Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Tears for Europa – D.P. Watt

14 thoughts on “Tears for Europa – D.P. Watt”

  1. The first story was first reviewed by me here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/and-the-whore-is-this-temple/#comment-8395 as follows:-
    “You are not aroused, there is nothing erotic between you — rather a return to the innocence of skin upon skin and the nearness of other breaths mingling with your own in a fug of warmth; joined together as one being cradled within the womb of some great invisible mother.”
    Possibly the book’s clearest coda possible, clotted, too, as the book’s own theatrical prop, a cosmic jest or serious prose-textured threnody. It is THE book’s temple of thought, almost insentient, almost divine, essentially both insentient and divine through trick, outrageous coincidence, spiritual and/or hedonistic rite of passage, upon belly’s lining or soul’s effulgence. It is its own “chance meeting” with hidden yearnings. It is also my own visit last week to Prinknash Abbey (‘k’ not pronounced), a monastery where my thoughts concerned what might go on within it, where I was not allowed to go. And thinking of Ketelby as I wandered their Monastery Garden. Finzi and Gurney in Gloucester Cathedral. A flooded Holst museum in Cheltenham. The Last Word in Art, Gilbert, George, Hockney, Duchamp et al. Rococo gardens. Mazes and follies and gestalt labyrinths. InkerMen’s Book as Book.
    THE book also needs its interleaved quotations, upholstery, upHOLSTery, and artwork taken into account. One review can only go so far.
    The next story was first reviewed by me here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/the-gift-of-the-kosmos-cometh/#comment-6374 as follows:-
    “But Los saw the Female & pitied
    He embrac’d her, she wept, she refus’d
    In perverse and cruel delight
    She fled from his arms, yet he followd”
    — William Blake (The Book of Urizen)
    ‘Tis a Pity She Was A Whore
    “…and we are ready to become again.”
    Another crafted text that teems with resonant power and the rockstars of a Byronic Darkness, depicting an “ever-proliferating dock shanty” by the city’s river, where the narrator, instead of tough and evil as this place requires, suffers the ‘disease’ of using the words ‘friend’ and ‘happy’, but after befriending a suffering whore, an ostensibly different female figure leads him instead to a hardening epiphany…an eponymy once named Uriel.
    This is a remarkable work in the sense that it leads us astray, with a soul seemingly beyond the control of its narrator and freehold author that lets us down with a downrush of despair, where before we had expected the author to ensure that the narrator spread his goodness beyond himself in this evil land, as if we are made to read to the end, by some perverse imp, an imp that makes some sense, for the first time, in my experience, of the maxim that “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” The narrator and his brother, too. Even the Villa of Ormen?
    “That ominous night brought me dreams of stars — yes, Stars!”
    cf Pity the Whore, from Blackstar album!

    “, a time of restless exhaustion, rather like an unbearable summer, where one is too hot and drained to sleep, and labour in vain for some respite from the unremitting heat and discomfort.”
    Reading and reviewing this work this morning, is one such labour on my part during real-time’s unremitting heat, that seems to have lasted forever and still intends to do so. Itself a strong and powerful Proclamation this work about itself? I feel everyone will recognise it around themselves, hearing it perhaps for the first time knowing others are hearing it, too. The ‘end times’ confirmed and thus faced? Or a dread that the Proclamation about itself is worthless, because we hear beyond it!
    Silence or our own screaming that the silence reveals?
    Essential Wattage.

    “It is difficult to remove a wall without unearthing the remains of those interred for whatever reason, by whatever ruler.”
    By grog and bacca, ‘Autothysis’ is a sister word of ‘Dehiscence’, and here we have a specially nurtured narrative representative (“my cracked hands at a fat bosom”), a representative of the kept-down masses speaking to us — via the powerful, highly honed, muscular-poetic style of the freehold author — about the way Great Rulers are created to keep those masses down In a fragile-brittle order, created and then spectacularly and theatrically destroyed by autothysis as part of that very counterintuitive or Machiavellian creation. Another Proclamation, as an ever-possible Lottery or Zeno’s Paradox Tontine, for our times, I say.

    “The sad sun’s face gave to the frightened world a livid light; and in the night-time torches seemed to burn amid the stars, and often drops of blood fell in rain-showers. Then Lucifer shone blue with all his visage stained by darksome rust.” OVID, Metamorphoses, XV
    This story’s title – with headquote (above) – is perfectly in tune with last night’s breaking of many weeks of hot, dry, naked sun, with a thunderstorm and lightning, a storm that hid the Blood Moon and Red Mars we were otherwise meant to see, and now this morning my lawn is still ‘ darksome rust’, yet just enough blue in the cloudy sky to make a sailor-man’s tunic (or to make a Devil’s cravat). A sky otherwise with milky mist encroaching on the sight….
    And OVID is a VOID by another twist of life’s sickness, here depicted year by year by a narrator, who meets old friends from time to time, but gradually an attritional path downward, via dandelions (dandelions featured significantly in my reviews yesterday but I forget and can’t be bothered to check exactly where); I feel like this narrator and wonder how much longer before my own final lonely howl sounds out. But, in many ways, the style of this paean to despair by Watt is so tantalisingly and phenomenologically couched, it serves to bolster my spirits by just plain admiration of what I have been reading. Possibly the most effectively depressing passages ever written.

    “Beat. Beat. Beat.”
    Incantatory recitations adressed to you as a member of ‘we’, a series of ‘Do you remember…” prose paragraphs, as a poetic-cosmic Gaia in gestalt entropy.

    Even just one quote from this, will risk unravelling it. A series of meticulous and painstaking options as to secret making or secret keeping. In or out of mind or spirit, secrets are often autonomous creatures it seems, and this exhaustive essay has puckish, poetic prose of the highest order. It is rather special in the canons of literature, I suggest, with at least one secret ingredient that only readers of this book will find being made in it – a secret that needs to be kept in the best way possible for each reader.

    “, for a day; a day”
    You once lived a day a day to put life in. But, now, to extract it.
    I would need to quote the whole text of this most tactilely and emotionally powerful dystopic vision of the containing book’s title and its gloriously rough redness of inner cover to even scratch the surface of its effect on the reader, scratch or brutally tear it with its own built-in claws. The question is whether hope resides in its last five words or even more despair.

  8. I read and reviewed the next work of novelette length here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/darkly-haunting/#comment-10557 and below is what I then wrote about it in that context….
    If Brexit happens, we shall be required to hang famous European paintings upside down. (A quote from a review a few weeks ago.)
    Now for what was found in the Ballet Case…
    “, like I was in a cupboard while Europe falls apart…”
    In some ways, a post-Brexit SF story depicting the foul and fell repercussions some 30 years hence, without using the word Brexit at all.
    In another way, an extension of this book’s nostalgia gent-to-gent over cordial whisky factored into by the thwarted ambitions of Hughes in the form of a recurrent Zeno’s Paradox, the haunting of them like the past wars in Holman, then Insole’s cross-sections of war and Meaulnes-type literature and Fern Hill or H.E. Bates type gaia, growing into more of this book’s nagging or sometimes gossamer gestalt.
    But in essence, this is a work-on-its-own, a mesmerising tryst with the oblique power of fantasy that is generously dream-like or Sarban-like, even Blakean or Carcosan (a King in a yellow robe) so as to conjure the past and the future’s attempts to transcend it. Despite the strictures of historic Brexit, Englishman Michael lives in Dinan, in a house overlooking the mysterious, seemingly untenanted, ironically-named Maison Anglaise, a vaguely perceived house that seems to haunt him (following the telling departure of his visiting, whisky-sharing old friend David), and somehow, based on the evidence of the diary in his daughter’s Ballet Case, haunting her with its lasting, literally long-standing visions, and his wife, too. It will be hard to forget this moving and gradually grasping work. We shall all need to stand and wait.
    “In the pebbles of the holy streams.”
    Fern Hill, Dylan Thomas

  9. Soot

    “They were all marching around and around the ring, each of them slowly becoming a little more animal-like with each step of the march.”
    about the Head Circus in ‘Roll Up! Roll Up! Europa!’ first published in 2014.
    Roll up, Europa, indeed.
    My photographs as shown below relate to this work SOOT in INFRA NOIR and the words below are in the context of my 2014 review of this Mount Abraxas publisher’s utterly wonderful book with that unique overall title: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/infra-noir/

    soot by dan watt and andrzej welminski
    “The room was thick with cigar smoke.”
    This work is generously artworked – an exorcism by adoption of all that had been earlier cleaned from the hotel walls in the previous story? Actually, it is, for me, a delightfully old-fashioned Avant Garde theme and variations, with prose and washed drawings, depicting “It was a time of macabre, and maniacally mystical transformation.”

  10. “…an old woman with her hair divided in the middle, and her hair fell onto her shoulders, white on one side and black on the other. She was a very complete old woman; but, alas! she was eyeless, and when I tried to construct the eyes she would shrivel and rot in my sight.” – from ‘When I Was Dead’ by Vincent O’Sullivan
    “I am a ghost. I do not haunt.”
    A very moving refrain of “when I was dead’ in rhapsodic prose passages, a refrain to die for. A refrain, I judge, spoken by Europa herself whom we all once loved amid the poppy fields. A refrain of cruel ritual and regret with dreams of reversal as a “relic of a hope.” Will we remember Europa, other than hidden in obscure books, I ask?
    The back cover of The Ha of Ha (2011)


Monday, July 30, 2018

Interzone #276

Interzone #276


TTA PRESS Jul-Aug 2018

My previous reviews of this publisher HERE.

Stories by Paul Crenshaw, Ryan Row, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Darby Harn, James Warner, Tim Major, Rachael Cupp.
When I read this fiction, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

7 thoughts on “Interzone #276

  1. GREY HALLS by Rachael Cupp
    “The midpoint of crescendo was always more satisfying, more fluid than the beginning or end.”
    I loved this musical journey from then to now and then even further back when I once shook or punched fruit machines and watched jukebox records, with spindly middles missing, my choice picked out by a lever and laid down upon a spinning platter, paid for by hard cash. This story is a hyper-imaginative work that tells of far-future seekers of new hooks and earworms and melodies, even inchoate modernisms too modern for even today’s avant garde tastes (but not mine!), with a character who is a sexy cello woman, just as one example, and a time travel vision that makes me think why great music is not composed but gestalted or gestated from aeons, each hook and era-worm replayed and enhanced.
    The main character’s journey is his angst-ridden compositional or auditory quest, making me extrapolate whether there can possibly exist a First Mover or First Cause of a haunting melody-hook that has never been played before or even been hinted at. This story, too, arguably feels to me like a word vision that has become the original core of itself – the original template for all future such stories. Music, and indeed fiction, need not be a process like sausage-making, I say.
    My previous review of Rachael Cupp: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/rachael-cupp/
  2. SUPERBRIGHT by Ryan Row
    “He had the power to digest raw meat without getting sick.”
    And probably also to digest the age-old sausage from the previous story – but here “Spitting out mouthfuls of history onto the concrete floor of the lab like blood.” And this is an even wilder hyper-imaginative extravaganza, one of super-hero children growing up like ordinary young adults with romances and yearnings and failings and passing identities but with extraordinary powers to withstand such changes of names and bodies, amid this prose-exploding cross between a Salman Rushdie and something else completely unwritable. Nothing I can say can give you any idea how the images shoot and spin and ricochet – with poignancies of parentage and the righting of wrongs with other wrongs.
    Even my own wrongs of interpretation. All my real-time reviewing is based on one single reading. But if I read it again it would be a different story or I would be a different reviewer altogether. The story will never understand me. Nor me it. Meanwhile, Tom, its hero will stay behind to look after his Mum. And dream about his Dad. And tell me I am not a dullard reader but Superbright, after all. And take me back in, to tackle his adventures and growing-up relationships all over again. “There was so much space in the universe. How did anything ever manage to collide?”
    My previous review of Ryan Row: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/11/16/interzone-267/#comment-8552
  3. TUMBLEBUSH by Darby Harn
    “‘You survived,’ Cartwright says. ‘That’s what counts.’
    ‘Not all of you does.’
    ‘That’s why it’s called survival.’”
    Cartwheels and tumbleweed alike, I say. This delightfully crisp story has twelve numbered chapters each with its own Chandleresque wise-saw as a title. And that’s not wisecrack or candlemaker! Tumblebush as user-name is a sort of future private eye, when New York was under water. And people get paid for TAGGING their photographs, but the TAG company takes all the money if they go viral. A whole new private eye-opening of concepts with this idea of a TAG society, and Tumblebush is employed by a rancher woman called Cartwright to find her missing TAGGER of a daughter called Karen with a different name as user-name. The outcome is its own nifty Chandleresque denouement … but this story is also a further rendition of the previous two stories’ life as unassuageable seeking, for names and identity purposes and melody hooks and super-hero styles and viral tags. Where nobody gets paid except by a slow, never-ending Zeno’sParadox of personal assuagement. With the glue-trapping of mice just as nifty story-brackets, if not a means to keep the mind sticking over.
  4. P.Q. by James Warner

    “He was growing bitter by now about worsening U.S. attitudes to immigrants.”
    A building romance between a scientist called Daljeet and Mary Sue (working at the nearby garage) who first gives him first aid, after his experiments with (Pogonomyrmex Quaesitor) Harvester ants cause him to suffer bites and pustules, and then she, as if imbued with some magic (ant Queen) Goddess effects, lends traction to the words and rationales for what he is discovering about the ants’ Aesthetics as well as their practical ability in transporting seeds for mashing as well as for articles to build art ’temples’, or are such temples practical in turn as a means of protection amid their interactions with other species. And now with today’s global wildfires, he salvages one nest of the ants and takes it back to his own indigenous home overseas for further study – as an ironic ‘quaesitor’ himself? Or as part of what the ants are becoming, Daljeet and Mary Sue themselves, a real-time growth towards gestalt… An inscrutable obliquity of didacticism for our current times? A Swiftian global swarm fable of soul and instinct? The mighty to become mites, or, rather, vice versa.
  5. THROW CAUTION by Tim Major
    “From late afternoon to past dusk the three of them sat on the roof of a store to watch ant-like figures half a mile from the camp, casting an enormous, weighted silicon net into the depths of the surrounding dunes.”
    I throw caution to the hawling and trawling winds, and to the moving Martian dunes that I feel sure I have come across before in this author’s work, so much so that I feel more at home with such caution thrown than kept, as I submit myself to the FEEL of this tale of net-catching and prospecting for or in the Martian crabs that seem to build temples like the ants in the previous story, here within a museum not of themselves, but of us? Their diamonds like pearls in our oysters, debaseable in the long run, diamonds metabolised from rock-licking, as Cupp’s music-hook seeker earlier licked Rock tracks as well as a processed Sausage …all processes of mites and Martians to be tapped by this crudely helmeted and tunicked couple in their ramshackle tent not so much on wheels as on dunes…. Loved it, for what I saw in it, even if what I mined was mine alone.
    My previous reviews of Tim Major: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/tim-major/
  6. SO EASY by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
    “It would have made you too sad, to know that I missed the things you told me once existed.”
    A girl in puberty and her ‘you’ as mother, in a world, I sense, of future bio- or Gaia-manipulation not unlike the earlier crabs and ants, each with something as found art (here cracks and constellations) a ‘gray’ Aesthetic rationale (cf Grey Halls) against the inimical quality of our world, a lethal itch we see the beginnings of today in the burnt umber lawns, potholed roads, even firestorms, at first partially solved here by hopeful diaspora oceanwards. But still a dystopia to wherever you resort, with all the cracked and nerve-perfumed trappings of horror and footsteps as constellations. And then with the ‘you’ poignantly gone, the ‘He’ returns. A way to assuage that itch? So easy, an ironic title, as not easy at all, for her to describe or understand the inevitable outcome. Me, neither.
    “I mean sick sick.”
    My previous reviews of Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/bonnie-jo-stufflebeam/
  7. EYES by Paul Crenshaw
    “They avoided nets and drag lines and lobster traps.”
    The hawling of eyes, as I would call this rhapsodic story, a fable as archetype and one wonders whether such an archetype is eternal, but an eternity that starts now, here, today, as I read this. It even reprises “the carrying capacities of ants”, as well as hinting at the constellations and crabs (with diamonds) and melody-hooks all from earlier on, while seeking a cross-section of healing to salvage the world, here a butterfly that can heal or hurt, depending how you look at it. An archetype of detachable eyes passed down the generations of families and resocketed, carrying the sights and experiences of yore, eyes with nerves still attached that are fished from the rain-swollen stream by this story’s hero where he lives in a world where no such passing-down is known. These eyes tell him by blinks about their owners’ own stories. Meanwhile, surely, the most sad but happy feeling in the world must be to FEEL these detached eyes blinking in your hand. Imparting something important. Each of these stories in Interzone still thus blink. And I’ll blink back at each story I’ve ever read, even after I’m dead, I hope. We all find our own superbrights, eventually.
    As ever, there is much else in Interzone in addition to its fiction.

Black Static #64

Black Static #64


TTA PRESS Jul-Aug 2018

My previous reviews of this publisher HERE.

Stories by Simon Avery, Seán Padraic Birnie, Jack Westlake, Phoenix Alexander, Tim Cooke, Sam Thompson.
When I read this fiction, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

7 thoughts on “Black Static #64

  1. SOMETHING TO BURN by Phoenix Alexander
    “You might say I am a kind of an angel.”
    An angel as Pillowghost or Poltergeist? Who takes us back to our earlier “bawling” and “howling” when it is necessary to save our later selves from suicidal acts. But who sleeps best on a pillow? There are even memorial pillows in stone, I guess, to mark ashes as well as embalming or untreated remains. A moving reciprocation of a story, that makes its heading and its page numbers swell and partially fill up. We all need to write things out, not the electronic lists of trivial choice that social media encourages, but to curate real billets-doux of memory-exchange between us to help outlast death’s bonfire of pillows. Half measures as a positive means towards whole ends. A saving grace as Zeno’s Paradox.
  2. OUT OF THE BLUE by Seán Padraic Birnie
    “The notion of hauling the deadweight of his body up into the attic filled me with horror.”
    Each chunk divided by smaller chunks, all to be taken step by step, until, by dint of Zeno’s Paradox, we reach its ‘cusp’. This is haunting, disarmingly hypnotic, deadpan material that, despite its hindsight absurdism, one wholly believes in, as one reads it chunk by chunk. The return of the narrator’s dead father after the funeral, as a rather amenable deadweight to push around, silent and unsmelly, anechoic, as Cage would put it, but the cage here is eventually beyond the hatch of the attic, kept out of the way of visitors. And there is also the narrator’s wife (on the cusp pregnant with a future character in this story) and she once kept her own mother in a hutch, not a hatch, or have I misremembered something? This is attritional stuff, and it also deals with the sanitisation of death and other related social concerns. “In time we can grow accustomed to the most extraordinary things.” The easiest lies being those people want to believe. And the story’s ending is a shocker, despite still being deadpan and methodical. Also resonates with “The Man Who Wore His Father’s Clothes” by Andrew Apter, combined with the loft in M. John Harrison’s “Cicisbeo”, and much else, as this story’s time’s worth of years passes by. Arguably, this Birnie work (not ‘something to burn’!) is a ghostly classic and a semi-comic masterpiece. Time will tell.
  3. ASYLUM by Tim Cooke
    “I wanted to make the familiar strange, to take things — objects, natural features, buildings — that I saw every day and twist them to life, to tilt my world askew.”
    A pareidoliac story, with which I found myself in photographic tune. Then Polaroids, today Facebook statuses. There is surely no coincidence in there being a seismic shift at the end of the story following that earlier tilt? Neither was the snow forgotten at the same story’s end when, earlier, children, by convexity, were seen tossing orange balls in the snow outside the Asylum. Link those items of snow and children and this otherwise throwaway, yet stylishly well-written, tale (now disarmingly ceasing to be throwaway) becomes a truly haunting tale of the woods that hold the dereliction of that once working Asylum, a tale of the narrator (a haunter himself) addicted to the horror-pareidoliac and other substances, who once visited, as a child, his grandfather at the Asylum, the narrator who now somehow believably returns…. to save the patients, as Phoenix Alexander’s angel wanted to do, from suicide?… his grandfather now still alive there like the man in Birnie’s box room?
  4. “This is the monstrosity in love, lady, that the will is infinite and the execution confined; that the desire is boundless, and the act a slave to limit.”
    Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare.
    “The effort of explaining, even of expressing himself, had become, with the years, more and more terrifying to him. Whether from laziness or from inability to find the right words, he had developed almost a passion for silence.”
    “What a fool she was ever to have imagined that there might be some place in the world where she could sink to the earth with the knowledge that there were people round her who understood, who perhaps even admired and loved her! She was fated to carry loneliness about with her as a leper carries his scabs. ‘No one can do anything for me: no one can do anything against me.’”
    ― François Mauriac, Thérèse Desqueyroux
    ‘Thérèse Desqueyroux’ is mentioned in….
    “…I saw she was the same person she had always been. There was something unpleasant, almost something monstrous, in the idea my Amy was still in there.”
    An imminent future to near future tale of a seeming Platonic relationship between a Wanderer through the centuries, with hints of vampirism and lycanthropy and Amy Semper who lives in the usual real time span of life while sporadically crossing paths with him. A poignant series of glimpses at mortality and immortality – and their attempts to transcend their apartness… and the inimical forces around them.
    It felt almost as if the eternally laid-back amenable father who transcends death in the Birnie has now awoken to the narrative force within the Trojan Horse of the Wanderer….or the wandering Alexander angel has now come to ask for a list of our various pros and cons of the nature of human love.
    “She would be sixty-eight years old now.” – a quote from above Sam Thompson story.
    My earlier review in 2015 of THE KNOT OF VIPERS by François Mauriac: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2015/11/28/the-knot-of-vipers-francois-mauriac/
    where I quoted this from it:
    “Fancy waking up at sixty-eight. Fancy being reborn at the very moment of my death.”

    Dwell on that synchronicity for a while, I dare you!

  5. Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS Edit
  6. THE BLOCKAGE by Jack Westlake
    If you want to read about moving to a new neighbourhood and the most dreadful drain blockage of ‘fatberg’ proportions that you need to shift, and the increasingly sinister neighbouring couple who poke their nose in, one or both of them with ulterior motives that come clear…. the half-drawn picture of a dear pet in the Phoenix Alexander comes to mind, and the Zeno’s Paradox of an accreting gestalt. Gallumph! Like a mucky calving (in or out). I half-barfed when reading this rather classy Pan Horror.
    My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/black-static-62-interzone-274/#comment-11906
  7. WHY WE DON’T GO BACK by Simon Avery
    “Sometimes you have to meet a hundred people or more to find the healer in someone.”
    At least a hundred stories to find their core gestalt or wraparound gestalt; the sample is too small in a handful. Yet, here, in this selection we have an immanent force, a statuesque amenability, the need to act as saviour by sacrifiction, to clear that blockage, transcend that memory, ignore that insidious nagging doubt about motives…
    This Avery novelette weighted itself in such scales. On first impression, it is a somewhat melodramatic, often (constructively) naive, sometimes clumsily point-of-viewed audit-trail of a life-damaged man as narrator wanting to be such a saviour of a single mother and young daughter living downstairs, against her ex and eventually against her half-brother priest, all mixed with a diamond heist, Salisbury Plain’s own maze and that of Chartres Cathedral transposed as a religiously hard-core, sacrificial, confessional Maize Maze. Yet I was completely compelled by this work’s disarmingly onward plot-drive and worried by that insidious nagging doubt I mentioned above – here, with regard to subtle inferences of the narrator’s feelings, as if in denial about such feelings, his hidden feelings about one of the other characters …
    An amazing readerly maze, as have been all these stories.
  8. As ever, there is much else in BLACK STATIC in addition to the fiction. In this particular issue, I was sad to see that it contains the last CASE NOTES of Peter Tennant. He is Horror’s and Fantasy’s greatest fiction critic for many more years than I care to remember! But hopefully for many more years to come wherever he chooses to exercise his skills.