Sunday, June 13, 2021

Gambier by Oliver Onions (ongoing review)


Gambier by Oliver Onions


I intend shortly to empirically real-time review this novella recently published by Tartarus Press in the new collection of this author’s work here:

My previous reviews of this publisher:

My recent detailed review of The Beckoning Fair One:

My public comments about OO’s collected works, comments made yonks ago:

“There is no dream that has not been dreamed before.”
– Oliver Onions

When I read Gambier, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

5 thoughts on “Gambier by Oliver Onions

  1. I

    “It was as sour a spot as you would meet with. Wet weeds and nettles stood stirrup-high on either side of the path.”

    Upon a journey to Wastley, I the narrator encounter on the way a deserted mansion and its private chapel, Lepers’ Squints to peer through warily and a chapel bell tempting to be pulled. So, impishly, prankishly, I did so, as is my wont…as is now my dread?
    A very stylish opening that is tempting to be fully read, fully wrung, too. But it also demands being eked out, this novella does, over time…?

  2. II

    I will not make a habit of giving large quotes from this text, but I could not resist this taster…

    “I was not over-pleased to find myself in a priest-ridden village; and as I picked up the current gossip I was still less pleased at the superstitions of the folk. Their beliefs amounted to such an unsortable mumbo-jumbo of evil-eye, mirror-magic, puppet-roasting, and the like, as could be made nothing of; and it all seemed to centre in the priest.”

    I am John Wilson, the new doctor in Wastley, and am perturbed by the eponymous village Priest upon meeting him. Equally, as a new reader of Gambier, I am staggered at how I have not read this work before, a work with powerful characterisation of a place and its people and, yes, of its priest. Reminds me so far of some of the greatest parts in John Cowper Powys. My instinct is that it will become considered as something quite waywardly literary or undefinable as well as being described as ‘folk horror’ — the latter term being the only previous reference I can find to this work.

  3. III

    “‘Gladly therefore let her glory in her infirmity.’
    I saw little reason for glory, and said so.
    ‘You see after the manner of the flesh always,’ he returned. ‘Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats; but God shall destroy both it and them.’”

    I am gobsmacked. Visceral slaughter of souls as well as of animals alongside a tension of relationship between a doctor and a priest, a text to have died for in hindsight of now having read it.
    This can only be read within the text not described from outside it.
    Strongest prose that I have read since first encountering that written by John Cowper Powys.

  4. IV

    “The parlour-door was ill hung, swinging open at times, and to pack it a number of paper wedges had been tacked to the border of the door.”

    This chapter contains a fine word as description of this book that contains it: “yonderly”, beyond-wonder, as it were — yet beautiful words can contain nastiness and feud, too, as they do here, decorated with frost-sigils. And being snowed-in to reading it, there now being no escape route other than completing the close reading of it. One battleground of the feud between the eponymous priest and the doctor as myself is the well-being of a character who now lives fully in my mind: Crazy Alice Munn. A feud, too, involving, on my part, the ‘brandy-recruiting’ of compatriots to my side. And discovering thin edges of wedges as even thinner pages with words somehow to weigh.
    Words in a book that create — but words within those words that also hopefully will serve to combat — the priest’s sermons of hell?

  5. V

    “Would use water from the well in which an unbaptised infant had been drowned; or some say the water in which have been put the lungs of an infant—“

    The paper wedges written by James, my predecessor as Wastley doctor as well as friend, with his addressing me in these notes (“James’s unstrung, despairing sentences”) by an affectionate version of my Christian name ….
    some accidentally or wear-and-tear redacted notes telling as much as they conceal of his relationship with Gambier and their battleground over Alice.
    Gambier whose own name I accidentally misread as Gambler when originally seeing this name on-line as title of the novella – and I wonder indeed if he is a man of extreme convictions about his role on earth, or simply a chancer!
    Am I myself indeed a man of conviction or a chancer? Can one ever be unsure of the self one wields?
    Shocked, too, as I assure you I am, by another battleground described in these notes, “a battleground for poison and antidote,…”

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

The 7th Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories, edited by Robert Aickman (ongoing review)


The 7th Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories, edited by Robert Aickman


My previous reviews of these Fontana Great Ghosts by Robert Aickman linked here:

My previous reviews regarding this book’s editor:

My previous reviews of older or classic books:


7 thoughts on “The 7th Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories, edited by Robert Aickman

  1. LEVITATION by Joseph Payne Brennan

    “The natives of Riverville did not demand sophisticated entertainment; consequently the inevitable Fat Lady, the Tattooed Man and the Monkey Boy kept them chattering animatedly for many minutes at a time. They crammed peanuts and buttered popcorn into their mouths, drank cup after cup of pink lemonade, and got their fingers all but stuck together trying to scrape the paper wrappers off colored taffy candies.”

    And such a wrapt crowd watched one of their own — a boisterous rude lad “in the farm-laborer class, neither more nor less capable than the average” — being hypnotised by a carnival hypnotist apparently with a dodgy vengeful heart. And then the lad, duly hypnotised and with no possibility of aborting such a hypnotised state, slowly vanishes upwards to where those watching cannot even scrape him off the sky, I guess.

  2. DEARTH’S FARM by Gerald Bullett

    “Sometimes I fancy that the earth itself is a personality, or a community of souls locked fast in a dream from which at any moment they may awake,…”

    This is the essence of the covivid dream, as we all know it now, I guess. And this famous chilling story is indeed a truth within a lie or, perhaps, a lie within a truth, a story telling of an equine possession-in-mutuality of human and of beast, as elegantly retold by a professional story writer, having been based upon a description couched as truth that he had previously been given by a man with whom he had just been reacquainted by chance, a man who, by the way, was once known as a proponent of theosophy….
    Levitations within lockdowns, or vice versa? Bite the bullet as the bit of fiction or transcend any dearth of belief with a mighty dose of truth?

  3. Pingback: Dearth’s Farm | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews Edit

  4. Coincidence and chance and unsearchable causes will now and again make clouds that are undeniable fiery dragons, and potatoes that resemble eminent statesmen exactly and minutely in every feature, and rocks that are like eagles and lions. All this is nothing; it is when you get your set of odd shapes and find that they fit into one another, and at last that they are but parts of a large design; it is then that research grows interesting and indeed amazing, it is then that one queer form confirms the other, that the whole plan displayed justifies, corroborates, explains each separate piece.”
    Quoted by chance yesterday HERE, quoted from THE GREAT RETURN by Arthur Machen, a story included in the 5th Aickman Fontana book.

    ESMERALDA by John Keir Cross

    “You can’t see far enough down, can you? And even if you could, you couldn’t piece things together, could you? They wouldn’t make sense, even if you did — things never make sense, not real things. It’s all a jumble — it doesn’t connect. Yet sometimes if you look at it all quickly, there suddenly seems to be a sort of thread . . .” 

    You can’t see far enough down into this the most morally nauseating work you are ever likely to read (if you are likely to read it at all), until hopefully that flash of gestalt emerges as a counterpart to the Machen above. A fable with a ‘moral’, though, for the ‘in-denial’ of our thought patterns that we might never admit to anyone, even to ourselves, especially to ourselves, as represented here by Felix Broome proud stationery shop and tobacconist owner, who enjoys the smell of shag in jars, jars shaped as “Negro heads”; he is a man with carnal desires, with a once voluptuously buxom wife who now goes to ugliness and fat, a man with fantasies about a thirteen year old girl, and it is a story with a shocking murderous outcome. With an outcome, too, of utter madness that threatens to infect the reader. But it is also a story possibly redeemed by its power of expression, even outdoing William Trevor, and with different avenues of moral or immoral or amoral interpretation, plus, as bonuses, interesting literary references to Othello and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

  5. THE DEAD VALLEY by Ralph Adams Cram

    A tale told by an old yellow-haired Swede to another man over chess, a tale of a journey when he was 12 with another boy into the eponymous valley having bought a little dog but been delayed by “attractive paste-board pigs” used as target practice, and ended up in this valley after dark in underbrush-“tangled” Black Wood trees grown to forest size beneath unLigottian ‘white stars’ — all meaningful in hindsight, but then a perfect, crushing silence, white noise thickened, later into a sea of ashy whiteness, presenting a sheer apotheosis of this Aickman Fontana book series ‘gluey Zenoism’, its nullImmortalis, a stifling stagnancy, a “fever” and “nightmare of madness’ as infected by the previous story’s contiguity, memories airbrushed thereafter by the other boy, but remembered by the yellow-haired Swede: “My feet seemed clogged as in a nightmare […] the writhing mist crept clammily around my ankles, retarding my steps”. Beautifully evoked. With the bony remains of readers of — or listeners to — this story around its central Joyce Marsh tree…
    But the dear little dog, what happened to that? Just a chess pawn, or pasteboard spear-carrier, no doubt.