Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Black Feathers (2)

Black Feathers




Pegasus 2017

Stories by Sandra Kasturi, Nicholas Royle, Seanan McGuire, Paul Tremblay, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Bowes, Alison Littlewood, Jeffrey Ford, Mike O’Driscoll, Usman T. Malik, Stephen Graham Jones, A.C. Wise, M. John Harrison, Pat Cadigan, Livia Llewellyn, Priya Sharma.
When I review this book, my comments will appear in the thought stream below…

9 responses to “Black Feathers

  1. IMG_2201The Fortune of Sparrows by USMAN T. MALIK
    “The wedding cat was never wrong about the matchmaker’s arrival. That was why he was the wedding cat.”
    This story seems to be just the story for which my ‘dreamcatcher’ has been designed. If the other stories had been iffy, this rhapsodic story would be the sort of story that I deem alone worth the entrance price to this book.
    In a post-British Raj world, the bird-haunted orphanage is a moving pattern of orphan girls, chosen by scryables of bird and ghost and visionary dream, an eclectic of marriage then leaving, others arriving, some staying longer than others, like the beautifully characterised narrator. It even has birds born from the earlier McGuire here now picking prophecy envelopes, where the above patterns become pareidoliac. The Orphanage also has links with some of the chicks in the Littlewood ‘Orphan Bird’ (“It eats bones. The female lays her eggs in the air. As the egg drops, the hatchling squirms out and escapes before the shell hits the earth. It is a bridge between the heavens and earth.”)
    And I was delighted to recognise a game (here called Ice Water) that I used to play in the schoolyard in the 1950s. I have not seen neither hide nor feather of it since then, till today.
    The story is one of its own “canted paintings” in a gorgeous patchwork or quilt of secret and known rooms and people movements, by Biryani or Bird. And I love the one who became fortyish before being chosen for marriage, a woman who is the centre of every story – which she was here if not by being more important than the narrator but central by position of measured wordage…
    The perfect ‘dying fall’ ending, too.

  2. Pigeon from Hell by STEPHEN GRAHAM JONES (and HERE)
    “It’s mostly what she does with her nights now: rebury those panties.
    You don’t have to die to become a ghost.”
    This is an ingenious story, told in an adeptly crisp, meaning-alarmist style, without being florid. No mean feat.
    It tells of a couple of symbiotic girl friends, non-sexual with each other, but at least one of them lustful for men, one man in particular, the husband of a couple for whom the girl’s share baby-sitting duties. A tale of crotchless-panties, a dirty grey pigeon as catalyst, religion (including abortion beliefs) as magic and spells, manufactured accidents to disguise previous accidents, burial and exhumation by nature… it is dark and disturbing and provocative.
    It aches with guilt. A guilt we share with our own guilts.
    A guilt gestalt that now seems to be blossoming from this book in a murmuration of words. The stories seem to be cohering involuntarily against their own independent creation by each author, like a migration of meaning,

  3. The Secret of Flight by A. C. WISE
    “Not all ghosts are about guilt.”
    …nor all ageing reviewers … nor once younger publishers, one of whom published this author nemonymously.
    I did my best with a collage of play scripts, personal letters, newspaper clippings, diary entries and a brief fable but I was defeated. My fault.
    The extracts range from 1925 to roughly the present day, spanned by ageing Raymond who writes to his male lover, whilst being infected by one of his past leading ladies, I think. Involving theatrical tricks with starlings. But I dare not say more in case I inadvertently spoil the plot that I lost.

  4. Isobel Avens Returns to Stepney in the Spring by M. JOHN HARRISON
    “London was as quiet as a nursing home corridor.”
    One of the characters comes in from a corridor towards the end, the one called Alexander. An exercise in cosmetic method.
    This story is one I imagine written by Elizabeth Bowen (born 1899) if she had lived until 2017 through some prolonging method of bodily-as-birdish change and gone slightly, if constructively, madder than just her normal literary-creative. Rose madder. (Bowen often wrote about long-lost small aerodromes in her fiction, too.)
    “…she had tried to get out of the dream the way you get out of a coat.”
    It takes place in a non-linear fashion in East and West London, Miami and Budapest. Slightly off-kilter current reality, blending geography and identity, and at a time when Europe was a free trade area. Flyover in Hammersmith, we also fly over the joins between dreams and time tranches. A chequered love story told by the grumpyish narrator called China who does delivery business for the cosmetic firm in West London. Textured and traumatic, feathered with a complex guilt. Senses of place and time fractured by a migrating loco genius.
    “(I am not making this up.)”

  5. Aptly perhaps, I have just received this morning a new book from still pre-Brekekex Coax Coax Europe…

  6. “The parrot ambled slowly through the air, with, as it were the jog of a fat pony translated into flight.”
    From ‘The Parrot’ by Elizabeth Bowen 1925
    A Little Bird Told Me by PAT CADIGAN
    “’Shouldn’t I be hearing this from a raven?’ I say. ‘Like, the never more thing?'”
    How can death be dignified when you always risk dying on the loo, in media res?
    A hilariously witty, May Sinclair philosophical, blend of the Columbus unseen boats myth and Harry Potter’s luggage stuck halfway through the wall, as if a pony pulling it came out in your own world in the form of an “Alexandrine parakeet” talking your soul into the after-life…
    The protagonist is a census taker of the dead and the dying, making sure they don’t cheat, controlled via something even more magical than the spells in Harry Potter: an iPad.
    Whether wearing a T shirt about cancer or wielding a chance-prepared cancer as an internal trinket, this is like looking through a transparent palimpsest of “five stories” to the roof-garden of your soul. Loved it, but…
    “What’s the Concomitant Rendition of All Tessitura?”

  7. The Acid Test by LIVIA LLEWELLYN
    “All the people who can’t fit, who can’t find a way inside, and now, one again, I’m one of them too.”
    For me, the acid test of gestalt real-time reviewing is through the eggshell thinness and it can also be between concomitant books as well as within a single book. This morning (here) I read a story of a plague of white van men in post-Brexit Britain, destroying florid art-culture and bullying any residual student ‘hippies” or artists, with a hint that you the reader are in danger of becoming such a white van man yourself. A compelling plain-spoken work which is the polar opposite of this Llewelyn work, but synchronously displaying to the optimum both works of diverse plagues as a foil to each other. Any who have a similar reading experience as I have had this morning will surely know what I mean.
    Meanwhile, this Llewelyn work in itself is a staggering prose trip that takes florid snowy feathered blood-maps and ley-lines to such utter extremes of out-of-the-head sensation that it ceases to be florid at all, and becomes quite another language altogether of rhapsody and rapture, while retaining a natural sinuosity that is meaningful as well as hedonistic. Even my own floridness here in explaining my feelings about this work belies the work’s own muscular but tenuous strength of extreme prose poetry. The ‘plot’ tells of what I can only describe as hippy students seeking passions beyond the ordinary, reaching a Purple Room (the extreme opposite of whiteness and the snow outside) where all manner of eroticisms and lusts are enacted, including a subsumption of a woman within a man as observed by another woman who tantamount become the hybrid she observes, even her voice becoming his. With birdish and feathery birth pangs in the skies above as overtones. There is no way I can cover all the resplendencies and readerly empathies. It is certainly something special beyond critique.
    “, a void-white of un-creation contained only by the thinnest of egg shells,…”

  8. The Crow Palace by PRIYA SHARMA
    “That’s where I found her, a jay perched on her back. It looked like it had pushed her in. That day the crow palace had been covered with carrion crows; bruisers whose shiny eyes were full of plots.”
    Full of plots, say, from the Malik and Littlewood, the choosing between chicks, whether up or down, or, as here, in or under? The counted Corvids of McGuire and the absorbing or being absorbed of O’Driscoll.
    This story about twin sisters, one special needs through physical illness, like Littlewood’s underchick. And McGuire’s. The death of the sisters’ mother, quoted above. And now the story’s story proper, the death of their Dad, when the sisters are older and at least one of them tellingly greyer. The funeral guests. And the story being built from the past and what may have happened. The business-like narrator is the healthy sister-chick and has to endure the unwanted clinging of her boy friend whom she then ditches by phone, whilst later she is given Llewellyn’a version of hedonistic erotic (tantamount to mindless) penetration in the garden by someone from the funeral, happening near the Crow Palace, that structure Dad built for the birds. The other, the special sister, still oblique. We gather more about them both before they do themselves…. the whole backstory seemingly given to us, but, for me, with the seemingly reliable narrator, as in the O’Driscoll, now as unreliable or, even, maddened as you need her to be to reconcile truth with fiction: as to which is which chick? Even who the narrator and whom the narrated? (The word ‘chick’ used as in the Littlewood story.) And finally who is impregnated and with what, eventually to hatch and fly?
    “Coins and bottle tops. Odd earrings. Screws. Watch parts. The tiny bones of rodents, picked clean and bleached by time. I used to have a collection of my own, the crows left us treasures on the crow palace in return for food.”
    And there are many other such lists in this work. In this book, too. Lists and connections, some more real than they at first seem, whether intended or not. Keys and secrets. With a tutelary bird’s nurturing wings around this book, enabling those within it to hatch, then to fly as one.

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