Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dreamcatcher favourites 2015 - out of hundreds read and reviewed by Des Lewis

One thought on “Dreamcatcher Favourites of 2015”

    My runners-up for 2015, those that came close:


Monday, December 21, 2015


Cassilda’s Song

Black Stars on Canvas, a Reproduction in Acrylic by Damien Angelica Walters She Will Be Raised a Queen by E. Catherine Tobler Yella by Nicole Cushing Yellow Bird by Lynda E. Rucker Exposure by Helen Marshall Just Beyond Her Dreaming by Mercedes M. Yardley In the Quad of Project 327 by Chesya Burke Stones, Maybe by Ursula Pflug Les Fleurs du Mal by Allyson Bird While The Black Stars Burn by Lucy A. Snyder Old Tsah-Hov by Anya Martin The Neurastheniac by Selena Chambers Dancing the Mask by Ann K. Schwader Family by Maura McHugh Pro Patria! by Nadia Bulkin Her Beginning is Her End is Her Beginning by E. Catherine Tobler and Damien Angelica Walters Grave-Worms by Molly Tanzer Strange is the Night by S.P. Miskowski
Edited by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.

Chaosium 2015

My previous ‘Joe Pulver’ reviews HERE

Strangely, I had two stories in Chaosium books… in ‘Cthulhu’s Heirs’ (1994): Watch the Whiskers Sprout – and in ‘Song of Cthulhu’ (2001): Fall From Grace.

When I real-time review this book, my comments will be found in the thought stream below or by clicking on this post’s title above.

22 thoughts on “Cassilda’s Song

  1. Black Stars on Canvas, a Reproduction in Acrylic
    by Damien Angelica Walters
    “A yellow that hurts her eyes if she focuses on it too long, which is ridiculous because it’s just a color, but it’s a color full of wrong.”
    This is the perfect start. A woman chosen for or condemned into an audition with the Yellow King…we are never sure. But her obsessive trial paintings – and her bosom friend who is perhaps not to be trusted in such yellow vyings? – make me literally feel compelled to eat the actual words of this story as Van Gogh was said to eat yellow paint.
    This whole book itself ‘unmasks’…with this darkly, gorgeously figurative tontine towards artistic perfection and acceptance, interval by interval…
  2. SHE WILL BE RAISED A QUEEN by E. Catherine Tobler
    “There, I listened to the echo of the world beyond the walls of this room, distant voices trying to unknot the problem of me, me who did not even have a name.”
    A rich rhapsody of Angelica’s opened raspberries and other images harvested like fruit from KiY, blending Gilman with Gillman, like women cutting gills into men, an accretively self-aware Kafkaesque Metamorphosis, except it is another who becomes a bug (“She fled me then, a skittering bug, her skirts frantic across the polished floors.”) while this self.-aware narrator finds herself discovered gradually, not metamorphosed into a bug, but into a mermaid then into a Queen born from Lake and poetic words, entering a world of inferred homely pursuits, with black stars disrupting the discoverers’ ways, a yearning, a dream, papered in yellow. There is no way any review can convey everything herein. You just have to absorb it for yourself, break it open, unbutton it. Those who stumble not and do read it to the end win all.
    (My real-time reviews usually are written after a single instinctive reading of each story, as is the case here. If I read this one again, I may write something quite different about it. It’s that sort of story.)
    “In this place, none will feel the need to regard me as anything other than what I am.”
  3. YELLA by Nicole Cushing
    Powerful, frightening, inchoate stuff!
    A sort of basement Mrs Rochester, not the attic, heard screaming, visited with carnal knowledge as she is by the Yella Angel, or so she says. Serial and deep impregnations and promise of a later impregnation for her Mr Rochester, making him “sissy”…
    All the -ing words in this text have their end g elided, that God of ending.
    My earlier interpretation of some words in THE YELLOW SIGN HERE might be pertinent to this disturbing experience of a read.
  4. YELLOW BIRD by Lynda E. Rucker
    “…a big old hole like a monster had come along and torn it open.”
    This is as creatively inchoate as the Cushing, as similarly ungraspable as Walters and Tobler, but with a deep daughter-mother yearning that permeates bereavement as well as the haunted homestead detritus and environs occupied by generations of their family.
    It is an evocatively atmospheric copy of the old Yellow book through which this yearning is ignited. filtered, near-spurned and hopefully transcended.
  5. EXPOSURE by Helen Marshall
    “Dim Carcosa. Lost Carcosa. Strange the night where the black stars rise. That’s what the guidebook had said.”
    This time, for me, Carcosa did not soar, arc or even creatively scar, but felt crass. But this story may work for others, echoing the Rucker mother-daughter relationship transposed and stranded on a tourist island…
  6. Just Beyond Her Dreaming
    by Mercedes M. Yardley
    “She still looked at the moving wallpaper and heard the whisper of dead things.”
    This is a moving, artfully deadpan account, of an orphaned woman called Hester inheriting a family through being her husband’s third wife. But she does need a simple wild token from her husband to show he has at least one feeling for her beyond giving her material comfort.
    And then she found a potential lover who is there as real like a child’s ‘imaginary friend’ striated by a yearning from this book’s fields we know. Masked, tentative, well-intentioned…
    “That was the first time she and her lover never met.”
    It seems apposite for my personal consciousness of this book’s fields we know that the first meeting with the potential lover follows this…
    “The Bible said that Mary, Holy Mother of God pondered sacred things in her heart.”
    Today of all days.
    But she still has the yearning…
    “Away from something or toward, she wasn’t sure, but what she did know for sure was that she had something to feel.”
    And the ending is purely apposite for this book’s fields we know.
  7. In the Quad of Project 327
    by Chesya Burke
    “She hated to admit it, but she was beginning to relate to the nickname, Z. It was different—unique—without her needing to have had to earn it at all.”
    A plain-spoken telling learning story of school bullying with racial implications. Meanwhile, for me, the chance preternatural finding of another book – by means of a baseball game’s scrying shot described within a different book (a book found amid the undergrowth of the two books’ combined synchronised shards of random truth and fiction) – is a literary epiphany. But…
    “Simply because one of them had imagined it and the others had allowed for the thought to prosper fully within their collect imaginary.”
    …begs a shocking question of who or what is that source imaginarium.
    The alpha and omega of Yellow Jungianism.
    223 – 327
  8. STONES, MAYBE by Ursula Pflug
    “Was he so prematurely aged, inside, to believe something only very old people believed otherwise?”
    A perfect Pflug, blending memories, regrets, and a sort of alternate world wish fulfilment, as Peter deals in his mind with a family lakeside property, its household objects, its commercial business, its clandestine affairs, its black stars or stones, its hoped-for children, one of such children, I wonder, to be that Messiah to be born, if not in reality, perhaps by means of a book…?
    “Maybe for Myrtle it hadn’t been the book but something else. The percolator parts, perhaps, or the tin spoons.”
    “Of course, there was one small snag in this offspring fantasy; you had to have a mother first.”
    “he’d briefly seen their future spread out before him, pretty and comforting as a star quilt.”
    “She wore silver dream catcher earrings,…”
    “Delusions could fall out each morning, come out in clumps in his comb. Marti had once said he looked cute balding, that he was lucky he had the right shape of skull for it.”
    There was a resonant ‘cuteness” to Mr Jefferson’s self-styled ‘ass’ in the previous story, a story that prefigured the book that threads this book’s fields we know. A book within a book found and all-blending.
    Here blending this author’s own ‘Memory Lapse At The Waterfront’ with the percolators, tins and other household objects of her story “Repair”.
    We all have to repair our lives at some stage, if not by death, by the conscious re-figuring of memories and the book found like a household object in a kitchen cupboard.
  9. LES FLEURS DU MAL by Allyson Bird
    “Dumas had the black tulip.”
    ‘The Black Tulip’ (based on Dumas) is the first TV drama serial I remember watching as a child in the 1950s.
    And that is just the start of a dark cornucopia of artistic and literary references. Probably this Bird story is the most amazing work within this book’s fields we know that you might ever read, and need to read again, but perhaps without fully transcending its apparent personal aspects (one of the paintings discovered by a writer of weird in New Zealand and “Jealousy within groups of artists”) and also its universal references – a work to be read time and time again to try find the pure base colours of its foundation canvas that truly underpins some of these creatively staccato sentences and its otherwise poetic tentacles of Carcosan rhapsody and intentional fallacy.
    I will only mention below a few of my own found references deriving from and filling out what I earlier dubbed the Yellow Jungianism…
    Bird’s time travelling Juliette who creates that very Jungianism, it turns out, by visiting Leonora at different times, both of them in a subtle Sapphic Union supporting this book’s earlier ‘collect imaginary’ thus revisited within this book’s fields we know.
    “Paris. July 1938. Fritz Henle would be here now taking his photographs, some in Montmartre, memories of a wonderful city before the occupation.”
    I have just finished reviewing (HERE) ‘The Siren of Montmartre’ by Leopold Nacht, a book that is steeped in a sensibility of German occupied Montmartre and resonates coincidentally with this, Bird’s own siren-like story.
    (This recent real-time review actually links HERE to my own Baudelaire ‘lurching together’ verselet from the 1960s. It feels as if Juliette actually visited ME when I was writing that verselet then! And perhaps even more remarkably that review HERE linked to the three Gongoozlers!)
    “Why would I live in a world created by someone else—it could turn out to be hell and I have enough of that already. I don’t even know if you really exist.”
    The explicit ability to create fiction wherein we can inhabit for real.
    And then, of course, Juliette must have visited our own little on-line coterie of the noughties, I sense, as well those Gongoozlers in 1988… It seems all there…
    “One day I won’t be left out. The women will have a voice eventually. I’ll be recognized one day.’”
    “‘Ah. He’d insulted me once a very long time ago so I thought I’d do that. Not my greatest hour but funny at the time.’”
    “‘There was another who offended you.’
    ‘The other—mmmmm there was one who played Bottom in the Shakespeare play and when he tried to remove the head it wouldn’t come off—everyone said the head looked so real.’
    ‘What happened to him next?’
    ‘Sideshow for a time then his real head was put back on. He still thought he was an ass though so he was committed to the Belmont Mental Institution.’”
    “Juliette had many enemies, too. There was one in particular who hated poets, writers, and any artists who ‘interpreted’ the yellow sign—he would try to bring about their demise in some way. Silence them. Shut them down. She knew exactly where he was and Juliette had been told that he would not catch up with her just yet. She always lived on the edge.”
    Juliette was even present, I sense, when Gilman wrote the Yellow Wallpaper and Van Gogh ate his yellow paint.
    I feel sincerely that this is an important work in the realms of weird literature. Eminently and strangely satisfying. Preternaturally startling. And I have only scratched the textured surface of its references, dealing mainly with those that are meaningful to me. Those meaningful to you may be quite different and I can easily collect-imagine that they will all be there waiting for you to find when you read this remarkable Bird work. Each ladder of references, a Yellow-seeking tontine?
    Above all, this work, unlike the earlier one above I reviewed, now does make Carcosa soar, arc and, yes, scar. Scar indelibly.
    (Meantime, beware! – Juliette may leave things in your own work to show she’s been there.)
  10. While The Black Stars Burn
    by Lucy A. Snyder
    “The sharp, cold jolt made the puckered scar in her palm sharply ache, and the old memory returned fast and unbidden:…”
    An indelible stigmata instilled by the movements of a musical work in words, instilled literally by her father real, and figurativeLy by her father yellow, combined or alternating. The former an alcoholic composer who encourages his daughter in music, leaving, after his death, violin sonatas for her to play, for she who had been made to think “that she was quite plain, good as a violinist but unremarkable as a woman.” A threnody for this book’s writers?
    This story has the common flaws of humanity transcended when blended with a Zannesque or Scriabinesque musical sensibility that tells more of this book’s fields we know than anything written in philosophy or sociology books. Here it is by the power of contemporary classical music, a factor that was likely to appeal to the likes of me. And it does with a human re-enablement that only fiction can compose within us. An arc of music between movements.
    Dabbling with diabelli.
    “…and the stark black notes transubstantiated into soaring music as nerves drove muscle,…”
  11. OLD TSAH-HOV by Anya Martin
    “The only difference was that he had a short stump instead of a curled tail like my own—its absence likely a scar from some previous battle.”
    A growing story, where the meanings of words mean something in their own tongue like the title’s colour and the ending’s self that some end up calling bad – whether or not these words are in your tongue at all, a story that continues growing its meaning upon you, as you realise who or what you are within it, and the relationships that the others have with you, and their own changing circumstances. Some things like love and birth, others like war. The accoutrements of ownership and survival, and variations between, of that holocaust in the reader’s own history if not your history, until you return full circle to the prison ‘chamber’ where you started.
    Who the King, what religion, what creed, what mongrel breed, what colour?
    Until then you never knew that you could cry.
    “I wondered if he was disappointed that I had found a savior.”
    “This place was not the color of the sun, but different colors, colors that resembled shadows to me and for which I had no names.”
    A story you keep thinking about, because you are still in it.
    In some religions, they end up throwing stones at you. Even rocks.
  12. The Neurastheniac
    by Selena Chambers
    “All the women here make poetry, while I write it like the men.
    The women hate me and the men hate me and I hate myself.
    The men who like me like me because they hate women and they can look at me and see themselves in a form they could fuck.”
    That contemporaneous example of her Ferlinghetti-like poetry (poetry that sometimes in this work approaches, to my eye, fin de siecle decadence) is a section of this delightful patchwork quilt of impressions and examples of the work of Helena Heck (1937-1968) whom KiY’s surnamesake surconscious author Selena jams for us like jazz. She even has an alternative name for Carcosa that again soars, arcs and, finally, with a fine escritoire flourish, scars with a hand from a gramophone horn, as she (author or subject) tells us strikingly of her trespasses, under the influence, into the Lethal Chambers with Ligottian anti-natalist trills. The only flaw is the inability to spell ‘stationery’ when meaning paper products.
    I enjoyed it as much as the Bird.
    I once dreamt I met Heck on the Mall. They didn’t have pizza those days, but we ordered anchovies on toast.
  13. Dancing The Mask by Ann K. Schwader
    She blinks at the caption a few times before realizing she’s seen it on the mall.”
    Drawn by various urban messages in urban hard times, messages writ in a mysterious hand on paper, a ballet-dancer, crippled by an earlier balletic accident, reaches a healing of dance when swaddled by a whole array of resplendently poetic images from the this book’s fields we know. You know we know such fields because you already knew the keynotes of everything already placed in this book. It is as if something you can’t do is do-able simply because you are already doing it. The masked world of we readers here is unmasked for us to see that retrocausal truth.
  14. Family by Maura McHugh
    “Once we’re off the straight roads it’s a twisting drive. Are you sure you remember the way, in the dark?”
    …as only the deep-seated feel of families can replicate upon our emotional and dynastic road maps, as this story strikingly shows, whether you are play-acting (an art form called ‘mercurial shape-shifting’ here in the growing career of the sister half of this Irish sibling relationship) or just struggling to steer clear of past family darknesses (or perversely, counter-intuitively re-entering them as a search for healing?)…
    A yellow castle in a play area, yes, but a blue door, a red door, a red towel, making this not ALL Yellow. But we as seasoned readers of books like this always know that life provides artful subterfuges or decoys to accentuate the inevitably retrocausal climax that stains deep Yellow back through the only book as play, the only play as book , the only part to ‘play’ at Destiny’s familial end now beginning.
    Some nice linguistic touches, too, as we take this Irish journey.
  15. Pingback: Story Published: “The Neurastheniac” in CASSILDA’S SONG | Selena Chambers Edit
  16. Pro Patria! by Nadia Bulkin
    “Something leather-bound and rotten, the corners of its pages curling like shed skin. He saw that she had marked it up violently as he flipped the pages,…”
    …as I have, too. This book and its book’s book.
    I have long wished that I might one day read a King in Yellow mythos story like this one, or I THINK I have thus wished. It’s hard to judge, now having just read it and been satisfied.
    It is a literary-style work of a mid 20th century ilk, housing such a yearned-for threading by the KiY Mythos, with a prose style tractable but beautifully ‘al dente’ textured, reminding me of Graham Greene or possibly Malcolm Lowry.
    A story that deals with old school Colonialism, Constitutional Governance of a new country, in a maturely mind-awakening way – full of believable characterisation – and touching upon themes like Machiavellianism, the propensity of Power towards not necessarily corruption but madness, and this story’s own glimpse of a new law that one of its characters embodies but denies: the Restitution of the Damned.
    Can you tell I am impressed?
    It also adds towards continuing to make this book a satisfying patchwork of different styles and tastes, all floating within a Carcosan sump.
  17. Her Beginning is Her End is Her Beginning
    by E. Catherine Tobler and Damien Angelica Walters
    “This is too large a tale for words alone,”
    …and, somehow, from within it, that summarises this whole novelette, one that sits outside you, beyond you, so rhapsodic, yet so intangible, so amorphous. Which of these two authors, the two Cassildas, which of the two Suns, which of the many doors, which or who is right or wrong, fiction or truth, mask or unmask, motherly or barren, scholar or king, messiah or traitor? Each a “disgusting dichotomy” or a path to a perfect truth or song? A Nevervescent Carcosa or a Croatoan one?
    Forgive me for quoting below so much from this novelette, but there is a huge amount of streaming text to choose from, and these passages as discretenesses are not only typically beautiful of the rest of the other possible discretenesses from this sprawling text but also meaningful to Juliette’s earlier travels in this book, through the doors of time, leaving bits of herself in all our memories, Anne or Nura or by another name…
    “The ink melts inward across the pages, running to the spine where it pools into a black hole. The paper breaks apart at the edge of this darkness, falling in, falling away, until there’s nothing left but a ghost image of the Yellow Sign, the sigil, hanging in the air. Then that, too, vanishes.”
    “Even so, when she looked upon her work and smoothed the linen back into place, she feared what she had done to this man. There was still no time to doubt, none, so she gave him up to his men and they in turn gave him up to the waters he had so loved. His people would make for him a tomb on dry land, but it would be forever empty.”
    “This doorway was a mistake, a subtle torment, a way for the King to show her she’d never succeed, a way to torture her with her own failure, not her greatest failure—that belonged to the writer and would that she could go back to that moment and push him from the window, erase his lies before they fomented in his mind—but a failure that drove daggers into her heart.”
    “Was then now and now then? So many doorways, so many whens, so many men and women and words and inside, she was a circle of knots and nots.”
    And tears came to my eyes at what has befallen us.
    Leaving just another Alice in Wonderland trying to fit herself into a door.
  18. Grave-Worms
    by Molly Tanzer
    “There was poetry, there was action. Things occurred, and did not occur. It was more confounding than alarming. It reminded her a bit of Antigone, which she had also not quite understood, when she’d read it in school.”
    There have already been some matchless stories in this book, and this story has the sound of a lighter at a crucial moment. The work is perfect, indeed matchless, as an example of a work that could easily have appeared in the original ‘King in Yellow’ book; it is elegant, literary, with the feel of the fin de siecle, as well as Truman Capote and Elizabeth Bowen. Those New York grave-worms, those shoals of the dead as bright young things. An apotheosis of cigarettes, and one particular brand, and the Yellow Sign thus seems here for the first ever time so exactly appropriate to smoking. And there are the business relationships (in parallel with the equally exquisitely done Colonial and Governance relationships of the Bulkin), the gender politics, the cynical sex, the glass ceiling (where starlight and skyscrapers change places), and the knotty debate between abstraction and representation in art. This is wildly good, sedate, too. I imagined when the heroine stood on the balcony with her cigarette that the climax was soon to be the balcony vanishing into avant garde nothingness and she falling to the lighted city below. I was wrong. The real ending was even better. Robert W. Chambers couldn’t have done it better.
  19. Strange is the Night by S.P. Miskowski
    “He would lie in the pale dawn while the city cast jagged shadows across the art deco building where he had lived for twelve years. He would stare at his five hundred square feet of hardwood floors and fluted glass door knobs,…”
    As satisfyingly acute as the 20th century mad Machiavellianism of Bulkin and the fin de siecle elegance of the entrepreneurs in Tanzer, this is another tractably ‘al dente’ prose-textured theme and variations of things Yellow, here retroactively retributive with a truly dramatic closing scene that the false balcony would have been in the Tanzer, if Tanzer hadn’t left the whole book’s avant garde climax for Miskowski to wreak.
    Not tangible Yellowness like paint or wax so much as Marmalade.
    Again gender and office or business politics take sway, and the abstraction versus representation Aesthetics debate from the Tanzer becomes here the different traditions of reviewing plays: encouraging versus condemnatory etc.
    This is a hilarious, page-turning story of a failed playwright who plugs away in an office’s hive of carrels, with a sense of the earlier geometric glass ceiling; he represents the bullying with racial implications from the Chesya Burke, and unlike the more subtle retributive distaff machinations of the Bird and the Tobler-Walters, there can be nothing more clear-cut as theatrical thick-cut marmalade causing all of us unequivocally to cheer on the radiant actress whom he had earlier called ‘porcine’ in his review.
    This makes a perfect witty scatology / eschatology of a Yellow coda to the whole book, and I, for one, now replace tears of sadness with tears of laughter.
    This whole book will become a historic hive of Chambers whence these sometimes scarred but stinging Queens of Carcosa arc and soar, swarming to become one of the two Suns that rise above us – and I dreamt last night that I met Joe on the Mall where we ordered them yolk-yellow sides up.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Haunted By Books - Mark Valentine


Just received this book. If I have any comments on it, they will be found in the thought stream below or by clicking on this post’s title above.

My previous reviews of books published by TARTARUS PRESS are linked from HERE
…and those written by Mark Valentine HERE.

30 thoughts on “HAUNTED BY BOOKS

    I often fail to read book introductions for fear any introduction may over-influence me in my exploration of the body of the book (and here over-influence paradoxically entails under-influence, of course) but I somehow knew I had to read this introduction; it was a preternatural influence on me to read it, in the same way as this introduction’s effulgent treatment of book-collecting in bookshops is similarly preternatural as my need to have read it, as I have now done.
    When I read something great I feel magnetised towards uncovering a leitmotif, and then linking that leitmotif to another leitmotif, and so on – those ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ so seasoned within me.
    Meanwhile, here, these are similar effects of book-hunting within the undergrowth of books. You will never read anything else so wonderfully TRUE about book collecting. It surely must be worth the price of this book just to experience this introduction, with its various real book references, its sense of wonder, its other world just a side-step away from ours.
    “I don’t think we need to go so far as those critics who would separate the book entirely from the author, but it’s certainly true that to appreciate a literary work we do not necessarily need to know very much about the author’s life.”
    And that seems coincidentally relevant to what I was saying above about ‘introductions’ and to my publication of Nemonymous during the whole of the noughties.
    Here, Valentine treats interestingly and stylishly (all of Valentine is stylish so I won’t use that word again during this review) of the partial nature of Aickman’s portraits of people he knew. Concentrating seemingly on the trivial rather than the important. People are undergrowth, too, as well as books?
    “…and thus are lives condensed to a mingling of the obvious, the unexplained, the odd and the overlooked.”
    Relevant to gestalt real-time reviewing, I’d say. A “semi-fiction”, a crucial term used in this text. Survivor guilt. The Intentional Fallacy: the questions at the top of page 8.
    A “gong-snuffler”and a “hocus pocus husband”. Lives ‘solved” by dying. RA’s soul as a poeticised elusiveness and luminosity. Talk of Monism. This essay that is a cornucopia.
    Talk, too, of Germanising names that end in -Man with -Mann, or unGermanising vice versa. See HERE my earlier article AICKMANN.
    “A coincidence? Philip thought it suggested forces working in his life which he could not know.”
    “Armenian refugees had been the object of pity in Britain, as a Christian people cruelly persecuted by Muslim Turks, but Arlen knew that this pity was mixed with liberal doses of condescension…”
    Arlen, travestied, it says here, by Aldous Huxley, travestied as ‘the swarthy Syrian with the blue jowl and the silver monocle…’
    This is an eye-opening, informatively-and-evocatively-in-period, portrait of the author of THE GREEN HAT (1924). A social media star and bestseller, now mostly forgotten.
    [Some writers are nowadays more often forgotten in their own times, swamped, even drowned, as electronic dandies by a modern mutation of old-fashioned social media, hoping later to become bestsellers and post-media stars – Arlen’s process in reverse? The massed migrants between time periods, rather than between nations. My thoughts, not necessarily this essay’s.]
    A fascinating and, for me, revelatory essay upon this writer who mingled (as I often find myself doing) tradition with the avant garde, mingling, too, Machen, Blake, Crowley, MR James, and others, and her various husbands. I am particularly intrigued by the reference to Philip Heseltine (aka Warlock) the classical composer who produced, I feel, the saddest music in the world, with his The Curlew…evoking Butts’s own seeming division and then connection between this world and another world that transcends the time whenever one happens to live, the early 20th century in her own case.
    Please forgive me quoting, for my own ‘Dreamcatching’ reasons, this passage from the essay:
    “She thought one could see ‘signatures’ of the beyond here in this world, the imprints of the unseen, elusive, oblique, sometimes in nature, sometimes in art: ‘hints, coincidences, prophetic or retrospective of a significant event. To try & describe them is delicate work.’ […] The plenitude of the other realm she sometimes glimpsed through a sequence of strange connexions, where apparently unrelated things seemed to mesh, to belong together.”
  5. I note that the next essay features the title of a story by Walter de la Mare, and I have just re-read that story before reading the essay – and, so, here are my prior passing comments on…
    “…dark hair, dark eyes, dark cloud, dark night, dark vision, dark death, dark grave, dark, DARK!”
    A story in four movements, each a repercussion of the previous one, the four being school, the first arranged visit, the second semi-arranged visit, the third random visit, getting darker and darker, as Smithers, Withers, Wither, Johnson, by which surnames Seaton’s Aunt randomly calls her nephew’s adopted friend (as in my own schooldays, boys called each other by surname when at school in those days, and my best friend was called by his surname for many years into his adulthood by my own mother) and there are rumours back and forth in time about what constituted this Aunt’s darkness, the ghosts that the two boys themselves infer in varying degrees of belief, and Seaton tries to break out by courting his future bride, but we sense how the four movements affected each other back as well as forward, and we will go far to find a more frightening eponymous monster subtly told, if less subtly spoken herself. A classic tale that prefigures and is prefigured by Aickman. Another surname.
    And a filter, like God’s eye, that works both ways.
    • …and after that, my initial review of the story, I have now read Valentine’s essay about it, an essay entitled…
      An essay setting out some of the past theories about this story, and then giving its own fascinatingly detailed and interpretative critique, much longer than mine above!
      I value all these views of this elusively and allusively subtle tale. We are on all fours, me included. Which for me is another view of the sentence none of us have yet quoted from it: “Mankind has simply become a tailless host of uninstinctive animals.” Fitting with the abstemious use of Christian Names. The rhythmic incantation of ‘dark’, the giant bed in which the Aunt sleeps, Seaton’s “night-suit”, the monstrous salad, a theme and variations upon two growing boys till one (“THAT disgusting man!”) eats the other.
      Buried, yes, but not necessarily in the mind?
      “Immense veal and ham pie farced with eggs, truffles, and numberless delicious flavours;…”
      Farced: SICnificant?
    “We hear about the title character from many people, but never directly see him.”
    … as Valentine does about Houghton himself (in a compellingly informative essay dealing with the pros and cons of Houghton’s fiction works), about an author who in turn creates these central characters in most of his fiction works, characters solely triangulated by the coordinates of the views of other characters. [I feel I OFFER to do similarly with my real-time reviews, each review of a particular book being just one triangulation to add to the dreamcatching triangulations of however many other reviewers are willing to join in to create the communal essence of literature’s Schengen conduits…]
    I sense that many of the lost authors in this book, with whom we are now haunted from the early 20th century, have come back, indeed, into their own triangulated prominence as a result. However, they also have the tantalising aura of being fiction characters themselves merely with black and white photographic mementoes scattered about the pages, mementoes almost (!) making us believe these authors, with their carefully constructed lives and creativities, once existed in their own real-time. For some of these authors, though, I, for one, need more than just photos to FULLY believe!
    A neat summary of this book by the author of two much more famous books; it is an essay with interesting details about the Russian Revolution, convincingly making the case that this novel is an equally worthy book for fame and posterity, a spy story where the spy is diffident, prefiguring more modern spies. Some interesting glosses on the history of spy fiction, too.
    The essay also has some wordplay after my own heart, with AMOUR being equally at home in the title as ARMOUR!
    You can read that title as the influences working either way, or both ways at once, like that filter of which I spoke earlier in this review..
    Except Cosnahan is not a real writer but possibly a straddling hub for several writers, all writers of the hyper-imaginative, a dreamcatcher in the form of a fiction character created altruistically by Malcolm Lowry when in his cups, little knowing that one day his secret would be half-blown by this Valentine essay then fully blown by my taking that a stage further.
    Most of this Valentine book, so far, deals with another world beyond the one we know, a mystic plane that literature and only literature conveys. (Obscure literature by once famous but now obscure writers, particularly?)
    Not even music can truly tap into where certain patterns of words can. Well, some music taps into different, even more rarefied realms that I dare not attempt to describe. I have been there.
    Meanwhile, I seem to recall (with no hard evidence to back up my memory) that I read THE CENTAUR by Algernon Blackwood and UNDER THE VOLCANO (a REreading of the latter) in relatively close time proximity several years ago. I then knew not why, I guess.
    And enthrallingly knowledgeable essay on an early twentieth century Australian writer, his life and his works influenced by Lord Dunsany and other writers of that era. With certain reservations, these are shown to be strong fantasy fiction works, and he does not deserve his relative obscurity. Dealing, inter alia, with “separate selves” and a fiction soul influenced by having to leave his homeland, a sort of ‘lost paradise’, that fits in with my earlier thoughts about Hilton’s Shangri-la.
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    “Whereas one look at Coppard revealed the canny and cocksure, a glance at Manhood suggested the contemplative: in every picture of him the gaze is within.”
    A very engaging account of Manhood’s life and works, his early success, where his publishers actually paid him a salary so as to allow him to produce his fiction. We’re told that he combined page-turning stories with finer literary nuances. There are wonderful analogies used here to compare his fiction with the fine nuances or rough qualities of his cider-making. He used railways carriages as part of his living quarters. Perhaps a symbol of these carriages made for transport but going nowhere? Through his idleness, or the inability to turn the success of his short fiction into a novel, or simply because times changed, Manhood himself more or less went nowhere, and once famous, he is now forgotten.
    I have been trying to imagine an account of my own life by a future version of Valentine, telling of my becoming a writer called DF Lewis who was never famous and thus he stayed! But he had a certain claim to fame or infame with his 1500 short stories (so-called) in print towards the end of the 20th century. At the beginning of the next century, his crackpot theories emerged, one that produced the Nemonymous fiction journal – and another that resulted in Dreamcatchers real-time book reviews like this review itself…. And he once tried to convert his meagre skills at short fiction into a novel called Nemonymous Night that was never read in the first place, let alone forgotten!
    I had to smile when writing all that down just now. If this were the Internet, I’d add a smiley.
    The end of the Manhood essay mentions some of his manuscripts being “bound in a series of magnificent vellum bindings”, which brings me to the next Valentine essay in this book….
    …which was previously bound in a luxurious edition and I reviewed it HERE.
    “I invite you to try ‘Bretherton’ by Major W.F. Morris, and help that good book come through again.”
    Another fascinating account of a lost author and a celebration of one of his books and an informative account of his life and other books. BRETHERTON (KHAKI OR FIELD-GREY?) sounds absolutely wonderful, with its haunting mystery and ‘unflinching’ account of trench-warfare. And one also gets a strong image of the author himself. I am conscious that I have not stressed enough the engaging quality of these Valentine essays, a style to die for, and an ability to uncover entertainingly these lost treasures and their creators from around the first half of the 20th century. I hope Valentine is never ‘lost’ himself in the decades ahead and we must fix his status now indelibly.
    “If these titles did not assuage the adventurous reader enough, I find also an advertisement offering Count Byron de Prorok’s ‘In Quest of Lost Worlds’,…”
    This is a a remarkably entertaining run through of the April 1935 issue of THE LONDON MERCURY, a favourite inter-war literary journal of this book’s author, I infer. Ranging from ER Eddison – whose work I myself once read with great interest – to any number of works, including then modernistic as well as traditional poems… A catholic organ.
    And then literally summing up one’s pocket money to buy the books mentioned at that time and figuratively summing up the journal’s contents, both the literally and figuratively coming together neatly in the last sentence. Bravo!
    And, as a bonus, this essay gave me a nice new word to use in my real-time reviewing: agglomerative.
    I am amazed as well as feeling slightly guilty at this book’s growing panoply of authors, some of whom I have read, some just heard of, others never heard of, who were well known earlier last century. LHM’s quadriptych THE NEAR AND THE FAR is fascinatingly adumbrated here as is the author’s life and coincidences of temperament, friends, fellow authors, lovers and perception of personal achievements that can result in a deliberately aborted legacy as well as life itself. THE NEAR AND THE FAR seems to encompass such an inevitability of personal co-incidence, where the the near and far can never meet for a particular individual, with a summation of a prevailing theme, in this whole book, of this perceived WORLD of ours in interface with not necessarily the NEXT world but the CONTIGUOUS one.
    An informative disquisition on James Leslie Mitchell, aka Lewis Grassic Gibson, a Scottish author who shares the glory and the dimming of many of this book’s subjects, but I sense this one is so far possibly the most worthy of posterity’s attention, sharing the skills of Wells, Haggard, Lawrence, Blackwood, Hodgson et al, as sought out by Gawsworth.
    This teller of Grassic grittiness, of adventure with sensitivity for nuance and humanity, this SCOTS QUAIR now residing among an aesthetic sheaf of Tartarus pages,
    “; and the evidence for vast symbolical patterns in the ordering of human affairs.”
    An absolutely fascinating essay on the nature of theosophy and esoteric elements in all religions and their secret initiates. Particularly here concerning Christianity. Everyone should read this essay without fail, and don’t be left out! (I exhort that quasi-seriously, a fact that relates to the report here of Furze-Morrish’s ‘quasi-scientific’ approach to astrological harmonics; I’d rather call this discipline empirically synchronous as opposed to scientifically cause-and-effect, and such a sensibility underpins, I feel, all my dreamcatching real-time reviews such as this one.)
    Another synchronicity with this essay is that earlier today on Facebook I had cause to link to my trawled quotations (here) from The Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys.
    A newly researched essay about a wanderer-, peddler-, tramp-, vagabond-poet, both stirring and sad. He was a vigorous man, by all accounts, confident in his poetry, and from the sample at the end, so he should be. Another co-incidence of fallibilities and strengths (falling in love being a combination of both, I guess) – leading to the ultimate self-sacrifice, a sacrifice independently shared, it seems, by someone disconnected – possibly the saddest synchronicity of all because this someone also made the same sacrifice a few floors below the poet’s because of mixing up two deaths with two magpies.
    Many such people live again because of being brought back to life in this book, arguably for as long as our planet exists. If only they had known.
    Perhaps, they DO know – by the magic of this substantive Tartarus sheaf of print if not by the ‘mad scientist’ electronic ether upon which my own words about them do float.
    This essay, for once, is not about a fine but perhaps slightly obscure twentieth century writer. But it is one that I find engaging about an early nineteenth century writer seeming to ‘suppose’ himself into the writing-shoes of the Bard for Facebook-type self-promotion purposes – to write a didactic anti-Catholic play that, by this account, was not too bad as plays go.
    I cannot empathise, however, with the thought that there should be more plays rather than less by this boring over-rated Elizabethan playwright called Shakespeare. The polarised opposite to those others in this book who should have been MORE famous!
    From the previous essay about a hoax, to an essay that is perhaps a hoax in itself. An anonymously unaccompanied and untitled submission of some fine fiction to the publisher John Lane in 1903. A very interesting supposed account of its nature, the circumstances of its history, and all this seems to be an extreme form of this book’s panoply of now mostly unheard of writers from early last century, except this one was unheard of right from day one! Also this situation is bound to appeal to the likes of me who once published the Nemonymous journal, wherein there was a (still anonymous) story in its 2002 edition (the edition that also contained the world’s first blank story) and the anonymous story has become a now increasingly famous story – ‘The Vanishing Life and Films of Emmanuel Escobada’ – one which is likely to remain a mystery for ever more.
    So, I wouldn’t be surprised if all the on-line records of THE MS IN A RED BOX have been elaborately concocted to fit this scenario, including a related fiction story in hard print entitled THE AXHOLME TOLL (by Mark Valentine) that I real-time reviewed a few years ago HERE?
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    This time it is an essay upon a lesser known work of a relatively famous writer of the early 20th century, famous for his books featuring Fu Manchu.
    This is possibly the most academically detailed essay in the book so far, respectfully dealing with possibly a flawed masterpiece combining Rohmer’s page-turning skills of a thriller with his knowledge of Theosophy and the esoteric cores of religion (cf Furze-Morrish) and his apparent need to impart that knowledge to as wide an audience as possible.
    He apparently creates characters of greater depth than in his thrillers – and I am pleased to have been informed of this book’s existence. And its nature. And this impels me to state that I bought ‘Haunted by Books’ and started keenly reviewing it because it is written by one of my all-time favourite writers (Mark Valentine) and not because I necessarily wanted to read a book of non-fiction. I, however, knew it would be conveyed by beautiful prose about various authors’ books, but also books that would now be haunted by Valentine himself. Having said that, I have so far been absolutely fascinated by the various items of subject matter and I feel duly edified.
    But who is Rchard?
    “The uniquely frustrating situation for him was that critics and eminent literary figures were always telling him they were almost sure he had written a masterpiece, or that they thought he very nearly had done so: but they never quite committed their reputations to such acclaim;…”
    Maybe I am too easy with issuing my own description of ‘masterpiece’ for various books when reviewing them. But it is not my reputation that is important but the books themselves. Filters can work both ways.
    This is an interesting essay upon this novelist who is ever on the brink of being great. Maybe he has become his own favourite fiction theme about a Messiah ever upon the point of returning? Returning to a world he has never been before! The sainted Mark his first of many disciples?
    For someone who was once called The Wizard of Odd in the early 1990s, it seems strange that I have never before heard of this 1909 book by Geoffrey Whitworth and Keith Henderson. I assume this essay itself is not a whimsy in itself in making up its existence, and I feel it is just such a book as I ought to know about, judging by the wildly odd nature of some of Valentine’s summaries of its plots. A cross between the Father Brown and Rhys Hughes stories (links to my reviews), I would say, plus, as this essay propounds, some aspects of Saki, Wodehouse, Dunsany, Lear, Carroll, early surrealism, even Machen!
    Combining the Near and the Far in Stoke Newington as well as in the mind and in the contiguous worlds that abound about us.
    The plots are brilliantly described in this essay, a real cornucopia of disarming strangenesses (an expression I once reserve for the stories of Aickman), incredibly odd and close-to-the-bone plots that I cannot really believe exist while I really WANT to believe that they do.
    The bottom line, happily, is that this essay exists at least.
    A writer of historical fiction and born in 1920 and writing into the 21st century. I sense paradoxically that his work IS famous in the real world as you and I live in an alternate one where it remains sadly and inexplicably under-rated. In any sane world, the nature of those luminaries who admired Vansittart and the book reviews that are reported upon in this essay would mean that he is a household name. The nature of his approach to history is made intellectually knotty and the ultimate comparison here, among others, to Ackroyd clinches it for me, despite my otherwise being averse normally to historical fiction. This essay is intellectually knotty, too, and passionate, an essay worth reading (like many of the others) purely for its own sake as well as for its subject matter, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the first author in the book whom MV has himself met personally?
    (But why ‘secret names’? And why ‘Hermetic’ (sealed) other than because PV wrote a novel about Hermes?)
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    “The book is anonymous, and there is no introductory matter, nor are there any notes to give any clue as to who wrote it.”
    Another essay after my own heart, talking of obscure printers (like one in Chelmsford, Essex) who preserved obscure, but fine, works, even more obscure than themselves. Including this one engagingly described here, where astronomy and astrology are somehow, if unusually, linked (linked as I feel they should be by some preternaturally secular influence). How many other such books are still lying latent somewhere even as we speak? Allowing us one day to photo its contents of its contents like, for me, some avant garde happening?
    “…a taste for old things and forlorn things.”
    I share that taste with this essay and indeed this book, especially when some of the forlorn things when permeated through Valentine become less so through the beauty of their forlornless, as we explore every ‘jitty’ and wayside of literature, history and religion.
    Here, the author’s boyhood’s ordinance map sect of secrecy seeking other sects and chapels, amid ‘extra parochial districts’ beyond the reach of common law – and this essay has more of an ambiance of fiction to it, even though paradoxically I sense it is not fiction at all. Having said that, I feel there does exist a real fiction work I have read about such districts (it may even be a story I cannot yet relocate by MV himself? Perhaps I shall never find it.)
    The old sect discovered here depends on salvation purely by dint of the grace of God rather than by dint of their doing good works themselves. Mad hatters, notwithstanding.

  25. WRAITHS:
    These two essays have very recently appeared together in two (!) separate, luxurious, slim, still relatively obscure volumes – and I picture them HERE whence there is another link to my reviews of both essays.
    This represents either a belt-and-braces OPALINE ALGOL phenomenon for such legacy’s posterity or another fine avant garde happening for its own sake.
    Searching as this ‘book’ often does in the bookish undergrowth of wayside bookshops, our author discovers some old editions of John O’London’s Weekly where he finds reference to a goat in Piccadilly in the city of London, a symbol of some past rural ethos to these streets – and then more and more references in other books. A haunting mystery attaches to this prevailing goat, I sense, a poignancy and an affection, too.
    I also sense that perhaps the answer appears HERE – the coincidence of my simultaneous real-time review of a book called ‘Animal Money’.
    Four miscellaneous reviews of books by Hugo Schumpeter, John Meade Falkner, Father Frederick Rolfe and Sir Aleister Crowley.
    Read but with my own reviews of these reviews left unwritten.
    Overall, simply a book to treasure.