he with his own inveigled crow juice!) And Dar’s eventual sexual mating between vastly varying ages with the girl crow he rescues or rehabilitates in that Machiavellian process. Possibly reprehensible, but Crows are not damned like People? Although some readers might think Crows already resemble denizens of Hell!
But it was effectively a suicide bomb strapped to Dar that killed that Doctor H?
Crow regeneration or excarnation? Just a Whovian thought. But that thought must not demean the apotheosised ending of this book, this Coda of three short chapters, a Coda that probably means that if you can manage to garner a gestalt from the type of instinctively chosen hyper-imaginative fictions that I have real-time reviewed since 2008, then you would reach this uniquely cathartic book KA as that gestalt’s potential core (and I do not say this lightly), although I will continue seeking other versions of that core into the years ahead, a means of never dying because I have in a sense already read and reviewed them… Already married a beaver, spoken to a coyote, seen the end days of People, seen that door or non-door, seen their cars streaming over bridges, the dark towers of dyingstopia or deathrealm. Of Ymr.
‘As the crow flies’, otherwise.
Hawling out ‘the most precious thing’.
“They had even — too late to stop — changed the earth and the seas: changed Time. People knew it and knew that it was their fault, even if they were among the ones who could do nothing about it.”
“Just let it not be alone, in the dark.
Well, it will be what it is.”
of stories now, brother. It’s why we never die even if we do.”
“I have sometimes thought of or felt the presence of a reader…”
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