Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Melmoth – Sarah Perry

21 thoughts on “Melmoth – Sarah Perry

  1. I want to read this book very much, because, after retreading my reviews of them from a previous real-time, I was evidently inspired by Sarah Perry’s previous two novels.
    Also, in my youth, I remember reading and enjoying MELMOTH THE WANDERER by Charles Maturin.
    And, not long ago, I read and reviewed here a related work entitled THE WANDERER by Timothy Jarvis.

    Part 1

    “I don’t like mysteries or surprises. How many times have I told you? I don’t like them at all.”
    “: did he know, for example, that Saddam Hussein was once given the keys to the city of Detroit? That even the dead can get gooseflesh?”
    I usually adumbrate a book’s plot, without revealing spoilers, to prove I have read it. For some reason, uncannily imparted to me by some preternatural aura attached to this text, I am keeping such a device to its minimum. Suffice to know that the Perry style has reached, for me, apotheosis in this opening section. (Who knows what further overdrives of apotheosis we may reach in her future books as yet unwritten, and even more certainly as yet unread?)
    Suffice to say that the style and characterisation and genius loci have a compelling appeal — straightforward in a literary, sometimes paradoxical, complexity. It tells of Helen, Karel, Thea, Josef Hoffman and “Albína Horáková: ninety years old, malicious, unkind, devoted to sentimental opera and Turkish Delight.” In a modern day Prague. And the events leading to Helen, apparently, reading in the next section of the book the document left by Hoffman after his death…

  2. The Hoffman Document

    “My body strained towards my watcher — my skin broke out in gooseflesh, and I felt my eyes adapt to that sucking blackness with a painful pulling of the tissues.”
    Born in 1926, Hoffman gives an absorbing account of his early life with his not-so-perfect parents in Czechoslovakian outskirts and in Prague. I got the sense of a story told him of Melmoth or a similar name, a woman wanderer who denied seeing the resurrected Christ, after she was one among several women who saw him, a story that now stalks him? Or the wanderer watching him herself? He also met Franz a boy in the area and his fetching sister Freddie. And listened to their new-fangled radio. This has a genuine entrancing texture of which I have only scratched the surface here. Story-telling at an accomplished level difficult yet to measure. Tuning in between the music stations of Franz’s radio…
    I do not intend to continue divulging the plot as I go on, and I hope the above is the exception having proved that rule already.
    Up to: “I knew it did me harm. I didn’t care.”
  3. “My mother had covered her hair in a bright scarf I’d never seen before, and wore a cardigan stitched with flowers that fastened at the neck with woollen tassels. In her left hand she held a handkerchief which she pressed to her face while she wept. Her right arm was raised above her head, the hand flat and held palm down. I was astonished. I’d never seen her show such emotion, nor could I understand why she would give a military salute.”
    So, Hoffman’s document seems to end soon after that incident in historic Prague, and moves indistinctly back or forward to Helen, today or nearer today, having just read the document. I gain a sense that the woman watcher with the mutant forms of the Melmoth name is a form of many women watching, watching us, watching Helen, but — in some perhaps Proustian moment of separate selfhood — Helen becomes that watcher herself?
    Up to: “Everything before it was prologue: everything after, a footnote.”
  4. “Watch Helen: something alters.”
    “Something about a watching woman: in Essex, of all places.”
    Upon the Last Balcony beyond even the Land’s Edge?
    Who watches whom? The author watches her characters. And then decides to describe them. Here Helen with wheelchair-bound Thea, Thea’s lover Karel now gone, presumably beset by his own reading about the watcher, as Melmoth witness, plus the mechanics of lovemaking more difficult following the wheelchair’s reasons. Or so I infer.
    A slap of awakening. More knowledge imparted about the eponymous watcher by the crafty techniques of great fiction, even if it is not fiction at all but a real history that these techniques here make believable as well as intrinsically true, by dint of those techniques.
    The author watches her readers, too, I sense. Particularly, she watches the reader who is me, a reader in Essex – not stemming from my paranoia or my false sense of self-importance so much as from my brazen, self-inflicted decision to open up about my reading of this her book, my decision to publicly real-time review my reading of it!
    Read up to: “— it would not do to let nightmares follow her beyond the dawn!”
  5. “‘What do you know about Melmoth — about Melmotka?’ Helen is conscious of feeling envious, as if the legend is something she has personally acquired, and not common currency.”
    Me, too. Though there may now be millions reading this new book to diffuse such claims! Walking through the hell we have made. And there is some gruelling documentary evidence now provided, to be read and absorbed somehow, about a woman a few centuries ago who met this book’s eponymous heading. The conflict of the ins and outs of sin and Christianity. Luther versus Rome. And an almost Sapphic embrace….?
    Just an aside, my own wife was also born in Brentwood, Essex.
    Read up to “…and there is about me — very sweet — the scent of the lily-flower ————“
  6. “Helen, kneeling, sees the woman nod with practised hauteur at the waiting pianist, then she begins to sing, and it is the kind of music that most disgusts her: a sort of melodious form of hysterics.”
    This book increases and decreases its volume with avant garde bravado but still maintains the aura of well-honed, linear narrative , as you follow those being followed. (It has its own stumbling stones.) An aura to a famous aria by Dvorak. Thea (abandoned by Karel) is furnished with a nurse called Adaya by the accidental or stumbling mechanics of this plot and of God’s allowing us to fall, but once allowed by Him, we can then fall even further without His help: a toppled wheelchair, and ‘foot drop’. I am later reminded of a painting of a succubus or incubus on a woman’s chest, plus innuendos like those in stories told to scare children in the old days to stop them being naughty. We are naughty readers, perhaps. Or at least I am. I think there is more to some of these scenes than you may realise, things that some readers will pass over without dwelling on the implications. Good job, because, otherwise, such a reader might be too scared to continue. I have not read any reviews of this book. I never do, till I finish books. I wonder if any reviewers have noticed what I have noticed. And, if so, will they dare tell you? Or perhaps, they have not noticed, despite being entrusted to review books. Perhaps, finishing a book before writing their review makes them forget what they noticed, or, rather, allows them to enter a state of denial? Only real-time reviews can dig deep enough or, rather, give any findings a durability? Later events in — or later readerly thoughts about — a book may cast a retrocausal cloak over what went before, creating blanks rather than stumbling stones.
    Read up to: “….takes the Hoffman document from her desk, and lies on the hard thin mattress to read.”
  7. ‘All I’ve ever known is that I am the law, and the law is right. But now I wonder if there is what is right, and there is what is good, and these are not the same.’
    Back to the oppressive days in Prague through the telling eyes of Hoffman.
    Perhaps only further quotes will suffice, to avoid more stumbling stones or blanks.
    “It was as if, having only ever looked down at the shuffle of my shoes on the cobblestones, I began to lift my head.”
    “What did Britain have to do with us —“
    Read up to: “…who for two thousand years had wandered from place to place because no nation could bear their presence?”
  8. “Reader, shall I lie?”
    “…in my pocket that piece of stone which I caressed and turned over and over as though it were a sacred object.”
    Strange that this stone, which may or may not be a stumbling one, started life — from what sounds like a Science Fiction material (moldavite) — in one of Hoffman’s best footnotes to his confessional document that we are still reading over the shoulder of Helen…
    Three gratuitous or random questions come to my mind —
    Jackdaw, Jew, what do these words have in common?
    Sell your freedom-from-guilt for a radio?
    Where did you first meet a Wandering Jew?
    The onIy one for which I personally have a definite answer is the last one: ‘The Monk’ by Matthew Gregory Lewis, my namesake whom I have long associated, in my reading history, with Charles Maturin…
    Read up to: “It was May 1945. I was nineteen.”
  9. “: ‘God! God! God! God! God!’ After an hour the voice broke — I heard it break — and then for another hour there was instead a kind of wordless questioning which may just have been the jackdaws on the windowsill.”
    I am chancing my arm. I do not think anyone could have written this book. Unless there exists a writer as creative first mover who is numinously Nemonymous – with the name on the spine being the first witness of the writing rather than the actual writer. (Cf ‘The Witnesses Are Gone’, by the late Joel Lane.)
    I am depending on serendipity and synchronicity to choose quotes to decorate my passage through the book.
    “I looked, and saw that someone had cut a portion of flesh from her heel, very precisely, measuring half an inch square. Within that neat wound was a mass of yellowish fat and fibrous tissue. I went on eating my bread.”
    Here we follow Hoffman in the immediate aftermath of the second world war in Prague, the fate of collaborators; whether he was one or not, he suffered both guilt and punishment. Some passages in his document that you will not forget. About what happened to Jews and Jackdaws and later what happened to collaborators … and about Hoffman’s visitation by this book’s eponymous woman witness. Who is witnessing whom, I continue to ask? Who whom, the Doctor asks?
    “I thought: she must be there — how could there be no witness?”
    Almost without noticing, I segue into Part Two of this book, and I am allowed to read Karel’s unrequited letter to Thea. He is now in present day Britain … (Cf Rosanne Rabinowitz’s ‘Resonance and Revolt‘ and ‘The Good Terrorist’ by the late Doris Lessing.)
    Read up to: “They made me think of my students, who are so young and look at the road ahead of them happily, having no idea that the road narrows and turns back on itself, and goes through dark places, and is covered all over with things to trip you up and break your ankles.”
  10. “And because I have been mad, and lost — because you are gone — even, I think, because of Melmoth — I let myself be taken by the flood.”
    Karel’s letter describes his grouping together with students in England to struggle with defiance against a different historical diaspora, different from the one in which Hoffman had been involved, this time it being Migrant Refugees arriving via Calais. The need for a ‘good terrorism’, no doubt, that Lessing once sensed? Terrorism as an offshoot of literary or religious Terror?
    Terror does have a diary after all, Mr Maturin?
    Thea tells Karel’s news to Helen, Adaya and Albína Horáková, upon the occasion of the hen party for the latter’s 91st Birthday. (I love the preparation details of dress &c. for this occasion and many other darkly acute observations).
    Read up to Thea telling the others about Karel: “He says: there is no Melmoth — there is no one to witness what’s done these days — and so he will simply have to do it himself.”
    …being a telling observation for our own times, but there is much more that I cannot cover here. If I could, you would not need to read what is becomimg a monumental book, even if, for those who have now finished reading it, it has become such already.
  11. “‘But why?’ Adaya frowns. She flushes, very faintly, and butters Thea’s bread. ‘What use is it? What good does it do, to watch?’”
    Still in the Prague restaurant, a Poliakoff type scene, I guess, as a sleepy pianist is startled awake and plays a desultory waltz.
    Helen has visions of Hoffman, Bayer on nearby tables. The four women poignantly make life’s confessions, not necessarily to outdo each other’s change of ‘heavy money’ in the past’s pockets, but to question the nature of the eponymous watcher or witness, the pros and cons of watching or being watched by her as changing times flow by. Whether it is to ‘dwell in marble halls’, or not.
    Read up to: “The driver went a different way, and a different way, and a different way. ‘Where are you going?’ we said. He didn’t say anything, went a different way again.”
  12. “‘Dear Helen — dear good little Helen, so calm, so considered: who never says a word out of place! What can her sin be?’”
    From Albína‘s apparent killing of a man with a hatpin, we reach Helen’s confession at the hen party of her own ‘sin’, when as a young woman she made her first trip abroad — to Manila — away from “the pebble-dashed walls of her Essex home, with nothing more strange beyond the double glazing than a jay among the bedding plants.”
    Still there are shanties in Essex, too, I say, not far from where I live.
    “What she discovered was this: that a foreign country is both more foreign and more familiar than the traveller imagines.”
    An enthralling account. Not yet reached the ‘sin’ in my reading, but I am fully aware of the infected cockroach bite, the sense of being watched as she was watched, say, when she was a girl with a satchel, the young, but slightly older, male chemist who helps her deal with the bite, his brother’s motor bike accident….
    I am not so aware of the innuendos I have no doubt missed. Some readers notice certain things, other readers different things, creating more than one novel. The precariousness of not only life itself but also of the act of reading books like this one. This book is a both a foreign and familiar land abroad, too.
    Read up to: “When they first shared a bed that, too, was easeful, as if they had done so many times many years ago, and had forgotten it until that moment.”
  13. “‘Elder brother,’ she would say, putting her hands on him, on the body that had somehow, she always felt, made her also a thing of flesh: ‘Have we met before? Do you remember me? Do you remember this?’”
    Helen and her ‘elder brother’ travel extra-mural Manila, extramural mania? As well as visiting the hospital, as his, the chemist’s, own (elder?) brother, still recovering from his accident. But for Helen there is also the hospital floor’s slowly fading bloody footprint and the empty chair next to the acid victim Rosa, with whom she sits. No longer an empty chair, but who is ‘she’, Helen or Melmoth, I wonder, a vision of which witness or watcher all empty chairs contain, perhaps? “…but the feeling that to witness such degradation and humiliation was to somehow take part in it:” Perfectly honed fiction narrative, inferentially contrived but also seemingly beyond the control of the author, if such a paradoxical phenomenon of literature is possible, whether intentional or not.
    Read up to: “‘Aking kaibigan: hayaan mo akong mamatay.’ My friend, my friend. Let me die.”
  14. ‘only children think closing your eyes makes a thing go away.’
    ‘: it seemed to her that release from pain was a cruelty if only brief –‘
    A brief cruelty if to patch up pain temporarily? Because the return to pain is far more than briefly cruel?
    Helen’s ‘sin’ with regard to Rosa, her ‘older sister’ — in this conversational ‘game’ of recounting personal sins — is movingly told. More ‘witness’ moments and empty shadowed chairs to remember, too. Leading later to a potential Proustian cake of liqueur and Apricots (a description to die for). You see, a Madeleine moment can come at any root age and at any subsequently remembering age yet to come. This is one of the things this book has told me, perhaps unintentionally on everyone’s part, reader and author and any internal narrators.
    Read up to: “…that the sweetness of Dvořák will be worse for the penitent than even the sweetness of cake.”
  15. “A man in an apron is cleaning the moon.”
    “part terror and part desire.”
    The opera of Rusalka is ‘through-composed.’ The performance that the four women attend, floating off feathers and seed pearls into the auditorium, a healing and hawling, and is another crux, a vision of pointing paranoia, as if we are all now the witness en masse, redeemed or punished, as I think I might have implied earlier. Certainly for Helen’s Hellish turning- or tipping-point back towards a paper moon… Ježibaba!
    “It is as strange as a nightmare and as familiar as home.”
    I again segue between parts of this book now towards and within ‘From The Cairo Journals of Anna Marney, 1931’
    The beggar prince? Or the beggar’s opera? Not reached far into these Journals yet. There is no dependable reviewer of course, only a real-time reader, one among many. Piligrim sinners, all of us, who have reached this far. Pilgrim spoilers, hopefully not. Did not Anthony Burgess once write an opera called Melmotka? Melmoth?
    Read up to: “There is no god of course, and if there were, why would he send me?”
  16. “It wasn’t a shadow. It was like a swarm of flies — like one thing made of many other things and all of them black and moving very fast.”
    Like the gestalt of this book?
    I segue, as you must, as another reader like me, segue between the otherwise separated texts towards and into “The Testimony of Nameless and Hassan” — “…and of Melmat, the woman who watches.” — “…the watch which could measure time to the ticking minute, depicted for the amazement of unborn historians the skills of surgeons who were also women.” New diaspora and political shenanigans now, in Turkish history, well, history to us, with the nameless beggar I shall call Nemonymous, and Hassan, telling us of a their own history’s ‘good terrorists’? Terror, political as well as gothic, for this book…but Maturin wrote in his own Melmoth book that ‘Terror has no diary.’
    Read up to: “(MUST I GO ON?)”
  17. “: that his diligence and exactitude, if dull, had been part of a glittering whole. Nameless found his work in Trebizond arduous.
    It was necessary to devise a practical means of moving ten thousand Armenians into the interior,…”
    A moving vision of Memtal Melmat, the transcending version here, for Nameless & co, amid more diaspora and disaster of moving peoples around 1915, around old Trebizond and neighbours where so much has since preoccupied or invaded the world leading to Trump, Brexit and so forth that we cannot now predict?
    You can hardly NOT be moved … by such healing, hawling guilt and possible redemption.
    She will now always haunt my personal dreams. She alone perhaps may perhaps save us with pragmatic rapture and mythos.
    “Dreaming, he knew that inside the garments was a woman’s body, which he could not see, but which he somehow desired; and above it a face, which he could not see, but which he somehow feared.”
    THE RITE OF TREBIZOND: an earlier review:
    Read up to: “Forgive me, and hold me always before the eyes of God.”
  18. I could not wait till tomorrow…
    “Is it Melmoth? Has it always been Melmoth, in fact: were those glassy calculating eyes, that longing look, not mere tales told to children, but fixed on her all along?”
    I will say that this potentially hindsighted great book of literature ends in a surprising way, but in many ways it also paradoxically fulfils my fears and hopes as exactly I earlier predicted they would, predicted by magic or by instinct or by my having generated and experienced gestalt real-time reviewing for exactly ten years as I write this review. Through the marble halls, amid the jackdaws, these last few pages represent a very satisfying coda to my hopefully symphonic review towards a gestalt of the book’s own symphony of leitmotifs and themes, ideas fixed and unfixed, ideas fictioned and unfictioned, reaching an eternal truth of who has been watching me, or the one who watches this book and its author … watching the one who indeed may be watching me? Haunted, even attended in reality, by its written-about or as-written-by characters past and present, as is Helen thus haunted and attended. Reaping the harvest of her sin by now suffering the visitation of its poignant victim and such sin’s patch-up, a victim now returned to her by his own patiently stoical waiting and watching. But who truly is Melmoth? Nowhere to hide, these days; we can all be found by real means, by fiction means or by modern technical means which this gradual review has used, twitter or otherwise. The ultimate terror. Gothic or otherwise, maturing exponentially — towards what?
    “‘How has he done this? How did he find me? How did he come all this way —‘
    ‘Anyone can find anyone, these days — there are no hiding places, not any.’”
    Read up to THE END.


    Saturday, October 27, 2018

    Best British Horror 2018

    Best British Horror 2018 – Ed. Johnny Mains

    Stories by Colette de Curzon, Ray Cluley, Georgina Bruce, James Everington, Cate Gardner, Charlotte Bond, Daniel Mcgachey, Paul Finch, A.K. Benedict, Mark West, Laura Mauro, Nicholas Royle, V.H. Leslie, Claire Dean, Reggie Oliver, Mark Morris.
    See comment stream below…

    4 thoughts on “Best British Horror 2018 – Ed. Johnny Mains

    1. My reviews of the first publications of these stories are linked below. The two stories I have not reviewed will be added below when I have read them.
      “Paymon’s Trio” copyright © 2017 by Colette de Curzon, originally appeared as a chapbook (Nightjar Press)
      “Love And Death” copyright © 2017 by Reggie Oliver, originally appeared in The Scarlet Soul, Stories for Dorian Gray (Swan River Press)
      “In The Light Of St. Ives” copyright © 2017 by Ray Cluley, originally appeared in Terror Tales of Cornwall (Telos)
      “The Book Of Dreems” copyright © 2017 by Georgina Bruce, originally appeared in Black Static
      “The Affair” copyright © 2017 by James Everington, originally appeared in Nightscript III
      “Fragments Of A Broken Doll” copyright © 2017 by Cate Gardner, originally appeared in Great British Horror 2: Dark Satanic Mills
      “The Lies We Tell” copyright © 2017 Charlotte Bond, originally appeared in Great British Horror 2: Dark Satanic Mills
      “Ting-A-Ling-A-Ling” copyright © 2017 by Daniel Mcgachey, originally appeared as a stand-alone chapbook included with the The Ghosts and Scholars M.R. James Newsletter
      “Tools Of The Trade” copyright © 2017 by Paul Finch, originally appeared in Great British Horror 2: Dark Satanic Mills
      “Departures” copyright © 2017 by A.K. Benedict, originally appeared in New Fears (Titan)
      “The Taste Of Her” copyright © 2017 by Mark West, originally appeared in Things We Leave Behind
      “Sun Dogs” copyright © 2017 by Laura Mauro, originally appeared in Shadows and Small Trees #7
      “Dispossession” copyright © 2017 by Nicholas Royle, originally appeared in Shadows and Small Trees #7
      “Shell Baby” copyright © 2017 by V.H. Leslie, originally appeared in Shadows and Small Trees #7
      “The Unwish” copyright © 2017 by Claire Dean, originally appeared a chapbook (Nightjar Press)
      “A Day With The Delusionists” copyright © 2017 by Reggie Oliver, originally appeared in Holidays From Hell (Tartarus)
      “We Who Sing Beneath The Ground” copyright © 2017 by Mark Morris, originally appeared in Terror Tales of Cornwall (Telos)
    2. TING-A-LING-A-LING by Daniel McGachey
      “A clock without a key has as little use as a key without a clock.”
      Thank goodness I bought this book, despite having read most of the stories already. This novelette is an unmissable horror story, or a ghost story made into clockwork flesh? It is like a clock itself, with layers of workings within it, told stories within told stories in out-permutated Jamesian fashion, a clock with a cursed lock, a clock that is its own community of church, pub, graveyard and houses paradoxically both in miniature and in magnitude, the magnitude of 20th century European wars, and the ambiguity of monsters and of lost soldiers as revenants. The quandary of keeping such an accursed clock despite its monsters. It has even more tantalising power TODAY as I read it, because, tonight, in the UK, we will be adjusting our own version of the “as-yet-unawakened Awakening Clock” by the span of one hour! You will perhaps know what I mean, when you read it. It may save you!
    3. The Taste of Her by Mark West
      “He looked at Gaffney, spread out below him like a child’s playset and felt bile rise in his throat.”
      …”ant-sized people”. That miniature and magnitude again. We are ant-sized but our felt emotions swollen. Two men in a Cessna, friends for ten years, one having flown the other’s wife, tasted and relished the fear and danger and sexual temptation of her body. But the Plan of Retribution does not end with the stalled dive… simply told and blood-quenching.
      My previous reviews of this author: (‘The City in the Rain’, one of my favourite modern horror stories) and here:


      Friday, October 26, 2018

      Nightscript Vol. IV

      Nightscript Vol. IV


      Edited by C.M. Muller

      Stories by V.H. Leslie, J.T. Glover, Joanna Parypinski, Steve Rasnic Tem, L.S. Johnson, Daniel Braum, M. Lopes da Silva, Mathew Allan Garcia, April Steenburgh, Charles Wilkinson, Farah Rose Smith, Armel Dagorn, Cate Gardner, Jackson Kuhl, Christi Nogle, Ross Smeltzer, Jennifer Loring, Tim Jeffreys, Elana Gomel, Mike Weitz, Kirsty Logan.
      When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

      26 thoughts on “Nightscript Vol. IV

      1. Sugar Daddy by V. H. Leslie
        “Once Amira and Zahra found a recipe for Nostradamus’ love jam among their father’s books.”
        Amira brings home a boy friend almost as old as her widowed father. Afternoon tea is chosen as an optimum occasion for such a meeting with her father. Her sister Zahra turns up, too. Recipes, like words as ingredients of fiction, can conjure up all manner of smells and tastes and consistencies of bite. But each bite must be topped with something nice … here, today, Dad’s pomegranate jam. This quirky story makes ‘quirky’ feel sticky. When motives clarify under the guise of clouding up. And Dad’s elixir of aspic makes for a paradoxically easy exit with just a single lick and a promise. Mum still turning in her urn?
        My previous reviews of this author: and
      2. There Has Never Been Anyone Here by J. T. Glover
        “She wipes sweat from her face, reaches out to run one finger along something that feels too sinewy and sticky for rope.”
        A bit like Dad’s pomegranate jam? This accretively cloying work represents a
        leasehold series of fragments, i.e. interviews, on-line message boards, articles, even up front story-telling by the freehold author about Francesca around which the hauntings seem to centre, I assume. Between such chronologically non-linear fragments (some even from our current future) are periods of being stuck as if between fully tuned radio stations. We need to build the gestalt. Or, rather, unknot it. And when we do, hand in Glover, we receive slowly building signals of which even the author seems unaware, I sense. Between the cracks, rather than the lines.
        “Even as she swings the hoe, she’s thinking gas cans, matches, purification.”
        My previous reviews of this author:
      3. ​​The Thing in the Trees by Joanna Parypinski
        “Feeling as if I’ve just drunk pomegranate juice in hell, I set down the empty bottle and take a step back from the fire.”
        I found this a most haunting, obliquely meaningful experience where a park’s ranger becomes a stranger, a cross-dream of reality and visionary visitations by people in trees, dealing with the nature of anxiety, marriage, transgender and identity. I need say no more. Unmissable.
      4. A4AF321A-6E8D-4F32-9C60-8064C6D7B6DFBy the Sea by the Steve Rasnic Tem
        “Like her parents, her siblings, and herself, they were people who lived their entire lives without notice, subject to the whims of the planet, of the weather and climate change, of the politicians and the governments and the armies…”
        Subject to the world’s ominous ocean, figuratively and in reality, its “hungry dream”, a naive, but powerfully wise, portrait of the naive, but powerfully wise, Sarah from childhood to age. The Age of Attrition’s final Accretion. The ocean’s or sea’s detritus and its inferred found-art, as I myself find and capture visually every day. Here I am alerted to its final found-art, as I shall call it, a found-art of which I was not aware… till now.
        My previous reviews of this author:
      5. A Harvest Fit for Monsters by L.S. Johnson
        “Besides, there was hardly anyone in town now; hardly anyone anywhere. It was a country of old women and little children. All their strength and vigor was rotting in the fields, in the swaths of land lapping at that single contested border, just a line on the maps of madmen.”
        Besides, this powerfully restrained story is of a war with blood drenching the land, a sort of reverse form of harvest, drenching their crops, their children. A well-characterised woman, herself permeated with the endless war’s history, her mind mixing despair and stoicism, meets one returning soldier with the circumstantial evidence that he is the “monster” general in lonely retreat, but assuring her that it is mere resemblance. She entertains him, gives him shelter, for a while, yet hatching plans for some form of retribution. The story itself shares such endless attrition with its own structure of telling itself.
        My previous reviews of this author: and
      6. The Monkey Coat by Daniel Braum
        “Bring no suffering into your body. June supposed this also included wearing no suffering, apparently.”
        A strange story that leaves you with the lingering thought that you are left wearing it, with your legs in the sleeves, instead of the arms. A reader laid bare. A story that has been kept in a special lock-up that probably needs a combination code to unlock it it. A story of June and her flighty daughter Ivy, a story with a Jewish background, and an ivory complexion, the modern fashion of conscience against such cruelty to animals, and June’s inheritance of a real fur coat made from a hopefully roadkilled – not purposely killed – monkey, a coat that once belonged to her high life grandmother in Paris, or was it her ex David now in Paris whom she runs to ground? Why did I think that Flannery O’Connor might enjoy this story? And I thought also of serial murders in the Rue Morgue. A gestalt of were-monkeys … or men. A study in rage and lust.
        “So it felt like David, or more like what had been their life, had shattered into parts, all of them lesser, each of them a distinct piece of what they had and what he had been to her, and each of the parts residing in the different men she kept around.”
        My previous review of this author:
      7. Seams by M. Lopes da Silva
        “The town was about six square blocks that included a diner, a drug store, a movie theatre that wouldn’t open until seven that evening, a hardware store, an antiques shop, and a sewing supplies shop…”
        “Scissors are for paper, shears are for cloth,”
        I use scissors, then shears, to the quilted texture of this accretive fable of the small town enclave and newcomer wife variably called Leslie or Lee, at first a gentle tweezering by my critique at the odd stitch of this work’s portrait of womanhood, then a hasty flaying outward from the seams towards a resonating moral that weighs liberation of self-beauty against a Stepford Wife slavery and ripping off the scab before the wound is healed against a gradual acclimatisation to the ugly scab itself. The scab that covers existence’s holes and pitfalls…?
        “She couldn’t bear to look at the voids that pocked her; when she had a friend nearby, Leslie felt the voids diminish to pinpricks. Mark couldn’t scare so much as a pothole away, for some reason.”
        “But the thrill of the hunt, the lifting brush, had lit the days when nothing else could. / There was a quilt of emerald green boas twining among butterflies and flowers, and Leslie felt her heart kick like a leg.”
        Provocative and haunting work. With beautiful long opera-coats that are in synergy with the earlier monkey ones in the trees?
      8. A Gut Full of Coal by Mathew Allan Garcia
        “I was eight years old when I began working in La Coronita, and I must have moved coal through hundreds of miles of tunnels such as the one Ignacio and I now enter.”
        This is a powerful story of hauling memories, the dead still living, search of one’s dead daughter in the mine, boys and girls not working in chimneys but in mining tunnels, the eyes of the devil. This is also my own mine presented here, mine by quirk of fate or preternaturality, ‘osmotic with the critic’ (synchronously mentioned here earlier today). My paternal grandfather worked in the South Wales mines, and worked as a ‘hauler’ which was the job of hauling coal through the tunnels and hopefully to the surface. On the ancient census (now on-line) that I investigated to find this fact out, the job was misspelt by the ancient handwriting as ‘hawler’. A cross of crawler and bawler or howler? Also this story is mine to cherish as it evokes my earth’s core where I once placed Azathoth’s lair in my erstwhile novel about the Hawler called ‘Nemonymous Night’. This Garcia story, meanwhile, is a unique and separate tale of poignancy of mine-working, childhood, salvage as a zombie or a ghost and eventual come-uppance down there. A Latin American atmosphere of pungent food and families splitting and blending with each of their emerging backstories. Including the narrator that called himself the me that is mine and maybe yours, too. C’mon Daddy, my own grown-up daughter says, while visiting me today.
        “It’s just our breathing and the silence that thrums through the cave walls, like the lifeblood through the veins of a god that is always hungry.”
      9. Crow Woman by April Steenburgh
        “She was not beautiful in any normal way, but most definitely somehow insidiously so.”
        “There was no awareness of self, of tools—just creation. I missed that. It was some of what had prompted me to purchase a tiny house in the middle of nowhere.”
        This inveigling, crow-diffuse story was my own unplanned house guest of the mind, I guess. I call the narrator he because he is me. About a man, an artist, full of life’s anxieties and, arriving at his new home on the outskirts, he takes for granted the eponymous entrance along with him of his unplanned house guest, a woman without self-consciousness about her sporadic nudity. The curtains of his life he uses as ad hoc screening as well as her shelter of clothing . He pampers her whims. As I do this story’s insidiousness. You see, it ultimately steels me against what I once feared. Steals something from me only to give it back better.
        Crows too diffuse to be coal?
      10. The Dandelion Disorder by Charles Wilkinson
        “Not one room in their tiny, cluttered cottage had resisted the advance of Theo’s current project, a series of paintings with the provisional title ‘The Legends of the Plants.’”
        “She hadn’t told Theo about their child, not yet showing beneath her billowing skirts, barely visible even when she was naked.”
        There seems to be something uncannily and unintentionally resonant between this story and the previous one. A small house, more sketching, a naked caterer to the artist’s needs, increasingly begrudged. Crows there, swifts here. The man who is the artist here is more pretentious and a Jack of all trades, master of none, and resents the prospective arrival of a child….
        There seems to be many superstitions attached to dandelions, although the glow under the chin depicting riches I thought was a buttercup? But I see my assumption was wrong. As were my assumptions regarding this artist’s decline transposed to an Aickman-like haunting. Coatless, a monkey shrunk? And again, as with the previous story, I was strangely uplifted by the whole thing. Gave me confidence, somehow, to continue, even at my age. My head like a stripped dandelion.
        “As she expected, he was walking, swiftly and coatless, in the direction of the village inn.”
        “This time it was huge, a kind of furry head on a green stem.”
        My many previous reviews of this author:
      11. Of Marble and Mud by Farah Rose Smith
        “A great curtain from the sky will fall down, draping over the memory of the black tree.”
        One of those curtains again… maybe in the same role as went before in this book? This is a highly intangible dreamscape of two sisters, where one, I believe, harms the other and then regrets it, in a world of Gothic surrealism that reminds me of the days of the ancient poetic Gothic mag I used to inhabit with my countless prose poems and vignettes. Subsuming nights with bones and flesh of the dead. And that gave me a sense of nostalgia. And I knew I understood this work but understood it somewhere away from the place in my mind or brain with which I usually have such understanding. That may turn out to be good or bad but, either way, you can’t have one without the other, Helen and Vanessa, Marble and Mud, understanding and not understanding…
        “I forget the meaning of all things and bask in the eternity of not knowing.”
      12. All Is There Already, Just Not Seen Yet by Armel Dagorn
        “…wanted to jam together stories and places that had nothing to do with each other. […] …borderline mystical about it, about how a setting, with its historico-mythical baggage, could influence, weave tapestries in the unconscious.”
        Sounds akin to gestalt real-time reviewing the type of books I tend to read. Each book a breakfast buffet that is always different. A story of an atmospheric film being made in French woods, the backstory of the filmmakers involved, including the narrator’s, a certain sexual attachment, and acting and scenes almost made randomly but with some oversight by preternature. The best I can do is quote liberally from it… central to my ethos, as it is, even if there may have been satire present, too!
        “I knew it was our brains teasing weirdness out of the dark,…”
        “Do you try so,” Sajid had been asked, “to allow viewers to insert their own ideas, their own bits into your stories?”
        “No I don’t. Or rather they don’t. All is there already. Just not seen yet. And what one person may see, another might not perceive. You see what you want to see, I guess. So really, you’re out making a film that might well be about something you don’t even know about.”
        “I saw things, as I sat there in the cinema, that shouldn’t, couldn’t have been there.”
        “I always try to spot something new, and I always do. The problem is I never see again what I saw the previous time.”
        I shall read this story again tomorrow, when blanks and stumbling stones will likely change places. See my review entry yesterday here.
      13. Half-Girls by Cate Gardner
        “Be careful with your sister,” Mother said. “You’ll drown her.”
        This is a vision of sororal synergy and symbiosis, and is a resonant symphony along with the two sisters in the Farah Rose Smith story, each with a sister’s name beginning HE- and the other ending -A. Helen and Vanessa there. Heather and Cordelia here. This Gardner work is a kaleidoscopic sea symphony of words with and about ‘weight’ and urban high-rises, as well as floating, sinking and swimming, a blend of grub-urchin and mermaid. A poignant tale of another sister seemingly harming the other, then, when lost from each other, sister seeking sister perhaps to sew their bodies back together again, or vice versa, while fighting, through the years, against loss of parents. Against previous parental misintention. And against avuncular lust, perhaps. Against the mythic mer-forces within or outside the sea’s cage. The inconsistencies of gravity. Sometimes a prose style staccato with scissors, wave-scissors near the edge of a table — scissors, rock and paper. I infer. Sometimes also a prose style that flows like the sea itself with the gothic surrealism that I have noticed before in this book. “—the disability borne from being alone rather than conjoined.” I am still tussling in my head with this work’s forces. The yearning to make two halves unsewn resewn, or sewn unsewn… towards the optimum permutation. Yet, I fear for their own sororal misintentions. And whether they found each other again, so as to become the gestalt … and it is lonely being the only one aware of a conspiracy — or of how a story ends.
        As an aside, my own version of Cordelia is here. If you look carefully, you can see her faint face in the glass of the framed picture.
        “The please-don’t redundant for it was already done.”
        My previous reviews of this author:
      14. A Different Sunlight by Jackson Kuhl
        “gibberish about an Antichthonic sun and Phaetonic rays”
        Randall’s Father….. Sounds as if the father belongs to Randall, rather than the other way round! This story opens more than one reader’s eye, more than two, if you have more than two. Such as a house sprouting plumber’s pipework like foliage. Anyway, Randall’s father was a bit hopeless; he lost a patent for a major invention, a machine that built a house whole like those machines that once laid railtracks lock-stock-and-barrel along the lands of America where this unique story is set. That loss of patent hung over the family like a shadow. There are some amazing inventions in this story that chime with the dozing and waking dreams I have had since childhood. This is the author’s story, of course, but it is also the story’s author.
        My previous review of this author:
      15. Cinnamon to Taste by Christi Nogle
        “And there are all these complicated histories behind the things we say.”
        Earlier pomegranate jam, now a babka in a bakery built up meticulously and with follow-me hints. There is no doubt that we have here a story that is special, a story that you know is noteworthy for future generations of readers. So I officially, herewith, with this review, make it thus noteworthy. It is definitely frightening, dislocatory, haunting, a tale of Marnie and Cindy, roughly the same age as each other, though I sense they are aunt and niece, brought together now, brought together in their past complicated history, through intangible means, to run a bakery. A Sapphic aura on Marnie’s part, but Cindy dates a man called Luke, but who knows? They have their arguments and one day when Marnie makes manoeuvres to leave with her luggage, we look at things as if through her eyes of maple syrup. I cannot explain it. It is inspiring as well as very worrying. Either a nervous breakdown or symptoms of a fiction infection? No ‘echolocation’ will solve it. Though there are echoes of Heather and Cordelia, Helen and Vanessa, earlier in this book, that may help you. But only reading this Nogling story will suffice for you to see what you think. And you will not be the same person after reading it, I am certain. Maybe, I have been thus uncharacteristic in some of the things I have just said while reviewing it. Real-time reviewing helps, though. Transcending the maple syrup filter. Or trying to do so, at least.
        My previous review of this author:
      16. The Strigoaica by Ross Smeltzer
        “‘Nothing ill can come of precautions,’ I said.”
        A workmanlike, well-honed, horror-laced submergence in the myths and Vlach lands of the Boyar and their endemic fears, or what one assumes to be fears, between the genders and between the monsters and me, too. Not didactic so much as transcendent, precautions and fears alike. Do fears need monsters to create such fears? Do monsters need fears to create such monsters? The tale of a young sixteen year old girl to an old boyarina, about how she travelled through the woods with men who warned her of the wood’s or world’s dangers, or were they the dangers themselves? She wished she heeded both possibilities, I guess. Even about to whom she told this, and why and what desires or dangers lurked between unlikely forces, the inferred Sapphic as well as the clearly Saved or Suffered.
        “The peasants of this village still tell tales of the Magus of Gorgota, a tinkerer in magicks, and a necromancer; one who stitched fairies with wasp wings just to see them squirm;”
        “The danger is behind you.”
        “No, boyarina. Alas, this night I have found that not all monsters are born in dreams and nightmares.”
      17. Swim Failure by Jennifer Loring
        “…the creativity she translated into strokes and splashes of acrylic.”
        A painter’s rite of passage from the light pollution and oppressive populace of the city to an icy pond in the middle of nowhere. A pond echoing a lake in her beginning past. Strongly conveyed and felt. With ghosts half-glimpsed. Real relationships questioned. I was in tune with the lot of the artist presented here and the final selfie to be constructed into a gestalt stroke by stroke. Splash by splash.
        Also, now, I am able no longer to question why, out of the blue, I wrote something called ‘The Colour of Pain’ a few days ago (first posted as shown below), before reading this story…. I don’t often write new things, these days.
        “Clinging to her pain as if it meant something, as if it meant more than the pain of those her work had left behind.”

      18. Visions of the Autumn Country by Tim Jeffreys
        “It was a relief of sorts, for what is this creative compulsion if not a curse? […] It turns out some people like the dark disturbing stuff. The dark, disturbing stuff has made me a living for twenty-five years.”
        An ageing painter artist of darkness and pain whose “limbo-land” somehow resonates with the Colour of Pain piece I wrote above a few days ago! This Jeffreys is a simply couched story but one for the type of which I am a sucker, depicting paintings with an autonomous life of their own, dark snapshots taken from some artistic realm that exists somewhere in the Gestalt consciousness, here involving the artist’s childhood imaginary friend Gangel and this story’s eponymous mythos, the artist’s living mythos, hooded figures as the Council of Eight, and when his caring but seemingly unartistic daughter comes to visit him, the story eventually reaches an effective, if predictable, culmination. But what was really in the sack that, all those years ago, the artist’s own mother dug from the garden when tending flowers? Or did I imagine that scene?
        My previous reviews of this author: and
      19. Stella Maris by Elana Gomel
        “Venice is festooned with laundry hung on lines strung across alleys. And because the air is so humid, the laundry takes forever to dry, sheets and baby clothes growing into the ropes like fruit on vine.”
        Ordinary enough, such laundry lines, you’d say. This vision of Venice is anything but ordinary, though, and that was just a correct alarm, as opposed to a false one. It is an extremely powerful depiction of a famous city in nervous breakdown, with sudden entities that, if I forewarned you about them, you would kick me into one of the canals for spoiling their spoiling… “Art is art.” This story says that somewhere. But Venice’s art, once burgeoning in every chapel and palazzo, is stripped out. You are falsely forwarned, perhaps. But a question – is the nightmarishly visionary breakdown the breakdown of the city’s own nerves but is it (instead or also) the breakdown of the woman through whose eyes we see it, a woman in life’s decline, with enticing but baggy breasts, enough for any gondolier to want to shaft? Her man called Owen disowned. This seems to be the counterpart of Nogle’s earlier depiction in this book of a major nervous breakdown. Two works making a diptych that this book must proudly own. Also, this Gomel made me think….. I rarely criticise a story for where it goes, or how it ends. It is as if every story I serendipitously choose to read is meant to be. It is what it is. What happens happens, perfectly, whatever the misgivings. A story owns itself. Owns itself beyond its own author’s own claim to own it. Art is indeed art. This story is surely the apotheosis of such serendipity. And I thank it.
      20. Rainheads by Mike Weitz
        “He’s a real piss-on-a-rock liar, Trax is. Raises that eyebrow every time.”
        Wow! as one classic follows another. This book spoils you with its variations of a wordcrafted imaginarium. Spoils you for other potential books. In this one you follow the Trax and Torrents of a post-holocaust radiated world, I infer.
        “Strange, ain’t it? Trax can’t remember half of what I say, but he knows them tunnels better than his own instincts.”
        Dreaming of “lakes that you can actually swim in”, no doubt now corrupted ponds if it were not for the sodding torrents. Living in holes, instead.
        I find myself Gestalt “book-keeping” alongside Carl/Carn about his fellow survivor called Trax, amid ‘falsies’ and ‘jokes’ as well as ‘truths’. Eaters of rats and rabbits, some scrawny and horrible to taste, but necessary to eat. It really makes you experience what they are experiencing. Living in Evenson-like warrens that have collapsed or teetering. And the wonderfully powerful ending. I thought of it being a metaphor for when bosom pals are interrupted by a mate…of whatever gender, “on awe foahs” and “crahwin’.”
      21. My House Is Out Where the Lights End by Kirsty Logan
        “…where in her memory miles of sunflowers gleam brighter than the sun. She finds a field of withered grey stalks, bent under the weight of their dead heads.”
        Dead headed like this book’s earlier dandelions. And Jay returns to the derelict farmhouse where she and her sister originally lived with their parents. Memories of their Dad singing to the sunflowers, his ghost stories, and a ghost harvest, prairie to prayer, scarecrows now decayed to wooden crucifixes, fox piss, mushrooms and bat-baths. B3ECA4F4-783A-4309-9063-0E9D26236A53And a most haunting image created by “a thin inner wall of wooden matchboard, about a foot from the outside walls” that their father built for heat insulation, space between outer and inner being large enough for a person to stand. Who knows what is planted beneath where crucifixes are planted? And did Dad use the car’s hooter, I wonder, when crashing into whatever the subsequent turn of the dogleg road hid from Jay’s sight, perhaps a pretty bit of city rough? A story that is a perfect coda to this book’s hyper-imaginative and osmotic obliquity, its often sporadically feisty and creatively sullen symphony.
        My previous review of this author: