Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Aickman's Heirs

Aickman’s Heirs

A real-time review by Des Lewis

AICKMAN’S HEIRS edited by Simon Strantzas

Undertow Publications 2015

Dedicated to the memory of Joel Lane 1963 – 2013

I have just received this book as purchased from Amazon UK.

Stories by: Brian Evenson, Richard Gavin, John Howard, David Nickle, D.P. Watt, Nadia Bulkin, Michael Cisco, Lynda E. Rucker, Michael Wehunt, John Langan, Helen Marshall, Malcolm Devlin, Daniel Mills, Nina Allan, Lisa Tuttle.

My other ‘reviews’ of Robert Aickman.

I intend to real-time this book and, when I do, it will appear in the thought stream – to be found below or by clicking on this post’s title above.

19 thoughts on “Aickman’s Heirs”

  1. SEASIDE TOWN by Brian Evenson
    When Miss Pickaver said to Hovell, “I catch the train in an hour,” I somehow received a jolt that was bigger than when something more overtly horrific happens in some other stories, which I suppose is a compliment to this otherwise simply told story. Actually, I empathised with the male stick-in-the-mud protagonist, with a flighty female partner, each of whom called the other by surname. I sensed his humiliation as part of the horror accreting…
    The French town, the creepy hostelry, the dark shape seen from the balcony, the half-seen resemblances, the cinematic ‘Death-in-Venice’ like solitude he found himself enduring in face of the strange, half- or non-dressed other holidaymakers… Well, it somehow worked for me.

    • I also wanted to interpret and evaluate the intended jolt of the ending, its change of PoV, but I will not do so for fear of spoilers. But was it a sort of Hovell revenge or merely what it seemed to be? Or both! This is not an Aickman pastiche, but I think Aickman would have recognised it.

  2. NEITHERNOR by Richard Gavin
    “She calls this series Neithernor, because they are neither one thing nor the other. One sees two things at once,…”
    imageA brilliant term for that form of art, here sculptural work by the male narrator’s long-lost female cousin. This story itself, for me, is also a Neithernor. EITHER absurdist, with an orgy of what I have long called Aickman’s ‘disarming strangenesses’, crammed back to back in the plot, together with a Ligottian lavatory or cubbyhole of Dadaist ready-mades of hair or wire, with the male narrator later forgetting his artist cousin for another woman who tests him with avant garde classical music, I sense, and he decides to test her back with his cousin’s art which he returns to find… OR it is a traditional horrific Gothic tale, with mystic undercurrents, that fights to neutralise the absurdism. Sun or Symbol, I am strobing between the two. Similar to what I described above about the ending of the previous story now, in hindsight, strobing, too.

  3. LEAST LIGHT, MOST NIGHT by John Howard
    Following the ‘sinking sun’ at the end of the previous story, this one starts with a quote from Sacheverell Sitwell (whose sister Edith (note Edith in respect of this Howard story!) was an icy lady with beads I used to see on 1950s black and white telly): “Why is the sun worshipped, never the arctic cold?”
    This immaculate text of a delightful (quietly lit like an old wireless) story having a 1950s feel itself, with two men for years in the offish office suddenly socialising at the house of one of them, including this anthology’s renewed concern over the niceties of calling people by surname or forename, plus the Art of Wandering in an urban setting (see my very recent review of a Howard story HERE about this), coins exchanged on a bus journey (currency being another common Howard theme), and, as this anthology’s ‘strobing’ (now, hot and cold) theme (so far): the snowflake, the crystalline, the foggy, the Arctic from the Sitwell quote, as a haunting cult (see my review of Howard’s significant fiction-essay about this ‘arctic’ theme HERE).

  4. CAMP by David Nickle
    “…and long sine-waves of black-bodied birds emerged from the water.”
    I think a sine-wave has something to do with a repetitive oscillation – or strobe? This page-turner of a story involves James and Paul, newly wed honeymooners, on a dual kayak trip into the islands and inlets that remind me of the Aickman Islands themselves or those in Blackwood’s The Willows… These two men meet a seventy-something man and woman couple who seem friendly enough and invite the men to their camp on one of the islands, but the inscrutabilities build, and the shocks or jolts ensue, till, I infer, there is a transcendentally ‘glowing’ ending. To tell you anything else would be a spoiler. But it is genuinely effective, oscillating between sexual-politically didactic and wonderful art-for-art’s-sake. A story worthy of this book as dedicated to the memory of Joel Lane, and that is an enormous compliment from me.

  5. A DELICATE CRAFT by D.P. Watt
    “…their forefingers touched and a little electric shock passed between them.”
    imageA significant Wattage of lace-making lore and the condition of modern humanity. Somehow, I wondered, as I read this, what I would think of this story if I were reading it in a mainstream literary anthology outside the context of Aickman. It would be an astonishing read, one that would stand out as a fine work but probably not considered weird. Though it does have an intrinsic strangeness that is redolent of this book’s heiro. The Watt, a delicate craft in itself, mixing the diverse arts of plumbing and lace-making, the inspiring relationship in her chintzy home between the Polish immigrant (with a backstory of his Polish compadres in England and the recession in 2009 that affected them) and the old woman is tender and ingenious. The story’s transcendent rebirth ending echoes that in the previous Nickle story, too, seeming to cohere the book’s gestalt, together with his rolling (oscillating?) the partner bobbin with partner bobbin, and back and forth in his plumber’s hand. Electric prose with Aickman dim and sleekly soft undercurrents.

  6. SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN by Nadia Bulkin
    “But you shouldn’t be scared of skeletons, Amanda. You’ve already got one inside you.”
    I can immedIately tell that this is a story with tantalising resistance and traction, something I admire in Aickman-inspired literature, but I’m finding it hard to talk about this story, which is not necessarily a bad thing, of course. The ‘seven minute’ concept and “the coordinates of God”, together with what I see as this story’s life/death seesaw, seem to fit in well with the pivoting between dream and non-dream, between sense and nonsense, the disarming strangenesses in and out of focus, all of which are conveyed by the rest of the book so far. A seesaw or pivot like a miniature weather forecasting cabin with interchanging dolls moving in and out of it, a device that Aickman himself, I recall, used in his fiction, but this device does not appear in this story, but it made me think of such a device.
    The story is about the Pilgrim’s Progress of a young girl toward womanhood, whose fulcrum is a town where she started living, a town that neighbours another town, a ghost town which was once decimated by an industrial toxic accident. It tells of the various physical and emotional influences of such an event upon her own life/death pivot, the enforced slants upon history to make reality fit a pattern that others want to believe (that the toxic accident never happened or was something else altogether?), the ‘objective correlatives’ like scarabs, Halloween with its demons, Christianity with its Angels, and much more, leading to another potential transcendency at the end common to previous stories’ ends. Here, tellingly, a pivot of fighter jet and angel. I hope that is not a spoiler.
    The ‘pattern’ needing to be fitted together, mentioned above, seems a suitable template for my own real-time dreamcatching reviews, some of which happily do tend towards cohering, some of which, however, do not cohere, whatever my best endeavours. A personal pivot evoked by this constructively resistant story.

  7. All links to authors’ names in this review are to my previous real-time reviews of their work.
    INFESTATIONS by Michael Cisco
    “…brought up short by a car that pivots smartly around the corner the moment she steps off the curb.”
    Another story with resistance and traction, Cisco-textured, but one that I find easier to talk about than the previous one, but that fact is not necessarily a good thing, of course. It deals with a multi-paranoia of a woman called Miriam who visits a flat where her namesake had lived (an older Miriam who had been a family friend). There seems to me to be a strobing between these two Miriams, although they are distinct. The pursuance of her by ‘them’ and their eyes, and a visitation from a boy friend called Juan who had drowned, all of this managing to create a definite sense of unease and a clotted atmosphere. Mirrors, computer screens, images crowding in. And perhaps like the earlier plumber, the revenant Juan stared at her “and his hands would rise and fall, rise and fall.” Later, “a very pale figure, moving rapidly up and down, up and down.” Oscillations around a female version of the protagonist from Eraserhead? Yes, I think so.

  8. image
    THE DYING SEASON by Lynda E. Rucker
    “…a long time deciding between two cabins, unable to identify which was the right one. For a moment she had the idea that both were, or that she was choosing a destiny: walk into one, make the right choice, walk into the other, make the wrong one.”
    Having been caught upon this pivot’s fulcrum, we learn from this relatively plain-narrated story that Sylvia is staying with her partner John in one of these cabins: an English seaside leisure park in an area that reminds me of where I myself have lived for the last 20 years, a short journey from Colchester, a town mentioned in this story. Rucker has caught the genius loci of dislocation very well, its sense of dying season. And built upon it with definite paranoiac unease as well as a convincing lack of coordinates in negotiating its backmazes, together with an equally dying season of humiliation in the couple’s own relationship, he effectively belonging there, she not. The otherwise balanced nature of their destiny is gradually altered by the inscrutable, accretively threatening couple in the next cabin. The ‘dying fall’ ending leaves the reader upon his or her own fulcrum of interpretation.

  9. A DISCREET MUSIC by Michael Wehunt
    “…and how this shape comes to be repeated through nature and the world, on and on. / He thought about that repetition, outward from the circle of his own vision,…”
    A story that hovers between exquisite and unbearable. One that, if you have been married for 45 years so far to the same woman, as I have, you will never forget. Whatever the joy and however little or large the guilt that underlie such a seeming ‘repetitive’ or oscillating or circular aeon of love and fallible existence. You may never forget this story, anyway, in anticipation of what might be felt one day. A sensitive, stunningly written portrait of a man widowered and his own tussling with guilt or self-justification – constructively and variously reminding me of some of the themes of Steve Rasnic Tem and Joel Lane, but, I do sense, without truly knowing, that it is quintessential Wehunt, a discreet music that I have not listened to before but hope to do so again. It also shares the recurring angelic transcendences or transformations of much of the rest of this book, so far. As an afterthought, I wonder about the use of the word ‘widowhood’ in the first sentence. A typo for ‘widowerhood’ or a genuine attempt at expressing the strobing between his own death and his wife’s from each point of view, to ignite this recurring threnody of words that follows? I sense the latter, as an oblique premonition of the final scene’s cumulatively ambivalent oscillation.

  10. UNDERGROUND ECONOMY by John Langan
    “By the end of the song, all she had left on was a pair of fairy wings. I guess that’s what you would call them.”
    This is a hauntingly conversational monologue, as it were, to the emptiness or gap in we readers’ attention. Except we are nevertheless fascinated into this text, with those fairy wings, for example, inadvertently mocking the erstwhile glowing angel-transformations of this book, while the narrator, who is involved as a participant herself to make student economy ends meet, tells us of a ‘Swords’-type event at a strip- and lapdance- club called The Cusp, just one edge above a brothel. Indeed, the name of the club seems to suit the oscillative nature I have ‘caught’ so far in this book, that and the bouncers. Now coupled with the disturbing sense of flensing or flaying by the crew-cut Swords, with whom the victim (not the narrator herself but the girl she narrates about) eventually becomes gorily and uncannily collusive, we guess. Horror without a victim.

  11. THE VAULT OF HEAVEN by Helen Marshall
    “…and everywhere that sickening tension, the shadow falling between those vivid, discordant lines.”
    They keep on coming! Another satisfying work with resistance and traction, here (dare I say?) one with a 1950s literary quality, a crafted Golden Mean of style that brings to my mind Graham Greene, Angus Wilson, E.M. Forster, Robert Graves, Lawrence Durrell…without being any of these in particular, but also tantalised with corruptive aesthetic forces. And that is what the story is about, I guess.
    Here we are on the cusp again. Shall we call it Aickman’s Cusp? The Cusp Runneth Over. Starting with a quote from Shelley, we find ourselves on a sponge-diving Greek Island at a time just before Russia launched Sputnik, accompanying the male narrator (with an eye for the ladies), on his excavation job that he has obtained upon the cusp of “nepotism and blind luck”. And other cusps of tension between: Form and Formlessness, Pure Aesthetics and fine art that is rotting through Age, love and sex, As Above and So Below, responsibility and frivolity, disorientation and ‘maddening logic’, duty to the strictly academic and to instinctive flair, Beauty’s “wonderment and delicious trouble”, “Fathers and their daughters”, “the stone and the chisel”, soul and intellect, and, above all, here, the ultimate tension between that erstwhile Golden Mean and “strangeness”. Aickman was thus torn, too. Such tension oozes from his work and what we know about him as a person. As it does from this giving story.
    “; the road forks, a path is pursued or not,…”

  12. TWO BROTHERS by Malcolm Devlin
    “…numbers on both sides would fall until only two remained standing, one on each side.”
    They would then fight to the death, as predicted by presumably real History they were re-enacting. This is perhaps that Aickman weather forecasting cabin again, right against wrong, tradition against revolution, friend against foe, predestined history against a more dynamic version, challenge against response, self against self, brother against brother, who will emerge today? Judging by the reference to the Peasants’ uprising against the Tsar, I guess this compelling, obliquely intriguing, relatively plain-narrated story, with immaculate prose, takes place at the beginning of the 20th Century, as brothers grow up in isolation, re-enacting history, as in the quote above, with their toy soldiers and crudely made countryside ‘fortress’. The text’s well-characterised boys, amid an artfully constructed claustrophobic ambiance, have eventually separated when the slightly older one is sent by the diffident father to the traditional school for the family. His eventual return (himself now diffident) is disturbingly conveyed, with the nicely ungraspable but telling pivot of his self with self (now fleshed out and already in my earlier list of polarities above), a parallel sort of self’s changeling (shrunken or depleted as their Governess is described to be in retrograde parallel with the two boys’ natural growth), leaving the younger brother even more alone – with his “stockpile of cultivated lies.” One of which lies is the vision of the changeling itself? And discussion here of possible further meanings might spoil it for anyone who has not yet read it.

  13. THE LAKE by Daniel Mills
    “One morning in particular when they donned goggles and snorkels and swam out to the center of the lake which marked the boundary between two towns.”
    This is a numb story in the sense of it being so lean, so textually deadpan Hemingway or Cormac McCarthy it is like a piece of flabby white flesh that feels nothing – until you imagine you see bruises on it. In many ways, it is in that sense an apotheosis of Aickman’s ‘disarming strangeness’ aspiring towards the level of the blank page, here populated, though, with two boys (bleached shades of Stephen King?) swimming in the star- or emptiness-reflective lake; one boy is due to leave town, like one of the brothers in the previous story. And at the start there is a third boy, like the changeling in that story and just a ‘spear carrier’ here, as vehicle for the ‘strangeness’ identified in the Marshall story as something that always comes to infect purity or deck flabbiness. Then sporadic glimpses of inferred horror, infiltration by a love life, vague memories, eventually a shimmering lake of forgetting, all ensue. In my old age, upon me now, I know I shall soon forget this story, too, as well as much else in my life heretofore, as part of this story’s deadliness. This story is horrific because it deadens the brain, turns one’s face to the wall.

  14. A CHANGE OF SCENE by Nina Allan
    “He looks like a merman, I thought. I could feel myself blushing.”
    Despite being entranced by this novelette’s style flowing through the reading eyes like pure silk; compelled by its page-turning quality; made to feel easy with the traditional tone of its holiday breakaway of two well-characterised widowed friends from Liverpool Street Station (no doubt passing through Colchester on their way) to a small North Norfolk seaside place with a believable ambiance; absorbed by the two ladies’ backstories skilfully conceived and so resonant with the Widower and his ‘friend’ in the Wehunt story, backstories of lovelessness, jealousy and feminine stoicism; captivated by the visionary conjuring of the wayside church and its murals that are more like Bosch than Claude pastorals; yes, despite all these positive constituent things, I was less convinced by its eventual gestalt of an overarching backstory as a creepily ‘strange’ outcome of the novelette’s hindsight resolution or denouement. It thus teetered, for me, upon the cusp of an enjoyable workmanlike ghost story and a new inspiring classic ‘Strange Story’.

  15. THE BOOK THAT FINDS YOU by Lisa Tuttle
    “I’m not sure when and why it changed.”
    I shall need to treat this story as the quirky coda to this fine symphonically Aickman-tributary of a book. The book that found me. This story is as if, in an alternate world, Aickman’s life and career as a writer is presented slightly off-kilter by this telling of an American lady who is empassioned by this writer’s rare strange books she finds, and then by her travelling to London as a sort of pilgrimage in his honour, her creepy encounter in a second hand bookshop, and, in tune with the previous stories, much talk of relationship twists where people don’t seem to stay married as long as the couple did in the Wehunt story…
    I only wish I could find a certain book written by this alternate world Aickman, the one that has Surrealist automatic writing in it.
    imageThis book as a whole is a delight, truly worthy of its connection with Aickman. And I don’t say that lightly.
    These authors seem to be upon the fulcrum or cusp of the act of automatically writing with the preternatural power of Aickman within them and of simply writing their own diverse stories in his tradition. The creative tension between these two phenomena has produced a number of masterpieces in their own right and an overall communal gestalt that is stunning.
    I may be wrong but this is possibly the first multi-authored anthology of explicitly Aickman-connected stories that have deliberately been put together as such with his name in its overall title. If so, it is certain to make literary history. Deservedly so, as it happens.
    Cover artwork: Yaroslav Gerzhedovich
    Cover design: Vince Haig

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Romances of the White Day

Romances of the White Day

A real-time review by Des Lewis


Stories by John Howard, Mark Valentine and Ron Weighell
in the Tradition of Arthur Machen.

Sarob Press 2015

I have just received this book as purchased from the publisher.

All links above are to my previous real-time reviews upon the subject.

I intend to conduct a real-time review of this book and, when I do, it will be in the thought stream found below or by clicking on the title of this post.

13 thoughts on “Romances of the White Day”

  1. THE FLOOR OF HEAVEN by John Howard
    1. Meditation in the Streets
    “He had not wanted to give her cause for any sorrow. As he continued walking Snow realised he had never asked her name.”
    The first section of this novelette has fully gripped me by the London Adventure lapels and I want this tantalisation to last as long as possible before continuing to read it. I sense this work is something special, special even from this its author whose work I have grown to relish more and more over a number of years now. It has the rhapsodic mystic undercurrents to London of endless suburbs radiating from the city centre, as Snow is invited to attend a party in an unknown part of this London, a party held by a long lost friend who is about to get married. The journey is evocatively conveyed, and I feel in my bones that the story itself expected the main happenings within it to involve this friend of Snow. But the story is waylaid, as Snow is also waylaid, waylaid by a church in the vicinity of the friend’s house, and a woman who helps him on his way, after giving him some unusually refreshing water. The friend’s party then becomes just a passing event.
    I don’t intend to itemise the whole plot from this point onward, other than that Snow yearns to meet the woman by visiting the church again. However, its area of London remains mysterious – and unknown to most atlases and mapbooks that he seeks out, except one…
    Not helped by the intervening years and the London Blitz.
    You’re on your own now with the storyline of this novelette, although I do intend to report back from time to time on the page below.

  2. 2. The Way to the City
    “They always seemed slightly distracted, as if searching;…”
    An Ackroyd sense of London as a living character, here in fiction, thus somehow de-fictionalising it toward truth? I am eking out – savouring – this text. And, like one of the leading characters, I, too, am imbued, in this second symphonic movement of expended time, with London, but the character himself is writing about it, semi-professionally photographing its fast-vanishing bits, post-Blitz, at a time when you can still spend shillings. He is beset with a church tower’s ‘gothic mirage’ that brings to mind at least a feel of L.A. Lewis, and with adventurous escapades concerning a rare atlas, involving a woman and man in a rare part of London, escapades as if from ‘Three Impostors’. But I am mainly struck with the sense of inscrutable or distracted men hanging about hereabouts, in and out of reality, almost importuning me… Making me feel an elusive allusion I can’t quite grab amid the illusionary leitmotifs of the eventual gestalt I’m striving to reach.

  3. 3. The Wonders That Lie
    “The whine of the mower, the smell of the cut grass, the bright figures sitting on the benches–”
    The third movement, an era where shillings have gone and the Internet arrived, and our hero (a palimpsest of three such inter-narrative, almost reincarnative, atlased-out ‘heroes’) has again been ‘waylaid’, now by redundancy… Where the ‘Art of Wandering’ through an equally palimpsested London takes on a new and unique slant that will last as long as Machen’s own slant in our minds, I guess. Highly haunting, such as the L.A. Lewis like Tower, or Samuels’, a mystic brightness set against darkly Blitzed modernity. An unrequited sense of male importuning set against feminine wiles to steal back what was lost, but which chapter or movement is the Impostor, or all three are? London as Heaven’s Floor. Or Flaw? Whatever, do change what you wear on your feet when you walk on it, I say.

  4. I now note that, after their respective stories, the three authors in this book seem to give a short essay about their connection with Machen – or so I assume without properly reading these essys. I shall not read them, in fact, until finishing my real-time review of the authors’ fiction.

  5. EXCEPT SEVEN by Mark Valentine
    Pages 37 – 56
    “But to be accounted an author, more, an artist, a philosopher even, I must draw out some motif, some profound essence.”
    imageAnd as Melchior does, so do I upon him, with this review. His ‘fictional’ notes whence I need to draw out a motif, a gestalt even, are thus, I sense, not fiction at all. Ostensibly, this is a disarmingly ornate traditional tale, with sedge and church carvings &c. &c., academic research, eccentricity, exegesis of Genesis, a tale located upon the cusp of England-Wales, upon the darkly ancient edge, too, of Romano-Britain, when King Arthur and Demons and the Devil’s helpers were later spoken of, by we later generations, as living still. We learn of these men of the present day, men with surnames like Verrall, Melchior and Nightcap, in this John Cowper Powys world of puckishly pastoral and mystic ‘deep lanes’ that effectively exist today, if only in our minds. Machen, even, as well as Powys.
    Melchior (the narrator) visits his friend Verrall at this genius loci, and unlike in this book’s previous story, he is not waylaid into a different story, since he perseveres with the dangerously cosy-feeling journey towards his friend who is to be a major character, too, I guess, with dark resonances behind his hospitality. And a woman’s later recitation of Taliesin, perhaps unfitting for a Christian church, due to take place, with the Parson himself called Nightcap present…
    Now rushing back to the tale’s beginning, I need to recall that this whole thing ignites with Melchior’s ‘chance coincidence’ discovery of a magazine called Seven, and its retrocausal conjuring of this tale in his mind. A tale he has already lived. Moonlit croquet, too?
    The language is immaculate and Powys-poetic, without being difficult. As before, I shall try to eke it out, savour its olden timbres in my modern brain, before proceeding to its second half.

  6. Pages 56 – 69
    “Would you be willing to ‘read’ one of his books?”
    As I usually try to do with what I have called these my ‘preternatural’ book reviews, I read this story as well as ‘read’ it in the sense meant by the story itself. “I no longer tried to lunge at the meaning of the words but let them rise from me with all their mystery.” A reader of a book often reads aloud to imaginary others from within himself.
    It is more Powys than Machen, I feel, but Machen nevertheless, and something else altogether, “a cone of utter otherness”, a cone zero, plus six with the reader making seven. Upon the various cusps of place, religion, historical time, of pottery with poetry.
    Valentine has managed to bring something to us between the precarious margins of tributary floridness and distinctively sublime texture, enhancing our appreciation of sumptuously imaginative literature in cusp with real or meaningful ecstasis.
    “Yet we live by myths and symbols. And who changes those, changes all.”

    Pages 75 – 85
    “To books that never were.”
    Factored in with Valentine’s Nightcap and this author’s own Weighell, we are now introduced to Midnight, Adam Midnight aka by his real name, someone triangulated by several coordinates intriguingly summoned through fictional gossip, his own artistic output, dubious or salacious or darksome connections spoken of by others in truth or exaggeration, an artist whose work crossed the line, such as the eponymous and reconditely discovered illustration for which the narrator bid at an auction until beaten by someone willing to pay sky high for ridding the world of its existence, an illustration connected with an item from Machen’s own real or imaginary bibliography…. And talk, too, of his most frightening Giacometti stick man made from ready-mades and white marble…

  8. Pages 85 – 95
    “I had lived out my favourite opening to a story.”
    The Narrator’s pursuance of the gestalt of Midnight via the darkmotifs of his own narration seems to become a veritable orgy of references in these middle pages, such as some apocrypha to ‘The White People’ that are more real than the story itself, themes and variations on Poe, MR James, a CASian style at times, a painting as if by HPL and arcane book lists as if HPL himself had forgotten his own list and concocted a real one for Weighell to give to his narrator, and art allusions galore, plus a real lady musician connected in more ways than one with circumstances of the eponymous illustration, and music that transcends even that of Erich Zann, I guess, and you may think this is an overbearing mishmash, but it isn’t. It becomes, for me, an avant garde happening or cut-up or installation of text convincingly masquerading as audit-trailed Decadent Literature of the old school. Scarily, thus. No mean feat.
    No chance to eke out or savour, now.

  9. Pages 95 – 107
    “Strangely, someone had marked the loose stones with the initials A.M. ”
    I ‘am’. An “is” State, spreading, spreading. The words now exponential with not even any longer a pretence of linearity, but still artfully disguised as conservative Horror Fiction, while its own Doll’s House, inside the reader’s head, swelling out the skullbone, smashing icons and statues alike, expanding, destroying the familiar references that seasoned Horror readers like me have loved. Out-ligottianising ligottian. Nature’s ready-mades. Running rampant. Rampage of references. The middle pages were comparatively mild, in hindsight. And now it has become a unique way to create from literature a nightmare’s own nightmare.
    Still, it ends ‘gnomic'; indeed the lady composer IS once described with this word, as I sometimes AM ‘stilted’, too. It is as if that Erich Zann of a lady has created a disarming coda to her Weighellish symphony of radio noise. The narrator crossed the Severn Bridge after all to reach her, to become her.
    The three excellent stories in this book are quite different variations on the theme of Machen, as much as Machen had many variations of himself.

Monday, May 18, 2015

BIG BROTHER - Summer 2015


Aaron Frew, Adjoa, Amy & Sally, Chloe, Cristian, Eileen Daly, Danny Wisk, Harriet Jackson, Jack The Pie Face, Joel Tory, Kieran, Nick Henderson, Sarah, Simon.

My own comments from HERE in answer to Marion's reports of Big Brother goings on shown at that link... over 720,000 hits...

May 12: I simply don't believe Big Brother has started tonight for the whole Summer! Recording it rather than staying up late, as I intend to continue doing. Apparently it's the biggest sensation ever this opening episode, with a massive twist. Never been attempted before.

May 13:  Thanks, Marion, for such a fulsome summary and aide memoire of names. In fact, most of the housemates seem like characters from a horror film to me, horrifically brash, disturbing and in your face, except, paradoxically, for Eileen Daly who is genuinely acting a part entailed by involvement in the vampire and horror genre where, I understand, she is quite well known. Indeed, I thought many of the HMs unfortunately seemed on the borderline of being in Celebrity Big Brother rather than in this commoners' version. If I had to choose anyone for immediate eviction it would have been Simon. So that's good.
May 14: Marion says - "First impressions count, they say. I have mine of the HMs and the HMs have theirs of one another."
And, off the wall, I wonder if they have their first impressions of me!
Another very useful summary again, Marion. Thanks. The pussy lady stood out for me, and strangely Jack did, too. Where have I seen him before?
I think I am going to like Nick, which is again strange, as he is someone whom I should dislike! Eileen, too.
The others, despite Marion's wonderful efforts, are still a bit of a mishmash for me.
May 15: Some encouraging comments, there, Marion, for some of the HMs. You are an empathic viewer.
I actually found most of the evening quite wearing, even obnoxious, with their half-forced confessions and their inchoate attempts at establishing themselves or pairing off.
PS: thanks for the illustrated heads-up on pie face.
May 16: Indeed, Marion, I wonder whether this group, other than perhaps Eileen, will be able actually to stand the pace and the gut-wrenching time bombs etc. Just as one example, Cristian seems mentally unstable. Harriet acted hysterically, not show, but real hysteria. And Nick indeed shrivelled before our very eyes. As a hothouse experiment of human nature, BB is digging in the knife deeper and deeper, and I am not sure I approve, even as a writer and student of the horror and literary arts - and their 'synchronised shards of random truth and fiction' that BB best and worst demonstrates.
Jack was right. His decision was a no brainer. It would have been the same for anyone.
May 17: Wonderful report, Marion. You should be writing this for a National Newspaper. I am now getting to be able to connect names with behaviours and faces.
I'm expecting Eileen to bring poltergeists into the house with her Ouija board. More tormented spirits due to arrive? And I loved the way she tried to eat her biscuit.


May 17: Marion wrote: But maybe Aileen has the cunning to be original...
She should have!
May 18: Although I am enjoying Marion's reports, I am finding most of these HMs mostly nauseating this year. Unlike in previous years, I can't envisage them improving and/or becoming interesting. The average age is far too low. Or am I becoming jaundiced? Perhaps someone other than Marion or myself will also comment on this?
The only saving grace is Eileen (with an E not an A).
May 18: Marion wrote: There is hope..
Indeed. :)
BTW, I shall have to comment on the next two shows together the day after tomorrow.

May 20: And now watched last night's... can't add anything to Marion's exhaustive report and the Judgement of Paris painting...
On which cue, I took to looking at the screenshots of each painterly tableau of characters as they arose, with green hood, mock shock, configuration of stance and counter-stance, body language, each a frozen acrylic or oil or water-colour. And I found these images very relaxing, cohesive, harmonic, sometimes provocatively clashing colour with colour, facial expression set against facial expression, garment with garment - each tableau on studied pause, without the aggravation or interruption of their silly chatter.

May 21: Although the incessant screaming gave me a headache, this was indeed a classic BB Horror task. A Ghostwatch experience in a modern TV reality show setting, laced with Ligottian dolls, one of which bled at the eyes. PS: It was a Ghostwatch *like* experience for me, although they probably didn't intend this. And, however good it was, there was, of course, no possibilty of it being in the same league as the original Ghostwatch that frightened me so much all those years ago!

May 22: Still a crowd that does little to inspire me, I'm afraid. And BB's double-dealing - with one person ending up responsible for a whole shopping task, despite all the effort that the others put into it, is despicable and not very entertaining.
But Marion's reports do compensate for any lack of inspiration or entertainment otherwise. But, frankly, these Hms and BB itself often do not warrant such attention. They need to up their game to deserve Marion.
May 23: Yes, it is beginning to shape up, Marion, not least due to your own efforts here in cohering through real-time the HM leitmotifs into a House Gestalt. But it is shaping up in itself, too, and I appreciated last night's summary and eviction. My favourites are Kieran and Eileen (her interesting face upon a strangely carved head). Joel and Nick are interesting, but not my sort in the normal course of life.
May 24:  Joel's bingo caller persona was indeed a bit embarrassing. LIke on Blue Peter, something he prepared earlier.
Interested in his earlier arguments on politics. Harriet on careworker wages had a good case but she failed to make it by swearing.
The luxury banquet that Jade was allowed to organise - staple BB stirring things up. A déjà vu of years gone by since we started watching BB for TTA forum in 2004.
Nick as Jade's teddybear? Well, Eileen took the stuffing out of that situation!
May 25: Other than the 'Ghostwatch' task all the tasks have been petty silly, and also the various youthful agonisings have been agonising for me!
Still, Nick is indeed an interesting ultra-motivational character. Without him or Eileen this series would be sad dead meat.
Where are the Illuminati? The Pyramus and Thisby of yore?
May 26:  Discussing situations about situations about situations, and thousands watching also discussing (if fleetingly) these situations somewhere along each spectrum of their inter-connecting situations. Everyone in the House seems to be talking with slowed-down drawls, as if the world is speeding past them, a world touching base with them once a night for an hour. By the time we the world get to the end we shall be hearing nothing but phonemes as groans stretching longer and longer, instead of words.
May 27: A lot of hiding, ear-wigging and scampering feet. This whole show has become a set of selfies as a social media version of a Midsummer Night's Dream. All these people, except possibly Eileen, have never had pre-Internet minds, and it shows.
Again BB shows them the supposedly secret nominations from the diary room. That makes a mockery of the whole game and has done for a number of years now.
Also, as the years have gone by, HMs have become 'knowing' contestants with a lifetime's hinterland of watching BB and its dark arts.
I do agree that Jade is probably becoming the most interesting character, but that doesn't mean I like her!
Still waiting for the dreaded showmance!
May 28: I despair, too.
But I was inspired by your 'heirloom' post, Marion. In that I am not alone. And more.
Sadly, too, the Preinternet mind is the Preterite mind...
Jade seems to be the catalyst this season. She reminds me of a blend of Helen and Ashleigh. See my post here last year: ... -or-faith/ together with its comment stream.
May 29: Yes, Marion a clean slate is needed. A new set of HMs.
Also Jack was saying things to Nick about his deadly secret that I feel warrants his eviction as BB set the strict rule against his even *hinting* at his secret: a transgression that would entail his expulsion.
May 30: What a mess, last night!
The best part was the design I spotted on their toilet door...

May 31: Not sure that it was staged more than it ever is. Marc is a genuine Horror character that I find more horrific than anything in or out of Horror Films. He's like a branded fatted-out cyborg, with cartoon-glinting teeth to match. His brain primed for Self-Termination once he's Terminated everyone else in the vicinity. Harry and Simon, his unwitting clownish cohorts arrived with him in this New Tempest thrown into the Island House by BB. Jade the jaded moll who loves and hates her man Marc. Danny the reluctant hero trying to stand his ground on behalf of Sméagol Pieface (Caliban?) and the others. Eileen as a sort of female Prospero (or Sycorax?); she needs to get her wand out and magick everything better.

June 1: I ageee that Joel was very good as an interviewer. A man to watch. A future PM?
Marc is at the other end of the spectrum. He is a phenomenon of sheer bravado acting OR of pure evil. Probably a counteractive blend of both. Not that I'm going to rerun the show to check, but I got the impression that it was a real flashing not a hand. Jade certainly believed the former. If it was the former, it is a sackable offence, so perhaps Marion is right.
We saw the vulnerable sides of Jade and Simon in the DR. I shall give them the benefit of the doubt, that they weren't *knowingly* acting, although parts of them probably were.

June 2: There is something insidious about the house now. Before it was merely naive.
Surely Marc broke the rules when telling Eileen what he thought about her being nominated. It made it obvious that he was not one of the two deciding. He should be up for eviction, now.
Nick and Harry - not so much a showmance as an innocence engulfed. Just one of the items of collateral damage in SHOWBIZ!

June 3: I agree with above, and beautifully put as a whole, Marion. You continue to spoil us as well as them.
Eileen was particularly strong last night. What a face and demeanour!
Not so keen on the Full Monty scene. When did our civilisation start having hired hard strippers at parties?

June 4: I really lost the plot last night so I am really grateful for Marion's alpha report for all beta BB viewers like me. At least I am not a gamma viewer. Yes, YOU, whoever you are, reading this as a lurker. :)

June 5:  "As time ticks by ... be prepared for very offensive language, adult themes, nudity, sexual antics and aggressive confrontations."
The recurrent voiceover (four times a day every day) will become a sound-icon for our age.
If anyone saw Marc last night in silver devil-mask and horncase will remember what I said earlier when he first walked into the BB House:
"Marc is a genuine Horror character that I find more horrific than anything in or out of Horror Films. He's like a branded fatted-out cyborg, with cartoon-glinting teeth to match. His brain primed for Self-Termination once he's Terminated everyone else in the vicinity."
I agree, meanwhile, with Marion about the Spoiler choice between Eileen and Joel. :(

June 6: Well, what a detailed report! Thanks, Marion.
I particularly agree with what you say about Simon's snakery, Eileen's striking aquiline grace and dignity, Harry's ill-advised Naturism or dangerous Health & Efficiency...
Despite Marion's wonderful efforts, I'm afraid this is, so far, the least satisfactory Big Brother ever.

June 7: I agree that last night's task was a good one. A sign that BB is not completely bereft of inspiration this year.
I also liked the cease-to-exist brown paper bag for the head. I often use one myself.
I sense Marc is another of those professional Reality TV catalyst-needles that are injected into dead bodies to awaken them. Perhaps not so intrinsically 'evil' as I first thought. Just doing a job for which he has been hired. A Big Hit Man. I still think he is half Machine, half CGI, though.
(Later)  Marion wrote: Marc is neither here nor there when we're on the verge of the Ketchup Wars. This could get messy!

Goodness, Marion. Do you know something I don't.
June 8: Time to ketchup with last night's action.
Joel's pee in the sink will come back to haunt him, I guess. But I can think of worse backstories.
Someone said last night that Marc is not a human being. They must have been reading my comments here. I'd add that whatever he is, it is even worse than a human being, and that's saying something. (So, Joel was judging him on the wrong gauge of assumed humanity when later half-praising him in the DR).
Jack is far too inchoate in his bitter intensity about being wronged for him to be a likely eventual winner, as the others seem to believe. Needs kinder ketchup on his pieface.
Simon continues to slither from one faux pas to another.

June 9: Yes, BB is getting its way. All the action is from the new HMs. And Health and Efficiency Harry is almost as nauseating as Marc. This has become a nightmare's own nightmare. I can cope with nightmares, but you have to draw a line in the mock grass lawn somewhere. BB can't keep upping the stakes each season, without the whole concept imploding.

June 10: Agree with most of that, Marion. What a forensic examination of a horror of our times.
Marc represents of course the being that IS a spreading State of Nonsense and untamed Iconoclasm and so-called Fun. But Harry, too, needs careful scrutiny, judging by her facility to inhabit a body that also becomes ugly by over-exposure, despite no doubt being a shape of classic beauty in many eyes beforehand. She actually became a zombie yesterday, and her whole face and body seemed to shrink, and all other emotions left the face, speaking mechanically as if it did not own up to any emotions, emotions negative OR positive, about BB itself, about the other HMs. It was probably the most dreadful thing ever seen on TV in the guise of being the reality of a person now drained. In fact it was a husk that went beyond depression into non-existence. The question remains: was that 'thing' something to be pitied or feared?
Nick is more her 'familiar' than a reluctant Lothario. (I spotted him last night briefly picking his nose and then putting it in his mouth.)

June 11: Yes, Harry, seems to have moved a hand down her wan empty face and, like a magician, reveals a smiling one. Good to see. And thankfully kept the rest of herself covered up. Her flaunting Naturism normally does her otherwise bodily beauty no favours.
Marc marches on. A ruthless mercenary soldier in the celebrity wars.
(Later) Marion wrote: As for covering up. perhaps BB has warned her against causing earthquakes and angering the ancestral spirits of Boreham Wood.
Well, you may joke... ;)
BTW, up to 731,000 views on this thread. There seems to be an increase of about 1000 each day at the moment.
But all lurkers seem to be wearing Sam's cease-to-exist brown paper bag.
June 12: This is how all MARCh Hares end up:
What's the betting that Marc will be voted tonight into the secret room?
Saw more of Cristian last night. He's still an also-also-ran among a house of also-rans.
Marion, you mention Harry's 'boyfriend and girlfriend'. But she refers to the latter as 'wife', someone for whom she would die, if need be, I gather.
Jade mentions knowing Marc when she was 18 and then fell in love with him. This is a small self-incubating crawling seedbed, these would-be TV reality celebrities, isn't it?