Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Collected Stories of Vladimir Nabokov (Part Two)

Vladimir Nabokov

Part Two of my review of The Collected Stories of Vladimir Nabokov – as continued in the comment stream below when I read them…

18 responses to “Vladimir Nabokov

    Another story I couldn’t really grapple with. But an interesting use of the first person plural narrator.
  2. A BAD DAY
    “Shine and shade speckled the depths of the forest: one could not separate the pattern of tree trunks from that of their interspaces.”
    A wonderful tale of a disappointing day, a portrait of boy Peter’s journey in an open carriage to a sort of Le Grand Meulnes aura with his grown up sister, then placed with the other children to play all manner of games before the picnic. Including a cat and mouse sort of hide and seek game that absconded with the day and its events and his hopes. And the low key bullying he received; I somehow feel I am a poseur, too. Especially when amid the hiding and seeking of Gestalt real time reviews…a Zeno’s paradox of unrequitedness.
    “One had to accomplish that journey all alone, coming ever nearer, endlessly nearer, while entering gradually the visual field of many eyes.”
    “Everything was as it should be: gray tints, the sleep of substance, matter dematerialized.”
    The perfect masterpiece of a museum visit. Mixed with the constructive madness written by a madman about a sane man, as apotheosised later by Ishiguro’s ‘The Unconsoled’ (my review here) arriving at some sort of Narnian outcome beyond the museum! And his Russian paranoia of the time. And the scientifically indeterminate object from Kiernan’s ‘Far From Any Shore’ (reviewed yesterday here). “To dig in the past. […] a dirty bathtub,…”
    “That was the pattern of his life — a life that made little sense — the meager, vapid existence of a third-rate Russian émigré.”
    But such a book’s generalism betokens here an unmissable miracle of a story beyond the realms of the ordinarily vapid or meagre, telling of a man who as a child dreamed he would die at the age of 33 and gears his life, via its enveloping angst, towards avoiding such a fate. Couched in a style that flows like Proustian syrup with many constructive congeries of conceits and coincidences. And an airship. The ending is genius.
    “The folly of chance is the logic of fate.”
    “, between the trunks, as though through my fingers, the mirror of a half-open wardrobe…”
    A mind-riving, reverse-Narnian deliriumorama of the jungle, life on death’s cusp, as three people — interacting with mostly unspoken backstories, and with their native porters — are bug or butterfly hunting with a dreamcatcher net or two. One is called Cook, a Shakespearean clown. Gregson, the narrator’s friend, had an “old cook” in his backstory. The narrator him- or herself somehow survives the story despite losing his or her notebook. Terra incognita indeed.
    “You often feel that you remember someone vividly and in detail, then you check the matter and it all turns out to be so inane, so meager, so shallow – a deceptive façade, a bogus enterprise on the part of your memory.”
    Turns out later, if it is connected as part of some fraternal gestalt, to be the word ‘Joker’ gradually remembered in a memorable description of such a piecemeal feat of memory. All framing a reunion of Russian brothers in Germany, after one left Russia Year’s ago and the other didn’t. An embarrassing reunion of strangers, with alcohol fuelled device of heating running out of fuel, and an attempt at conversation regarding scientific electrical circuits… seeming somehow appropriate. Best to get back to the party. (But a political or alcoholic party?)
    “, a mist of poems,…”
    Lips to lips. A new reunion of fictional truth in the form of a kiss. Satirical story of an author grappling with his narrative techniques, vanity publishing and his literary legacy. This book makes me think that all fiction characters are emigrés. But from what, whom or where? And to what, whom or where?
    “(. . . along a narrow margin overgrown
    with clover . . . or ache . . .)”
    A gauche boy worried about his duelling father. Some marvellous addictive (sometimes stream of consciousness) prose and dialogue in interaction with his contemporaries and teachers.
  9. MUSIC
    “Another intriguing word, end . . . Rend, impend . . .”
    Rend the disjointed limbs of the disloyal. This is a sheer classic. A man turns up at a social piano recital, with many of the false turns of the music score by the score turner, and a figurative dome of music enfolding the audience, and he notices his disloyal ex-wife is present in the audience, and all the mixed emotions of love and hate keep him imprisoned till the real music dome vanishes with the last imputed turning of the score. Boke thought him bored by the music, by the way. ‘Vaults of sound’ may persist, I guess, still impending.
    “Then the train, its bell ringing, its elbows working ever so rapidly, straightened out again to enter a beech forest.”
    A perfect story of man tutor / boy student relationship with elements of Tadzio and Ascshenbach on a seaside holiday. Platonic, though, not sexual, and with an ingenious ending, another death on or near the beach…
    Nabokov seems to specialise in such deaths. with prestidigitative perspectives of who dies and who lives depending whether dying or not is happening to you.
    A hilarious yet touchingly sincere story, written as if by a man who lost his sweetheart only to find a novel – with this story’s title as its own title – trying to depict the special past that contextualises that very romance. A novel by whom? The author is a male name, but a pseudonym? He writes this letter of complaint setting out the ‘fake news’ that the novel peddles and compares it with the truth as he sees it. My mind itself spirals out of control at some of the twists and turns of his thoughts, sea-sick with the implications ebbing and flowing in his epistolary mind.
    A new neighbour, a ‘slank’ with an ‘inflamed V-vein’ in the forehead, unknowingly antagonises two brothers who are his new neighbours, antagonises them with his solitary and off-putting ways, and they try spitefully to stir him into friendship or enmity whichever came first, allowing the girl friend of one of the brothers to create an excuse for their own recriminatory jealousy and there is much rising and falling, taking off like an aeroplane, and then falling, with false accusations and fake news that may have been true. Trump is a ‘leonardo’, I guess. Sell a pipe fo anyone even if they don’t smoke much. I won’t tell you what happens or whether there was a moral to this tale. A pattern for our crazy mixed-motive and paradoxically polarised times.
    “My life is a perpetual goodbye to objects and people,…”
    Now this story is the nub of Nabokov. So far. Russian emigrés in Berlin and elsewhere. Here one man remembers he with the eponymous name above who provided some saving grace from next to nothing to write home about, I guess. A story of disappointment and nightmare visions. Just read these two pages from it…
    “After a long day in the open air he slept soundly; sometimes, however, a dream image would take an erotic turn, the force of its thrill would carry him out of the sleep circle,…”
    A sort of endless circle that ever progresses towards it ending that you know inevitably will come. Almost one long Proustian paragraph with visible paragraphing, but not paragraph-broken where time speeds up and the young man’s life surges on and he meets Tanya again after they suddenly realised they had unrequited love a day before she left for good and ever, till she came back with her own daughter and a husband. Full of flowing details in poetic prose of his youth, in an encroaching circle towards a final sleep; I compared it to an earlier story in this book where a boy was ostracised by other children. Here, though, for his socialistic beliefs?
    “, the oscillation of chances,”
    A telling psychological and anecdotal portrait of a young girl who starts off with such promise of beauty, charm and serendipity, who then seems to squander her life thereafter as if by deliberately perverse behaviour. The ending has perfect bathos. Pathos, too.
    “— rubbery pedestrians, cotton-wool dogs, mute tramcars — and overhead crept the ever-so-slightly rustling clouds through which, in this or that place, blabbed, as it were, a bit of blue.”
    A beautiful ‘breaking news’ about what deafness can mean. And an intensely poignant scene where the woman, who controls a contraption in her ear, has unexpected visitors to break her aloneness, none of them daring to tell her the news that her son has just had a fatal accident. Or simply not being able to frame the right words.

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Rumour – Lesley Kara

20 thoughts on “The Rumour – Lesley Kara”

  1. Look like May’s shoes! Anyway, taking a chance on this book and set up a review page here on my long-seasoned site. Heard about it by rumour. I look forward to reading it in due course and real-time reviewing below,,,
    No plot spoilers intended.

  2. 1
    “A sea glimpse might be a better description,…”
    A series of my glimpses of a book rather than a full-blooded sea-view or review? My reviews often spread rumours … and connections towards a Gestalt.
    Do read the plot description of this book in its public blurbs. Because I will not be itemising its plot here, except initially. For fear of spoilers.
    Initially, then, a small seaside town as genius loci, a rumour (begun to be spread by a mother to other mothers at the local school playground) of a woman housed in the town who was imprisoned for child murder. (Murder and mother assonant words, slightly, assonant, too, with rumour?)
    Book blurb enticed me to buy this book, just like the narrator estate agent (single mother?) sells houses? In Chapter 1, we are bestowed with her wry thoughts while selling a house owned by woman in high heels, a woman, now, in the narrator’s eyes, rumour tinged? I wonder how many other of the narrator’s future clients will be thus tinged by stray rumour?
    “And who wears high heels in their own house?”

  3. 2 – 4
    “(thank God for Facebook)”
    And for Nietzsche? The book actually started, I recall, with a quote from this philosopher and he is now mentioned with regard to the rewards of stoicism at the small seaside town Book Club that characterfully takes place during these chapters. I also appear to know this town well! A town evoked here wonderfully, as is its Book Club that the estate agent narrator (Joanna) attends and where she broaches the ambiance-distorting ‘rumour’ from this book.
    Joanna, whose backstory regarding her growing son and his absent, sometimes present, father with the surname Lewis is also conveyed.
    And Star Wars, cupcakes, the safeguarding nature of a ‘morbid imagination’, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as a possible next read for members at the Club…. Engaging and crisp narration.
    “There are secrets in this little town you could never imagine.”

  4. 4c828511-3b6c-4053-805a-2244bccbb3e45 & 6
    “Today, it is a deep violet-blue and there’s a hazy shimmer on the horizon that shrouds the wind farm so it’s barely visible. I never tire of looking at the sea. It’s part of my soul;”
    Indeed. Round here, unlike anywhere else.
    The rumour starts to go viral in Joanna’s mind, I guess, as suspicions stand on the shoulders of suspicions.
    Intriguing specific mentions of Agatha Christie, silver surfer, Brexit effect, inconsistent backstory, scented candle, playing with dolls, Puffin Classics, and retention of some clue as to one’s own real name in one’s alter ego or nemonymous name. I may be a rumour myself, a thought that must run through all this book’s readers’ minds?

  5. Pingback: Life as Inconsistent Backstory | DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS - established 2008 Edit
  6. 7 – 10
    This book has its own ricochet of rumours radiating from its plot as well as its plot’s central rumour being experienced and expressed for us by Joanna. For example, the once ‘dry’ nature of the town itself (and by that I do not mean the well-known desert climate of this town’s catchment area!), a childhood imaginary friend called Lucy Locket, bullying in schools, the mechanics of a baby-sitting group, a forthcoming Hallowe’en event for children and I also think there is some indirect reference to the historical child killers of Jamie Bulger? Such an approach of gradually gathering rumours from a book — without at the same time issuing spoilers — seems to now reflect my own approach to Gestalt real-time reviewing since 2008, gathering connections, synchronicities, serendipities and, yes, in hindsight, rumours: writing these reviews piecemeal in a place where I have lived for the last twenty odd years in the same catchment area as the town where this book takes place, a town whose name is assonant with its own alter ego.
    “Tears fill my eyes as I picture him at an empty table, swinging his little legs under his chair and pretending he doesn’t mind.”

  7. 11 – 13
    “‘Like Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre,’ I say,”
    “‘Thank you. I will,’ I say. ‘Alfie loves Finding Nemo.’”
    “First impressions aren’t always to be trusted.”
    “How can I tell him the rumour’s just taken on a whole new dimension”
    “the grey wall of sea at the bottom of the road. For a few seconds I allow myself to imagine this wall moving inexorably towards me, obliterating everything and everyone in its wake,”
    A wall for all of us in today’s terms.
    So far, a book that is pitched for all kinds of readers. Compelling, too, as we watch Joanna’s backstory — including her small son Alfie and Alfie’s father — morphing, in real-time, towards her frontstory.

  8. I continue to strive not to reveal here potentially plot-spoiling things about this book as I read it in real-time. But some may decide to share the reading journey with me, as it occurs, or only to read my review when they have finished the book. I am currently about a quarter of the way through it.

  9. img_300514 – 17
    “Stories are everywhere. You just have to find them.”
    Anxiety and paranoia, not only by time’s ticking backstory, but also by today’s Twitter account. Literary quotes, too, about the nature of rumour. And rumour’s by-product, beneficial as well as inimical. Financial and precariously emotional. The special social world of the book’s particular township and fitting into it – only half the battle. Baby-sitting, a means to an end as well as a window on others’ lives beyond one’s capacity to emulate. With a racial undertone, too. Themes in fiction are everywhere, arguably more real than reality itself, and often hidden in plain sight.

  10. 18 – 20
    “I’ve almost reached one of the groynes that divide the beach into sections — horizontal boards bolted into wooden uprights —“
    The book is not a whodunnit but a whoisit, in a place where everyone is framed by the sea.
    ‘Strange to know nothing, never to be sure
    Of what is right, or true, or real
    But forced to qualify: Or so I feel
    Or: Well, it does seem so,
    Someone must know.’
    — from Philip Larkin’s ‘Ignorance’

  11. 21 – 25
    I remain intrigued by the Estate Agent’s narration and her view of houses and people, as part of that vantage point. Plus some accomplished ‘chick lit’ elements of style. Yet, I find this novel quietly horrific, too, and in the past I have reviewed many books about paranoia and anxiety in the horror fiction genre and, so, hopefully, I should know what I am talking about.
    A wall chart of fish leading indirectly to an embedded skull in an aquarium. A presumably official school photograph of a class leading to a potential knife in the chest.
    Needlework leading to ‘divisive’ hallowe’en costumes.
    The witness protection scheme in contiguity with perceived child abduction and “unfollowing” on Facebook.
    Dog poo bags and church choirs. I happily know nothing of the former, but, in this book’s catchment area, I know some nice things about the latter!
    And an eventually dysfunctional beach scene effectively evoked.
    “The beach looked all different.”

  12. 26 & 27
    “Eugh. Now she’s letting him lick her face. I’ve never understood how people can do that.”
    Nor me, and as to the coprophagia types, I shall remain politely silent about what goes on between the lines …
    From Sartre’s dubious Hell as Other People to a party balloon-twister at the Hallowe’en children’s party …we still avidly follow Joanna and her impressions. But as with much great fiction, it is hard to be objective as a bystander, as it were? Authorial intentional fallacy or what? Still looking for Nemo?
    “Frankenstein is the name of the scientist who creates the monster,”
    I remember, myself, old horror films with Vincent Price (The Curse of Frankenstein?) when the populace wielded pitchforks and hounded those who did not fit into the township. Now it’s more insidiously on Twitter, I guess. Between the Spotify playlists. Meanwhile, …
    “, like white space on a page,”
    But the italicised intermissions are even more worrying?
    Halfway through.

  13. 28
    “Twitter is full of twits,”
    I keep trying to guess, and I have now come to a conclusion. I will honestly say below, at the end of my reading this book, whether I was right or wrong when I was halfway through reading it, halfway as I am now – but without saying exactly who I thought it was, at this point in the book today.

  14. 29 – 34
    “Then a psychologist cites the ‘illusion of truth’ effect, whereby the more times something is repeated, the more it is believed. Like rumours, I think.”
    That seems to convey much of the aforementioned ‘Brexit effect’, I guess.
    Meanwhile, there are strong elements of suspense building in this book (including a nightmare), as we continue protectively to witness Joanna’s path through it, amid questions of Who Is It? How can a who be an it rather than a she or he? Amid ‘idle googling’, too, and concepts of the speculative context of any photograph’s ‘frozen image’. And its concomitant, Art, and Art’s dangerous ethos, beyond any such image. This book, like Michael’s projected journalistic research within it, wanting, as collateral, to exploit its subject without harming it, a Nietzschean version of Monster versus Monster as synergy? Yesterday, synchronously, I reviewed a story (‘Truth is Order and Order is Truth’) here related to the latter synergy. “chews air”
    “The standard ‘it were grim up north’ footage.”

  15. 35 – 41
    “My head feels like a jigsaw that’s missing a key piece.”
    Mrs Frankis, carrot cake, TV programmes like Homes under the Hammer and Frozen… and I feel I should now copy and paste what I said above: ‘a book that is pitched for all kinds of readers. Compelling, too…’, ‘accomplished ‘chick lit’ elements of style’, ‘a whoisit, in a place where everyone is framed by the sea.’
    We now reach Liverpool Street station in the latest section, as the emotionally tantalising audit-trail pans out, with everyone still in the frame, with dangers, perceived by our narrator, crowding in, if not always by that frame or wall of sea and the small seaside town mœurs that hide… hide what? I sense I am now, as a reader, heading towards the climactic endgame of this book and that, ineluctably, I may not be able to resist speeding up my reading of it!

  16. 42 – 44
    a95a89c5-e3b4-4e4c-9564-9dd2460f7f4e”Lucy Locket lost her pocket. Kitty Fisher found it.”
    Well, I was entirely wrong, in this real-time review above … about #WhoIsIt, that is. Utterly compelling stuff, though. Uber app, et al. Ed Sheeran, too, but no hills in Flinstead, I guess. Nor castles.
    “Vast chasms of black rearing up at us on either side…”

  17. 45 – end
    “‘We change. Evolve. From one year to the next. One month. One week. Sometimes all it takes is a day. An hour. A minute.’ She inhales deeply. ‘A second.’”
    The real-time of reading.
    The enthralling, if perhaps sensed-as-overlong, dénouement to the #WhoIsIt Effect and its twisted tectonics. But even the coda has its own italicised shock. Poignancy amid the melodramatic revenge and the tying up of loose ends, some loose ends a bit forced, I guess. Yet the strongest and most tantalising elements of the writing in this excellent debut novel subsist to the end, from the ‘monster game’ to ‘identity limbo’. The high-flying properties endemic to the Flinstead catchment area as genius-loci are the properties Joanna needs to sell, in mental contiguity to those of the ‘wrecking-ball’ where it all happened, and happens still.
    “The wallpaper — an old-fashioned print of sprigged flowers — is peeling away in damp scrolls.”


    Thursday, January 24, 2019

    The Ballet of Dr Caligari and Madder Mysteries – Reggie Oliver

    21 thoughts on “The Ballet of Dr Caligari and Madder Mysteries – Reggie Oliver”

    1. A beautiful book of 300 stiff pages generously peppered with characteristic authorial illustrations. My copy is signed and numbered 42/400.


      “I don’t share Longfellow’s opinion that ‘the thoughts of youth are long, long ones.’”
      This young narrator about to go up to Oxbridge has tall thoughts, though, eventually on a long descent. An ‘easy’ Blakean descent to Hades? Or to this story’s Hollow City, no doubt. A maze and a nightmare vision amid this engaging academic adventure. With a few factual antiquarian info dumps, this is a well-evoked tale of the young Englishman to a Greek island with background myths of, inter alia, a two-headed hermaphrodite beast that is not dissimilar to the heads of two co-residents at the hotel where he is staying! And ending with a Fix to quaff in an English pub, hopefully, later. And much more. Including a ‘broach’ on a woman’s dress that should have been a ‘brooch’. But who is the donkey, the reader or the author? Madder mysteries are hard to imagine.

    2. f6a10d17-4756-4752-945a-b6c0a92a385bTHE HEAD
      A story of assisted dying, and it is a Reggie Oliver classic, beyond even its own provenance. At the end, it seems to show evidence of dementia in its narrative male mind. A possible chronological forerunner to the objective-correlative of sea-flowers later in the author’s fiction canon. Meanwhile, the actual head in the title belongs to Ron who is a customer of the chauffeur-narrator called Edward. Ron, for me, is genuinely one of the big-headed people, whether the head is on or off the neck. The exquisitely grotesque humour and horror in this work is the only provenance you need. There is also artwork, a Raphael head, as payment for an act of ‘assisted dying’, an act that you will never forget. Far more than just scribble. A story of Aesthetics as well as other sex acts.

    3. TAWNY
      Baby-spoiler, and inferred lycanthropy, this is posh people gossiping after a posh christening in a posh house, a short dialogue that could effectively be staged theatrically. Or featured as a sketch on Monty Python alongside Anyone For Tennis. There is at least one line towards the end I would have loved to have delivered. (The words ‘farouche’, as well as ‘tawny’, precise terms for oblique qualities, or vice versa? Not sure the definitions of these words spoken here are correct.)

      “Children are cheaper anyway.”
      Until i saw the new Stan and Ollie film in the cinema this week, i did not know that Laurel & Hardy themselves were put up in second rank actorly accommodations when they first came to perform in Britain in the 1950s. 196E8404-BD76-42AC-953C-07FFFE7193D3You can easily imagine what these places were like, these places and their landladies. My own grandmother also had a needle though her fag. The Reggified narrator here was one such actor. A place where stayed, too, the eponymous midgets who often played Snow White’s dwarves (a group named after their non-midget manager). Imagine the shenanigans of hiding-seek games and i think then you would have no need to read this classic story of apolitical-incorrectness comparing midgets with dwarves, and the subsequent freakish haunting after a certain fracas in a pub between the two competing groups of midget and dwarf actors. May i send sympathies to the Reggified narrator. And, oh yes, to the landlady involved, too.

      By M.R. James, completed by Reggie Oliver
      “Thus the game becomes a kind of battle between the hiders and the finders, but generally it descends into good-humoured chaos long before any clear result is discernible.”
      Never good-humoured enough, as our world is bitterly polarised between them, even today. A tale of a man stalked by a woman as his dead cousin from whom he inherits a frightening children’s book. What more can I say? Well, quite a lot. But the story contrived to hide from me and I could not find it.

    6. and more

      “Even if you believe it to be a fantasy and completely untrue, you must believe that I believe it,…”
      A tour de force combined with a coup de théâtre, an unmissable Reggie Oliver work that is as effectively nightmarish as his ‘Flowers of the Sea’ story, and just as obliquely meaningful to our existence and closeness to madness. d0ed1f0c-d8f5-46a5-b068-34b0566ea37bWe see a near-death or temporary-actual-death experience through an actor’s eyes, as he tells us his life story, his fascination with theatrical productions, theatrical tradition and the theatres themselves, their sinister atmosphere when empty, his closeness to his mother which is germane to the visions he describes, the learning by rote and meaning with the lack of control in delivering the correct lines or the wrong ones, and much else. The visions follow an accident during a performance as Sydney Carton in Tale of Two Cities, a rollercoaster ride for the reader, where the theatre audience almost becomes a Cthulhu monster, sometimes summoning elements of the Concert Hall scenes in Ishiguro’s ‘The Unconsoled’ and of VanderMeer’s ‘Annihilation’ and of something crucially unique that will live with you forever, for however long forever lasts.
      “The theatre has always been an obsession with me, even before I recognised that it was.”
      “the crowd of my own ‘clones’ — or ‘clowns’”

      “…a succession of horrific and bizarre escapades involving flying skeletons, giant toads dressed as monks, strange shifts in perspective, and, worse still . . . No! You’ll just have to read it for yourself!”
      For me, a rather silly, satirical Reggification of a distaff academic – this time with a distaff ‘partner’ and with a career thrust towards ‘impact’ – built upon MR Jamesian type research and arcane textual info-dumps of information about an obscure poet from the past and something called ‘The Castle of Oblivion’. Otranto, eat your heart out. Fracking, too. (See also this author’s distaff satire ‘Coruvorn’.)

      “Mr Davenport always makes references to Death as a person of the female persuasion, a peculiarity of his.”
      Starts off as an engaging theatrical novelette, narrated by a carpenter building a gallows for a performance of ‘Maria Marten’ in a portable travelling theatre and then the eponymous trap for a bricks and mortar theatre. Much of interest but becomes, for me, a rather muddled, long-winded plot of rivalry and revenge, with lots of characters.

    9. I read and reviewed the next story in 2016, and below is what I wrote about it then, in the context of ‘The Madness of Caligari’…
      “I could have constructed a pastiche of, say Alban Berg, or Webern with a hint of Kurt Weill, and I believed myself thoroughly capable of bringing it off.”
      Pastiche, or, rather, constructive cubist mutation of such composers’ works blended as one. Wishful thinking is more than half the battle towards creation, I find.
      This is a story-archetype of a story, a REAL crafted traditional story story rather than a jagged vision or off-the-wall dream such as in the work of the painters mentioned here like Matisse or Braque. The story’s text duly uses all the Caligari names from the film including a feminisation of the sleepwalker Cesare for a ballet, and there is also a svelte woman whose creepy love-making feels a bit like having sex with a shadow, plus a 75 year old composer who commissions the young narrator to compose the music to fulfil a long-held, but imputedly recurrent tragic, ambition of creating a Caligari ballet (in symbiosis with Giselle, perhaps). Although this is a story story, it’s a madness, too. Just like this review of it, a genuine review in that it gives my truly felt reaction, but also a mad pastiche of one. And the narrator glimpses at the end a cubist town like that in the Caligari film as slipped in by some other power up the pecking-order of narration, just like we are shown an asylum ‘on the borders of Essex and Suffolk’ by a puckish story-teller, or by someone who “was a stranger to the graces of true informality” like the old man called Dan.
      Not sure if all of this worked, I am afraid. Tell me what you think.

    10. I read and reviewed the next story in 2018, and below is what I wrote about it then, in the context of ‘The Scarlet Soul, Stories For Dorian Gray’…
      “A paradox is a way of creating a new truth: a pun merely desecrates an old one.”
      A richly traditional stylishness in treatment of paintings and painters during the age of Millais, Watts, Burne-Jones, and of banal catchphrases in the good old days of variety, and the theatrical living tableaux of myth and sucked-out compulsion, of small angels at the cute end, of maleness and beauty, of foreignness amid our accepted mores….at a worrisome edge between moving stances of love and death, of life and non-life. Not sure how all that was managed, before its curtain finally fell.

      “You’ll find me rather remote.”
      …with or without a philosophical or spiritual sat-nav? This is a story of a once womanising, aphantasic, intellectually austere, positively rationalist Philosophy academic, now in his eighties, as narrated by a younger professional academic woman who once met him in the past (an engaging person, for me, but one seeking her own ‘impact’ as a radio interviewer?) – yet, this background takes a backseat to a perfect Machen-like vision on the eporsonymous meadow, a vision of white ghosts, one that is spiritually touching, even to me – out-transcending any austerity of Death. Gestalt as Wordsworthian pantheism. A story to cherish. Eat your Gluck.

      “, vaguely reminiscent of Jackson Pollock but with none of his control and subtlety.”
      …like the Boke of the Divill, as rewritten by a master.
      This, meanwhile, is, genuinely, an engaging, ingenious story, and disingenuously old-fashioned (in a good way). I dare not itemise its plot as it is full of spoilers. A story broadly, then, of a hidden Titian painting of a lady with a rose, and a struggling English painter in 1960s Rome, hired by a Prince — who claims not to be ‘omosessuale’ (he had an affair with Lady Constance Martlesham) and has a thing about not giving out his telephone number — hired to paint the Titian again, meticulously stroke for stroke, part of which job is to paint the difficult rose, perfectly, of course. I think, however, that I am not sure whether this story is the replica or the original, as they are certain to be identical. The Prince himself differentiates between a replica and a forgery, despite the end result being that they, too, can prove to be identical, whatever the intention. But who is fooling whom? All I know is that the rose can kill if squeezed too hard in passion. And it is a lady with a rose that thus ends this charming, sometimes horrific, book of staged eschatology, with a subtle literary antechamber that threatens to squeeze you into its coffin. Or its misangled cabinet. One or two genuine original masterpieces in this book as well as a few that are not. Some madder than others.