Saturday, March 31, 2018

All The Fabulous Beasts – Priya Sharma

17 thoughts on “All The Fabulous Beasts – Priya Sharma

  1. I read and reviewed the first story a year ago and below is what I wrote about it in that context here:
    where it was the last story!
    The Crow Palace
    “That’s where I found her, a jay perched on her back. It looked like it had pushed her in. That day the crow palace had been covered with carrion crows; bruisers whose shiny eyes were full of plots.”
    Full of plots, say, from the Malik and Littlewood, the choosing between chicks, whether up or down, or, as here, in or under? The counted Corvids of McGuire and the absorbing or being absorbed of O’Driscoll.
    This story about twin sisters, one special needs through physical illness, like Littlewood’s underchick. And McGuire’s. The death of the sisters’ mother, quoted above. And now the story’s story proper, the death of their Dad, when the sisters are older and at least one of them tellingly greyer. The funeral guests. And the story being built from the past and what may have happened. The business-like narrator is the healthy sister-chick and has to endure the unwanted clinging of her boy friend whom she then ditches by phone, whilst later she is given Llewellyn’s version of hedonistic erotic (tantamount to mindless) penetration in the garden by someone from the funeral, happening near the Crow Palace, that structure Dad built for the birds. The other, the special sister, still oblique. We gather more about them both before they do themselves…. the whole backstory seemingly given to us, but, for me, with the seemingly reliable narrator, as in the O’Driscoll, now as unreliable or, even, maddened as you need her to be to reconcile truth with fiction: as to which is which chick? Even who the narrator and whom the narrated? (The word ‘chick’ used as in the Littlewood story.) And finally who is impregnated and with what, eventually to hatch and fly?
    “Coins and bottle tops. Odd earrings. Screws. Watch parts. The tiny bones of rodents, picked clean and bleached by time. I used to have a collection of my own, the crows left us treasures on the crow palace in return for food.”
    And there are many other such lists in this work. In this book, too. Lists and connections, some more real than they at first seem, whether intended or not. Keys and secrets. With a tutelary bird’s nurturing wings around this book, enabling those within it to hatch, then to fly as one.
    “I know there’s more chance that the Liver birds will fly than of me leaving here.”
    From the earlier birds above with black feathers, here I visit a para-Liverpool in a way that my cat’s meat man Blasphemy Fitzworth worked the streets of Victorian London. Here it’s Tom with cry of “Ra Bon! Ra Bon!” amid recognisable scousers, even the Philharmonic pub I visited in recent years. Trans-time Tom it achronically seems, other bodily things, too, perhaps. Here the Liver in Liver birds, is one of such items as the liver itself or kidney or piece of skin that the Peels want for nefarious or queer medicine amid riot threats and trade disputes and oppression of the fleshy masses. Tom is such a contracted carrier, and the plots and machinations are addictive reading, making you feel you can’t leave, here, too. At least in one piece. A language to match, cloying but thrill narrative. A rat gnawing your toes. A Priya story that might say to itself: “Oh, to wield so much power that you don’t have to exert it.” Meanwhile, I am on the side of the masses.
    “A game of Rock, Paper, Scissors was frank porn.”
    A story obsessed with perfect hands as erogenous, and their flensing. Ultimately shocking, but seasoned with codes of remembering the parts of the hands in human biology – as well as in palmistry, always a mystery. Or is Sam more obsessed that even the story itself pertains? It’s just that match-making – like bringing a sister along to meet someone at a dinner party – actually takes on a new meaning here within even a smaller group! Begs some questions, though, that will delightfully nag at you. And relates tellingly to the previous story’s hints of grafting after trading parts. But I was particularly impressed by the plot’s earlier obliquely subtle signalling of the later plot by reference to the ‘Richard of York’ mnemonic bringing colour to the woman’s face. (My boyhood version of that mnemonic was always ‘ROY Got Bashed In Vienna.’)
  4. EGG
    “I read her Machiavelli and Chomsky; I play her Debussy and Chopin.”
    Debussy died 100 years ago today. Also today’s the birthday of my late father. Debussy composed a piece called Syrinx that my son has often played on the flute. Syrinx somehow seems appropriate to this story, fusing more than one of its meanings. It is a sad story. I was highly moved by it. It tells of woman suffering from endometriosis (a condition that has blighted the life somewhat of someone else in my family) and she seeks ways and means of motherhood. I do not wish to further adumbrate her methods and the result. Or her daughter’s wishbone and the decision to be made about it. It is seriously charged material. I was thankfully and significantly inspired by the story’s ending, however. A landmark read for me. Fiction made religion, although somewhere in the story, I recall, there is an ironic mention of religion made fiction!
  5. I read and reviewed the next story in January 2014, and below is what I wrote about it the context here:
    The Sunflower Seed Man by Priya Sharma
    “…sheltering in his groin.”
    I was wondering why I feel urged to find a gestalt or a meaning beyond meaning – and indeed this story of a nuclear one child family involving the touching treatment of the death of the husband and then the arrival of some Jack ‘beanstalk’ sunflower monster from the seeds he left behind is genuinely frightening as a straight horror tale and, if you can actually envision it happening, even more frightening. But then I thought of Pip the wife as a sort of seed name, the sunflower seeds, and the seeds around the testicles and then the very thought of the biblical umbilical ‘child’, the crow, the mule, the pig from the previous texts, and it becomes even even even more frightening by implication.
  6. I read and reviewed the next story in April 2012, and below is what I wrote about it in the context here:
    “Nothing in this world fits together quite right.” (24 Apr 12 – 8.25 pm bst)

    The Ballad of Boomtown – Priya Sharma
    “I stand on the threshold of the past.”
    On this very day, the UK has officially entered a double-dip recession: and Adam Smith (once author of ‘The Wealth of Nations’) resigns his position so as to create a political firebreak. And this story is a symptom of our era’s enduring financial  f**kbubble: here now taken literally as a bubble crime of both passion and omission, a crime that brings down retribution upon  the story’s female protagonist even from those mythic beings (The Three Sisters) who should support her.  With which I feel emotional empathy.  Like the first story, we have roots to and as well as from the past, turning ‘pastilential’ just as human motives and yearnings are subsumed by entropy. But where does entropy start, when does it end? Towards another ‘cold sore’-type of facial condition from the first story, & we are stirred by the effective prose that has its own roots in the paper on which the text is stained like tiny articulate shadows.  Here we truly inhale shadows. In the previous two stories, shadows inhaled shadows, perhaps. Then a bird, now an owl or horse.  Although humanity always reaches the ultimate endgame of encroaching amnesia, myths exploit a special athanasy. The Three Sisters. And tantamount to a type of Lady Macbeth, our heroine inhales the sorrow that always follows a false certainty. A debt crisis of the soul. Like starting to build a housing estate in the more positive sectors of a cycle only to be aborted by the boom’s busting…here evocatively conveyed.  And she will herself be turned to stone, no doubt, rooted to the earth’s core: potentially  becoming her own myth: a myth towards which future women  might return or seek out again and again through each feminine cycle of existence, an existence that is actually created by means of the thing that such existences originally  incubated (a thing that in this story is also seen to be unwelcome and invasive depending on context or consent), a thing that the woman here also brings into being by desperately (mindlessly?) unravelling a man’s belt (compare and contrast the almost  autonomous phallus in the first story). Just inferring. A great story, even without  such inferences.  Cycles of passion, as well as cycles of finance, set against the eternity of myth. Boom and big bang. (25 Apr 12 – 2.35 pm bst)
    “Something was missing from this nether, neither world.”
    A sort of Ghostwatch TV programme turns gory with this book’s sometime bodily sense of flensed calligraphy or surgical graffiti, and Martha, tutored originally by those already passed, now possessed by them, her mother Iris and sister Suki, and somehow, while lacking their medium skills, exceeds them, as the camera and TV politics of showmanship explore a cellar bar that was once a cruel prison. A tale with the heft of touching distances, I guess. Neither here nor there, but both as real as each other. With blade-nicked names named.
    “I wanted you to see the water. It’s just like your eyes.”
    A modern urban story with elements of Greek mythology and with a miscegenative affair that makes this 2012 story the perfect accompaniment for the recent film ‘The Shape of Water’. Pearls of Priya. With the fabulousness of beasts.
  9. I read and reviewed the next story in January 2015 and below is what I wrote about it in the context here:
    The Absent Shade by Priya Sharma
    “…no idea just how important, how long a shadow those days would cast.”
    You will need to read this original and charming Charwoman’s Shadow tale of tea and Proustian cakes, in order to see quite how clever the words in that quote from it actually are. This is a sinuous, sometimes sexual text interweaving a boy and the boy as man, within the striking ambiance of Hong Kong, with jealousies of women as mistresses and servants, as well the boy’s with mother and father and the one who taught him to cast independent silhouette shapes upon the walls of time. A telling tug upon the fast-vanishing tail of one’s otherwise slowly fleeting life, or a tug upon that of others. As in the previous story, we believe there is always something to hang on to.
    “I’m going to hell when I die and it’ll be Sandbach Motorway Services. What was once a beacon of convenience for modern travellers is now a carbuncle.”
    When I first read that bit, I misread ‘beacon’ as ‘bacon’! Also, as perhaps intended by the author, I wrongly assigned the Peter (referred to by Cheryl the narrator as ‘you’) to quite a different and real Peter… in fact, it is a dysfunctional story, in an effective way, about Cheryl’s dysfunctional life and family, from the 1970s up to the present, but mainly the 1980s, not in a linear way, but dotted about, but the trend and the ultimate outcome become clear – and clearly devastating, at that. A story of a place around Sandbach, its people, a place also as a symbol of many of our lives amid social change and inborn intellectuality deprived. And sudden crimes of passion. And moments of young passion, too, in fitful starts. From analogue records with hiss to digital, under a Cloud. (Bosley).
    This book migrates its dreamcatch or haul from earlier flaying and flensing towards, here, an act of filleting fish. It is the sea-steeped story of another Peter, with whom a fishing life’s random chances of good and ill smashed his leg but brought to him — on tantamount to the next tide and to his small fishing community — the beauteous slow-drawn nakedness of Marianne. She chose Peter. And I see this story as another of barrenness sorrow, earlier in this book caused by endometriosis, here perhaps a sorrow assuaged by the eventual mutual donning masquerade of the mer-ry and the fishtailed. There is always, I guess, another means of dressing for partnered sex, keeping it fresh, despite that sorrow. Also a constructive synergy with some stories by Caitlín R Kiernan I reviewed recently. That slippery gestalt with vestigial gills like ears. The fabulousness of beasts. And a further shape of water.
    “Don’t close your mind to the idea that beneath what we know there’s a whole world that we can only guess at. There are things in life that we know that we don’t understand. The real danger is the stuff in the blind spot that we don’t know even exists.”
    Another flotsam birth like Marianne, here a belated ‘secondary drowning’ by the lungs’ own tenure of a near-drowning’s diminution, as we follow Cariad in her career in Accident and Emergency, the acceptability of wounds that otherwise horrified us in this book’s earlier flensing and flaying, but here the damage is more mental amid the onward rush and diminished resources of such Casualty situations that can so easily allow through the odd lethal mistakes, and then in her Welsh home, one such self-blame comes back to haunt her, along with the terrifying sea itself. Being half-Welsh myself, the story’s scenic ambiance is re-invoked by an easily missed observation of story’s symptom towards its end: the sometimes seemingly random letters of the language my forebears once spoke, now an algebra of meanings that “rearranged themselves.” My Arosfa soon enough to become my Cartref. Cariad’s, too.
    A striking portrait, through his own eyes and the saliva sea in his mouth, of this ageing Englishman, not an Englishman with inverted commas but a genuine Englishman, from England, a man of the Indian race, widowered by a once miscegenate-considered marriage with an English rose of a wife and her family and her religion of quiet country churches. He once promised to show her India, but now too late, because she is dead, and in hindsight, this outcome is probably best. He has himself returned, however, but feeling paradoxically nostalgic for the hierarchical mœurs of India sixty years ago, absorbed now with the smells and colours and poverty and subsidal constructions, and India’s godly pantheism that parallels his own willing subsidence or subsuming within a new pantheism of self, as India claws him back, not as the shape of water, but the shape of India. Not an oxymoron so much, as a new spiritual oxygen to help him breathe when experiencing whatever fabulous realm resides within the veneer of detritus. Or its Marabar Caves.
    “, the Om that underlies the universe.”
    A simple story of honey-rapture and bees and a woman in the ripe summer of her body and her chance taking of the beekeeper’s cottage and the ‘rotten door’ leading to the orchard and the man and his ‘family’ that take her up as intrinsic to the objective-correlative of the hierarchies of a hive, with ironic reference to this book’s treatment of barrenness, now assuaged by the arrival of her singular royal ripeness. Coveny as well as hivey.
    “He wasn’t to know the ways in which I’m made for water.”
    A narrator, a dreamer of the sea and what is in it, can hold his breath for half an hour under it, a young footloose man, working in island bars, seahorses ground up for erectile dysfunction germane to his thoughts, and he is called back to a genius-loci Hong Kong where his ‘father’, if a foundling can have a father, has, on sudden death, left him their flat there and a fortune or so it is supposed. But there are other machinations, a destiny beyond these surface facts, germane to this book’s parenthood or lack of it, its now definite Shape of Water, with ‘giant wetroom’ trappings, as well as human-fish trappings, then through the previous story’s ‘rotten door’, here rotten houses on stilts, to hear “humming”, and not towards a Queen Bee but as a King of the sea to spread his now unendo seed. Having first been fed sharkfin soup, I infer. Some magnificent descriptions here, and emotions reaching beyond spirituality and sex and sea. A major work, still soughing around me.
    “There it was. The great mystery. We were synchronised. Our rhythm was primal. Tidal.”
    “So it is that serpents are reviled when it’s man that is repulsive.”
    Strange that repulsive echoes with reptiles. Reviled, too. And Bill Shankly was shamefully never made into a Sir…
    This story grows increasingly shocking as its East Enders type soap opera — of a dysfunctional family in Liverpool, with diamond rogues, their women as princesses, between prison visits — accretes in our mind, and the incestuous and weresnake implications. A chronologically non-linear patchwork backstory of itself, with slithery transformations.
  17. I see that as a workmanlike bonus work. A coda to this otherwise rapturous symphony of darkly inspiring stories with tidal flensing of emotions. Taken as a whole, an unforgettable experience from an author with half-hidden instruments of spiritual dissection emerging from between the hawling-lines of her words. Tilting at myths and legends that help float the buoys of real life.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Best British Short Stories 2012

Best British Short Stories 2012


 Series editor NICHOLAS ROYLE

 (My previous reviews of this writer are linked from HERE)


 (My previous reviews of this publisher are HERE)

Featuring stories by: Socrates Adams, AK Benedict, Neil Campbell, Ramsey Campbell, Stella Duffy, Julian Gough, Joel Lane, Stuart Evers, Will Self, Michael Marshall Smith, Alison MacLeod, Dan Powell, Jo Lloyd, HP Tinker, Robert Shearman, Jaki McCarrick, Jonathan Trigell, Emma Jane Unsworth, Jeanette Winterson.
I hope to gestalt real-time review this book over the next few months in the comment stream below…

26 thoughts on “Best British Short Stories 2012

  1. I Arrive First

    “The insides of books don’t interest me any more.”
    This wonderful story arrives first in the book, as I do, too, its real-time reviewer waiting for the messages to arrive, Ah, it’s not me, after all, perhaps, even though the book itself has now eventually arrived in a SALT mine of mine, a story about a library, its carrels as ‘catacombs’, about to close for refurbishment, a woman and man who regularly message each other with book titles they place on the table. A potential romance? But is one messaging, the other not? And do they arrive at the coffee shop coincidentally or intentionally, both or either, when the library finally closes? They did not see me sitting at one of the tables already. Wondering what they would do later when things inevitably Kindle.
  2. The Dark Space in the House in the House in the Garden at the Centre of the World

    “My mistake was to set you a law without explaining why the law was being enforced, that’s not a sound basis for any legal system.”
    This is a telling mixtape, of conversational archetypes and hatchways in a maze of well known fairy stories, like Goldilocks, Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel with a trail of apple cores, Snow White, the Genesis myth etc. etc. With a God a bit like Frankie Howard “Oh. Oh. Suit yourselves.” And a world of aspirational existence getting smaller and smaller like a series of within the within Russian Dolls Houses as agents of artifice of happiness versus real constriction and sadness as human beings. Cindy and StEve, the new Adam and Eve, the dark spaces into which they invest their sex, and get their dead babies to spend their own dead lives, say, as bank clerks. My way out is to find the optimum dark space, the dark space provided by the novels and stories I preternaturally choose to Gestalt Real-Time Review or Dreamcatch or Hawl. Makes sense to me of the Maze. Gave me a sort of epiphany, this story. Can’t ask for more. Humble ambitions, humble returns. Suits me.
    “At the very centre of the world, there’s a dark space. Don’t go to it. Don’t go. It isn’t a law. I’m not, ha, forbidding you.”
    My reviews of this author:
  3. What’s in Swindon?

    “Angela was not my first love, nor I hers; but it felt like we should have been.”
    A claustrophobic, cellular first young love between Marty and Angela, a love wrought from or around or within a poorly provided living space, Marty then still smoking…
    They split up, despite the wrought love.
    Then in Swindon…
    If I told you the circumstances, the interval between, the habits changed, the nature of Swindon, who invited whom, that would spoil everything for you.
    I just loved the idea of them both, despite their ongoing deadpan, almost unconscious despair, a feeling in one shape or another that we all sort of tend to face without fully knowing it, whether in Swindon or not, cellulite or not. But I wonder whether you can guess which one of them, if any, stayed in Swindon, that sheared-off dark space.
    Or whether they met again, under the auspices of a barista?
    “: she was naked, but not in a good way.”
  4. Alice in Time & Space and Various Major Cities

    “Historically we had entered a new era of super volcanoes and climate chaos, the American psyche was in turmoil, and a fraud of frankly massive magnitude had spread its tentacles around the globe.”
    ‘“Anyway, we all of us now live in extraordinary times. The old days have fallen into disrepute. The old ways are redundant. Nobody knows what the hell is happening any more . . .’”
    “‘But I wonder,’ I wondered, ‘if this strange meeting of ours might not be more than just mere chance. I mean, unexpected things do happen – all the time – for a variety of hugely improbable metaphysical reasons nobody actually understands. So perhaps you and I being here, together, like this, is part of some totally unfathomable higher plan . . .’”
    A variation on the theme of renewing a relationship after some while, not in a Swindon hotel, but in an extrapolated future full of literary references and witty intellectual wordplay, and for something presumably first published in 2011, remarkably prescient of the huge distance we have since travelled in 7 years, as attested by the above rather inexcusably large quotes, and references to my own gestalt preternatural approach to fiction as religion.
    And as with guns in Chekhov, we know what happens if a story features an erection.
  5. The Visit

    “Pat would make him forget. Pat could make you forget all kinds of silly woes.”
    Another renewing of a relationship with or from the past. A catharsis for Brendan. Quietly, almost painstakingly, spoken, with delicate plant names sown between, Pat’s visit to Ireland from their comradeship in London during the Troubles, such Troubles and Pat’s actions in them a legacy as obstacle for Brendan’s clear sight still apparent today, forty years later, I guess. Very well characterised men and the environs of this Irish community where Brendan lives now without really having opened his eyes upon it. An eye for an eye, or a favour for a favour?
    Today (in the story) was Clinton’s first (and last?) visit to that Irish community, a celebratory visit now seen as objective-correlative to this telling tale of a different visit. You know who I mean without using a certain word as cursory title to ‘Clinton’ in this my 2018 review of a 2011 published story, but is that word ‘President’ or ‘Hillary’?
  6. Half-mown Lawn

    “A beat of silence followed before the children whispered ‘Granny did a swear’…”
    A very touching story of sudden bereavement for Annie, Granny, and deceptively simple. You need to break an egg to make an omelette and maybe a heart to mow a lawn. The moulding between, beat to beat, is the crux.
    Astonishingly, earlier this afternoon, in a concurrent real-time review (, I wrote about a story called ‘Never the Twain’ about someone half-dying… absolutely astonishing resonance.
  7. ‘I’m the Guy Who Wrote The Wild Bunch’

    “Because she, you know, she stood out somewhat in this script, we had to rewrite a bunch of scenes to find her something to do, and she stood out among all these guys,…”
    A hilarious account via an interview by the story’s author with the co-writer (with Sam Peckinpah) of The Wild Bunch and the strictures of cinema commercialism. A cancerous growth of a feminine interest injected into a spaghetti western, later morphing for me into a sort of metaphor for fiction and the reality it traps. Or, rather, vice versa.
    If you enjoy this story, you will also enjoy the classic novel CLARK by Brendan Connell:
  8. Those Who Remember

    I am one of those who remember Joel Lane … as attested by my Joel Lane Page here:
    And I have already reviewed this story when I first read it in 2015 as part of his posthumous collection ‘Scar City’ here:
    “Opposite a new multi-storey car park, I saw the old cinema where Dean and I had gone to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when we were twelve.”
    And having just reread it, it seems to chime with this BBSS book’s previous story as well as this Lane work’s powerful rendition of the recurring attrition of the cruelty of urban poverty and that of the lack of due humanity, and the terms of buddyhood with its lethal instinctive macho interactions here as well as, now, significantly, in this book’s context, the lightsome touch of gay bravado of a new poignant wild-bunch, this time a bunch of two, with their final frozen recurring death, as embedded in that quote above. Making the Lanean attrition somehow seem even more attritional, even more powerful. Together with this new passage that I just noticed – “Like some historian said, those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. And those who remember do it anyway.”
  9. To Brixton Beach

    “Two old ladies, holding age-spotted hands.”
    Everything is beautiful from burkini to office workers to mothers dangling their kids. South London swimpool amid an urban setting that is familiar to me is made Proustian to the sound of Fauré with mainly joyful screams instead of baritones and altos. And the nature of the ending of this description of the pool and its inmates in the eyes of Charlie I dare not impart exactly here but it was cinematic and perfectly beyond reality as any reality can be made to facsimile an intrinsic beauty. A cinematic recurrency echoing obliquely the urban recurrency of Lane in the previous story. He swims there now in another city.
    But does Brixton really have such a swimpool. I dare not google it.
  10. Wide and Deep

    Other than its title (that relates to the previous story), I feel like copying out the whole of this still resonating story as my real-time review, but that would take far too long.
  11. Tarnished Sorry Open

    “, a blunder a child of ten would have spotted.”
    …that now seems to make sense, having just read the previous story.
    Meanwhile, this tale is my alternate life after university onward, but a life that starts almost the same, pubs and offices where the galaxies had not yet created themselves computers to live in, but then my life varied because other things started to happen during it, while essentially it is the same ME, stoical, slightly OCD, attritional, detached, literal-minded, immersed in CODE, supervisory and subject to others’ mistakes, a world that really existed, still exists elsewhere, and so it suddenly dawns on me that THIS is my alternate life where I’m not so literal-minded and write this in real-time about an incredibly telling tale. Pretty women and girls now vanished from draping themselves stoically all over the room, having once pined for me.
    “Music is playing from another room, so that only the bass can be heard. It is the same music, it seems to Patrick, as he used to hear from his room at university.”
  12. Aperitifs With Mr Hemingway

    “I always joked with Rose that I’d do a Hemingway if she went first.”
    There are more ways than one to skin a cat – and to do a Hemingway. Just being lean and pithy, word weighed against word, and when you get old, as I should know, it’s time to keep things simple. No more gestalt floweriness. Trigell’s Trigger means just look today’s rude young louts straight between the eyes, beyond the deadly edge, then tell yourself there is always a new hope of past beginnings sweetly primed and handleable…
  13. Sun on Prospect Street

    “, they see the straight lines running to another brick bridge, where a lad called Wayne had fallen off and ended up in a wheelchair.”
    Well caught or saved, whatever the goal, I say.
    This is a tale of Joe and Leo on the cusp of puberty spending what I once thought were endless summer holidays from school, here even more attritional, as they kick a ball about and sit by the canal under a motorway. (As an adult, I once spent a summer holiday on a narrowboat, in this story called a barge, travelling via many locks under such motorways.) But a tale tellingly stoical, too, as the boys know that one of them is leaving the area next week. And so he does. And so do we all throughout life. We even forget life’s bullies that still beset us and how they even nearly shot you into a wheelchair, too. That outcome’s for another day yet to come? Seems to be a blood brother with the previous story and this anthology’s other attritions. And Joeleo, too.
  14. The Room Beyond

    “The number on Todd’s door was dangling head down from its one remaining screw.”
    And an earlier pen nib that wrote as it were a ‘senile limb’, I recall. This story is a quaint memorable extended joke masquerading as Jacob Todd’s very disturbing rite of passage, booking into this hotel, a hotel taken to be the one he had inded pre-booked, in this old-fashioned English town that seems to be living at a decade or two before when the story is set, and the hotel is in the town Todd has not visited for fifty years, at a time when, as a boy, he visited his Aunt and Uncle (an uncle who also had jokes as well as visits to a mysterious doctor’s surgery beyond the waiting-room door when Todd accompanied him and all is magnified or made strange in that past time by Todd’s imagining future hindsight, I guess), a town where Todd is due to attend a funeral tomorrow, and another room beyond his own room in this very faulty hotel, where the receptionist and waiter (as well as his Aunt and Uncle in the past) seem to talk in quaint idioms that can be taken more than one way, although as an oldster myself, I, too, know these idioms well and can see straight through them towards the insidious meanings or untruths that might lie behind such idioms. Or behind Todd’s hotel room’s connecting room. Missing letters, notwithstanding. And any inferred surveillance. (Yesterday, I synchronously reviewed (here) a recent novella called ‘a spy in the panopticon’ with conjoining rooms connected by a spyhole and similar tropes of mysterious fumblings of discovery with codes and other hangers-on and doors and passages, otherwise a quite different plot altogether). The outcome in this story, the consecutive one in this book by someone called Campbell, is even more disturbing. But I sense it was meant as a joke. About the nature of funerals. At the end I felt as Todd did when “Todd was starting to feel as he’d felt as a child – that everyone around him knew a secret he wouldn’t learn until he was older.” Christ the Redeemer, notwithstanding.
    My previous reviews of Ramsey Campbell HERE.
  15. iAnna

    In what then, when this Self story was published, an SF extrapolation of iPads as the world itself, as two doctors discuss legacy in such scientific discoveries of medical conditions in the case of Anna and her Selfies.
    Some wonderful turns of phrase and concept, but what it brought to mind was Richard Brautigan’s ‘iDeath’ that he used in one of his 1960s ‘fiction’ works.
    Also a brilliant reversal of the body reversal in the Ramsey Campbell.
  16. The Heart of Denis Noble

    “Then his choice of pre-op music — the second movement of Schubert’s Piano Trio in E-Flat Major – seems to flow, sweet and grave,…”
    Sweet and grave. Finally ungrave, I guess. A loop of Proustian feedback. This music is as if it’s the cake dipped in tea, a Trigell trigger of Noble’s life, from the moment his heart beat within his mother, whom, like Marcel, he loved, fell in love with? Ethel, then Ella. The wartime blackout, saved by a bespoke tailoring on a Singer machine. Then, later slaughterhouse hearts to forge the Frankenstein mad scientist, the tickling of hearts with electricity, and now as founder of such procedures, that loop again, he awaits, as grandfather and classical guitarist, the final expiry of that heart of his from inside Ethel with a new transplanted heart. The heart of darkness, at last given light. Inspiring not only in itself as a feedback rapture or rhapsody of a life lived, thus still to live, but also inspiring for me by giving me perhaps the most important raison d’être yet for my ten year anniversary of gestalt real-time reviewing fiction (please forgive the long quote below)… The Northern Line journey and the trial of Lady Chatterly, notwithstanding. I learnt about the latter at school as it happened, gamekeeper and so forth, and the former was my later route to work. Not forgetting Swindon, later. A Heart’s Hawling.
    “‘Then I’ll re-phrase, shall I? A story is not an “it”. If it’s any good, it’s more alive than an “it”. Every part of a great story “contains” every other part. Every small part anticipates the whole. Nothing can be passive or static. Nothing is just a part. Not really. Because the whole, if it’s powerful enough that is, cannot be divided. That’s what a great creation is. It has its own marvellous unity.’”
  17. Pingback: The Noble Heart | DES LEWIS’ GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS Edit
  18. We Wave and Call

    “The soft wet bite of her lips, the trace of her fingers, the thin material of her skirt in your hand, the weight of her warmth against you. It was probably nothing at all.”
    …a near miss.
    After the earlier Brixton swimpool, your headily tactile swim during your summer holiday abroad with sun and bays and music clubs and restaurants, an abroad with a recent backstory of war, buildings’ war damage still merging in with the old and the now new, your holiday as a toing and froing young man half out for your oats, half lazily swimming watching the others, those other young men and young women, watching them catch the bus back to the hotel. Lazily, a near miss, a you that could have been once in a war or about to be. Nicely done, I felt I had been swimming lazily in the words of your story watching the slow pirouette of life, and the way things sometimes happen before a near miss becomes a full one. But as the MacLeod just said: nothing can be passive or static?
  19. All I Know About Gertrude Stein

    “Gertrude Stein hated commas.”
    And anything can happen but when? There is there is there is there, if not a Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose, a near miss, as in the previous story, or a direct hit, when it comes, there a drowning, here stomach cancer. Perhaps Hilary Mantel doesn’t hate commas in another volume of these anthologies; even if something coming into her body or something leaving it squawling? Something apt for today, from this story of seven years ago – “The F-words. Facebook, fucking, frigid, faking it.” Or forgiveness, it asks. Or fiction, I ask. This extrapolation of Alice B Toklas and Gertrude Stein is an amazing fiction spur for brainstorming. Women as the only vessels of love. Indeed, of proper sex, itself, as a form of modern art. Or a blue period? A parallel relationship with the narrator’s in this story, spurring further thoughts. I’d love a portrait of my loved one after that near miss became a direct hit, after she has gone there, away from here – a portrait of her on the living-room wall, especially one painted by Picasso. We could continue talking, at least.
  20. Sad, Dark Thing

    “He made the coffees in a machine that sat on the kitchen counter and cost nearly eight hundred dollars. It made a very good cup of coffee. It should. It had cost nearly eight hundred dollars.”
    When you are an ‘aimless’ writer, you tend to create longueurs and repetitions. It is the sort of thing you do. It make sense to while away the time. For you and your reader. This work has forebears in this book’s swimming and waiting for each near-miss deadpan death. The there of there, the here of here, the final comma. This tale of a man who drives aimlessly the forest roads, following makeshift signs, trying to forget the wife and daughter who left him to this now lonely, once happier terrain. And, don’t get me wrong, there is compelling suspense in this story (perhaps unintended) as we also follow the signs he follows, accompanying him, there and back again, with what he found there. And it paid me huge dividends; this story itself is a sad, dark thing.
    My previous reviews of this author: and
  21. The Last Library

    “How can you verify if something doesn’t exist? If you haven’t seen it, it might.”
    This book’s coda as the world’s last story in the world’s last book, but we know better. Because here it is. And I, for one, know books that have come out since. But I am here on the Internet, a sad, dark thing, an iDEATH, and I increasingly doubt my own existence, let alone the books I read and review. On the face of it, meanwhile, this story tells of a girl visiting the last museum with her mum and dad and a crowd of others, being guided around by an officious guide. A museum of all last things. The last painting is Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein, but of course, I may be a lying reviewer, as well as all the other things I’m called. The guide describes authors as gardeners, at one point. And the girl and a boy she meets manage to smuggle a few books before they are destroyed, and they plant bits of them. Eventually, a Lending Garden where a book is a book is a book is a book…
    My previous reviews of this author:
    Then I’ll re-phrase, shall I? A gestalt library is not an “it”. If it’s any good, it’s more alive than an “it”. Every part of a gestalt library “contains” every other part. Every small part anticipates the whole. Nothing can be passive or static. Nothing is just a part. Not really. Because the whole, if it’s powerful enough that is, cannot be divided. That’s what a great creation is. It has its own marvellous unity. (With acknowledgement to the Alison MacLeod above)
    There is always a room beyond. Wide and deep.