Thursday, August 25, 2016

You’ll Know When You Get There – Lynda E. Rucker


10 thoughts on “You’ll Know When You Get There – Lynda E. Rucker

  1. THE RECEIVER OF TALES
    “Ruben’s fingers had looked like that as well, she recalls; only paint — instead of ink-stained.”
    I had a double take when I first read that, Rubens or Ruben, indeed, it is Ruben, her deep Platonic lover, this third person narrative in the name of Aisha (the Ayesha of the ‘She’ she fears she may become), so utterly third person singular, but she imprints herself as a first person singular round and round and upon the reader’s skin with neat homilies and wise saws of emotional modernity that become a rhapsody of weird fiction (Walters, Moraine, and many others?), weird fiction of the distaff that so perfectly populates the pain and pleasure of the weird-turning world today, this the ‘she’ with a ritual-sinuous tale of herself and Ruben, the painter, and his own ultimate self-harming that exceeded her own, and she takes and gives from all quarters of spear, distaff and vampire; we are all receivers of her tales, but only if you are the receiver tuned into the right channel do you travel it right…
    I feel with my real-time reviews, that I have managed to fine-tune my receiver to the optimum. And this work stays with me wherever I move that fine-tuning needle next upon my written-upon skin. You see, it is the only story featuring a chance hitchhiker given the immediate chance to actually drive the car (wherever that hitchhiker wants), and thus the only story giving a chance reader the chance to write it.
    You’ll know when you get there.
    “The modern world ensures your identity clings to you as surely as your fingerprints.”
  2. WIDDERSHINS
    “It was just an ordinary gate, and the other side was ordinary too.”
    Bearing in mind the American protagonist’s everpresent and explicit “trauma” at once losing, through emotional entropy, his beloved ready-made family, and now staying in a cottage in the wilds of Ireland, this is also the ordinary story it seems to be, and the rest of it is just his trauma-fed imagination?
    Whatever the case, I feel relieved that to transcend any curse of widdershins all you need to do is walk with the sun, the path the earth ever follows with or without your own contribution, thus cancelling out any path you shouldn’t have taken, any gate you shouldn’t have passed through. Even if it means stretching you against the grain between tree and tree to do it.
    “In the end, we all find ourselves in the same place.”
  3. THE HOUSE ON COBB STREET
    “…and one word distinguishable above the rest — her, her, her — and she never knew that three letters, a single-breathed syllable, could be weighted with so much hatred.”
    At first I feared this might be another stock documentary haunted house investigation. In many ways it is one, but not stock. It is probably the most genuinely frightening such story I have read. The documentary extracts, some disagreeing with the others, are interspersed with the narrative of a woman, a literature student teacher – and her husband who commits suicide quite out of predictable character. The nature of the horrors in the hatefully prehensile house cannot be given justice to here, and references such as Fuseli and the Ouroboros symbol merely distractions from something genuinely and irresistibly horrific that somehow lies beyond the text even if it is conjured up by that very text. The finale where she escapes into the presumably welcoming normal outside city is a masterstroke. Can you tell I like this story?
  4. WHERE THE SUMMER DWELLS
    “…and somehow regal despite it all.”
    An idyllic hot endless Summer memory, of ghostly train tracks, campfire horror stories shared, curses expected, lostling or even changeling inferred, these young people in- or post-backstory, in or out of confused or jealous love — and it did not seem to matter that I myself became confused by this work’s darkly entrancing theme and variations upon the Sourhern Gothic (please see my recent review of the complete stories of Flannery O’Connor), confused because I must be too old to follow such goings-on.
  5. WHO IS THIS WHO IS COMING?
    “What a funny place the world was, that this could be the most mundane of journeys for them and one of the most exciting of her entire life.”
    A darkly charming story. Fern, with a learned stoicism, travels from her native America to England, not only with a learned nostalgia for the stories of M.R. James but also one for the BBC productions of those stories in the 1970s, whose latter production sites she intends to visit, as she now travels with excitement, via Liverpool Street, and where I live along that rail line, towards the Norfolk coast. We learn a lot about her character, her dreary life back home, and now in the ‘signal box’ room at the inn, and the kindly-intended gentleman called Mr Ames who befriends her with his own Jamesian enthusiasm, but inadvertently deprives her of her aloneness of discovery. A very subtle character study of Fern by Fern, and how she summons the ghost of her ability to stay and not return. A ghost more frightening than she intends? You’ll know when you get there? (Possible spoiler here).
  6. I have read and reviewed the next story before here https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/the-burning-circus/#comment-1259 and I copy and paste below what I wrote about it then…
    ———————-
    A new day. And a new gestalt for the second half of this book?
    The Queen in the Yellow Wallpaper – Lynda E. Rucker
    “Each generation that came into possession of it made additions and architectural embellishments and what stands today is a sort of hideous discordant symphony of a house.”
    I love discordant symphonies! And I love this story (about a married couple gone to a house called Carcosa to care for the husband’s ‘sick’ sister), imbued as it is with many ‘comforting’ horror tropes (including Robert W Chambers’ ‘King in Yellow’ and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘Yellow Wallpaper’ (the latter story often being used in academic feminist circles as a recommended text for study – a fact that resonates with some of this story’s themes)). Here it does not seem to matter that we are steeped in those potentially stereotypical horror tropes – the pleasure comes in this story from embracing them and their embracing you. Meanwhile, I sense this author is suspicious of the ‘avant garde’ in Art and Literature (something I have noted before, I think), yet whether by design or, more likely, by accidental synchronicity, the author makes her female narrator seem to become subsumed within the sick sister’s avant garde play being written around her, making her, the narrator, into the eponymous Queen herself? A sort of embrace, despite disgust, of the experimental (paradoxically within a seemingly formulaic horror story!) and the outr√©. This story really makes you think on several levels (as does the Gilman story in its own right).
    (Later) I apologise – the writer I was thinking about regarding suspicion of the ‘avant garde’ was Helen Grant, not Lynda E. Rucker. See my review of Grant’s ‘The Calvary at Bansk√° Bystrica’ HERE.
  7. THE WIFE’S LAMENT
    Or mine? I don’t think this otherwise well-written story was written for the likes of me. It seemed contrived, with modern day romantic machinations, a heroine haunted by a wood down the end of the road and by pre-Roman Britain. Like the previous M.R. James inspired story (for me, far more enjoyable), it is an innocent abroad, an American woman in England, unsettled here not by Mr Ames but a strange woman in the wood. And by a wayward English husband and the woman next door. Not sure what else to say about it.
  8. THIS TIME OF DAY, THIS TIME OF YEAR
    “…back in the gentle chaos of the crowded family.”
    Rucker is often full of rhapsodies. Rhapsodies sometimes upon the edge of hard-consonantal near-rationalisation, also upon the soft edge of never coming back, of becoming attenuated, distaff-diaphanous…
    This is one such story, where I floated between the once durable sororal loving relationship, grown edgier since the older sister came back early from service in hard-consonantal Iraq and the younger sister almost disappointed that she can no longer ‘recognise’ the sister she once loved accompanying, despite the age gap. And the lakeside cabin their Uncle once built, where I guess the two of then now see a version of Rucker painting the rationalisation she sees below the lake’s surface, some small-town version of Suffolk’s Dunwich, from beneath whence unsalubrious church bells sound…?
    Who sinks to find the other? Ruck and rack or Josie and Ellen.
    Rhapsodic or near-rationalised with an old war’s attrition? A story that tugs you further beneath its own surface.
  9. THE HAUNTING HOUSE
    : remember that there was nothing that she had to get up for, and sink deeper Into the bed, deeper into sleep.”
    What I was, in hindsight, hinting at the end of the previous story review seems here to be apotheosised. One house sublet in another woman’s name, and a lifelong recurring dream of a house haunting her from the few days days before Christmas, a house, with landing and grandfather clock, straight out of an Elizabeth Bowen Christmas (my favourite writer ever – my house for her here) and I wonder if Rucker is in Bowen’s soul, or vice versa, like the synergy of these two houses or two realities? Bowen also had a version of a fractured modernity in her fiction alongside the haunting and the aloneness to be disrupted by an Ames or a woman in the wood, like the Oregon reality here, a bus journey on a whim, leading from the hard edge of dream unreal to the soft edge of dream real, or vice versa. The tantalisation of never knowing. Sublet by time’s clock on the landing or blocked by modern contraptions, only thinking back through all these stories might give some clue of the whence and the whither of a deeper rhapsody. You’ll know when you get there.

  10. I will now read for the first time the introduction by Lisa Tuttle and the book’s story notes. I trust they will give me more food for thought but, meanwhile, I leave you.
    end

   


:)

    Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    A Twist in the Eye – Charles Wilkinson


    A Twist in the Eye – Charles Wilkinson

    charles

    My previous reviews of Charles Wilkinson‘s work are linked from HERE.

    Egaeus Press MMXVI
    My previous reviews of books from this publisher are shown HERE.

    When I real-time review this collection, my comments will appear in the thought stream below…

    16 thoughts on “A Twist in the Eye – Charles Wilkinson

    1. Something I found myself saying on Facebook today regarding the receipt of this book: “Yes, I have long thought CW’s work to be highly important in our field. I met him a few years ago, and was delighted to learn that he went to the same university as me, and we may even have overlapped there, without knowing!”
      I first met Mark Samuels around 1987, the man who wrote the introduction to this book.
      Those are my caveats.
      ———————-
      RETURNING
      Not known for hyperbole, I can say with some certainty and expectation of being believed, that this story is probably the saddest, but equally most uplifting, story I have ever read. Well, that is true today.
      But that may be due to the circumstances of my own life, having once driven back some great distance because my wife suddenly told me that she believed she had left the iron on. The recurrent routines of this couple in the story, their holiday each year beautifully described, their lifestyle and habits, their honest, if entropic, love for each other. And when he glimpses on holiday…
      You know, I can’t say anything else about the story without spoiling it.
      It is absolutely perfect, as it is, without any further need to recognise within it anything else that is recognisable.
    2. THE HUMAN COSMOS
      “…with the wide blue light of the Norfolk coast shining in his eyes for a week afterwards.”
      Transcending with a very British sadness or a minor sect’s faith the poignancy of age and retirement in this and the previous story – a younger person’s Norfolk break, with the sun there, being better than the sun here? But is it the same sun? Also this is another story of glimpses and re-glimpses of a figure that either IS you or will affect you with its off-kilter accoutrements.
      This is a story that contains pub talk about Swedenborg! And a retiring jeweller, seeing the exterior of his working place as if for the first time in detail, ready to mould gold into a man-shaped universe that becomes him, a time of life with the losing of things like deeds, and keys, a bit similar to mistakenly leaving the iron on or forgetting whether you left it on. Uncomfortable with more than a handful of minor typos in this story, mostly obvious omitted words – omitted or forgotten? Or a twist in the reading eye?
    3. I have read and reviewed the next story here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2015/10/17/years-best-weird-fiction-volume-two/#comment-5676 and this is a copy and paste of what I said about it:
      ————————————-
      HIDDEN IN THE ALPHABET
      “Their dancing steps in the brilliant white water foaming about their feet.”
      Since first encountering his fiction in Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction a few years ago, Wilkinson has joined the ranks of my favourite living authors. And this intriguing and stylistic work has confirmed such a feeling in me. It has the methodically deadpan, but poetic, triangulations of detailed viewpoints and Pinteresque allusions (akin to similar effects in what I consider to be an overlooked fiction masterpiece from 1968 entitled ‘Report on Probability A‘ by Brian Aldiss). It tells of an ‘auteur’ and the gradually evolving past when his son and niece were still young and there are insinuations of the film he took of them together. Today, in later time, negotiating his inscrutable accident outside a hotel, his broken spectacles, visits (by himself and his niece separately) to an optician, and his projected reunion or reconciliation with his son. Nothing of it fully crystallises but it would have been an anti-climax if it had done so. The optician’s eye-test cards with alphabets of letters evoke writerly considerations of wordplay such as anagrams and assonances. Things that my reviews seem to thrive on! A shriving at the altar (auteur) of the past? Also resonances with the concept of cousin-with-cousin births needing changelings or foundlings amid the waterside or sea-foam love, sex and death that seeps in from the rest of this book. Seabirds like flowers behind a window.
      “What the film will never remember was how fine the sand was, silkily running through her toes.”
    4. LINE OF FIRE
      “: in every case, the left eye was damaged: one had an iris that was faint–”
      As I have mentioned before, I have suffered with a similar form of iritis in my left eye, recurrently for most of my life. As did James Joyce. Whiteness turning into a line of fire. So this story of a highly absurdist Aickmania meant a lot to me in that respect. Another twist in the eye.
      Coming, as a result of his Aunt’s bequest, from the east coast to a place he has never visited before but it is a town he is expected by the strange locals to remember everything about, where a river seems to divide some area of sense from that of nonsense, with the state of death similarly divided then blurred, and legality and custom also blurred…a summer house locked, house plaques missing, boys full of hatred and reproach… Well, let me let you read it and then let me know what you think. Only sufficient time will be able to let me judge whether it is as memorable as this book’s first story turned out to be. An acquired taste.
    5. IN HIS GRANDMOTHER’S COAT
      “Wyll went into his grandmother’s room and took off all of his clothes.”
      This is a genuinely disturbing story, with a twisted timbered house, a husband who spends all his time chopping wood, an older child or young adult so-called Wyll (I am coincidentally also real-time reviewing at this time a novel by an author with the forename Wyl, the first time I had encountered this name), subtle eroticisms, a special tutor named Miles or Myles Brampton, a poem etched under a carpet, and minks that (aptly?) are sent skinny dipping… And much more, many objective-correlatives and disarming strangenesses in this text that gradually merge into a nightmarish plot’s foundling or changeling or lostling gestalt.
      “Noli me tangere.”
    6. COLD PLATE
      A sharp and scythed philosophical fantasy of bodily “agony and joy” in “dreadful rhythm”, comprising or compromising Platonic Forms and a relationship where the woman needs the furnished new and unsullied, the man the antique and decorative, with feet sharpened.
      Taken to its bottom bone this is a ready-made wordspread of viands, that if I described it further would spoil the splendid ending. Can be read on various levels. My level perhaps only exists in my own head. Chasing the noumenon or the optimum eschairtology.
    7. I have read and reviewed the next story here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/theakers-quarterly-fiction-46/#comment-1624 and below is a copy and paste of what I said about it then:
      —————-
      Petrol-Saved
      I first encountered the sartorially stylish prose-work of this author in a TQF edition and it has become a firm favourite reading of mine ever since. This story is more idiosyncratic than how I remember his previous stories being, a cross between the Welsh scenario of a Rhys Hughes (“After a month, the westerlies were packed away for a week, stored safely out at sea where the worst gales blew.”) and a strange township from a Robert Aickman and ‘The League of Gentlemen’ and an old-fashioned Ionesco or BS Johnson form of absurdism plus a no doubt pure Wilkinsonny element, here concerning accretive cyborgism. It all seems to blend well and the ending is strikingly good. It tells of a Mr Tipley (who becomes Tipton for some reason on two occasions) and there is also a decided connection with this book’s black ribbon and cryology engineering ethos.
      “…he could touch the truth of the weather, feel the words emerging from blindness clearer than anything he could ever see.”
    8. A WORLD WITHOUT WATERCRESS
      “In the hospitality trade, one is threatened every day. My motive for shutting the Hotel for a season is to have time to form an accurate picture of the nature and extent of my property.”
      This is a classic story, one which gives me the feeling that I have discovered a lost story by historically a favourite writer of mine, a story that no one knew existed and that now excels all that author’s others, which would be saying something!
      The main character is the exponential hotel and its environs of river and ferryman’s cottage, with a strong trick-of-the-light and morphing genius-loci and, just as one example, a seasoned back bar to die for.
      The owner is oppressively paranoiac on behalf of himself and his hotel, with one loyal worker in a silver suit, but others (one in particular called Mallison whose name evokes horror for me, now, as has always the name Millar), characters who seem to be besieging the hotel owner psychologically and, sometimes, in at least inferred bodily person. An aura of encroaching illness, too, that old wive’s tales might cure, and to call anything inanimate as feminine is anathema to him. Later, I wonder if the hotel itself is feminine, flauntingly flirtatious…?
      This is genuinely a disturbing story, but without losing this author’s absurdist mien, an absurdism that sometime works with, sometimes works against, such disturbing qualities, depending what is intended by each story, I guess.
      “Arseholes or watercress?”
    9. GOLD IN ASH
      “: the dogs he walked in the morning were not those he walked at night.”
      Worth reading this story just for that line. And a cloud of white butterflies as big as bats. And the later sound of one footstep. I am half-Welsh, by the way.
      A quirky theme and variations on a Welsh myth, involving a death in a modern day Royle Family and the gold ring left on the corpse’s finger, inheritance machinations and events involving a couple’s suicide pact after one of them had already died.
    10. AN INVITATION TO WORSHIP
      “At dusk Emily heard an unnecessary key in the lock.”
      A few stories in this book (including this one) have been, for me, unnecessary when compared to the other necessary masterpieces of weird fiction in this book, and, because and in spite of this, I have ordered the author’s previous collection “The Paintree” from Amazon UK so that I can real-time review that, too, in due course. To half-worship at the altar of Wilkinson.
      This story is of a lady in London working for a public relations firm owned by a sort of ‘inbred’ Welsh family. As a result of sexual or absorption harassment from one of them at the firm, another at the firm allows her to escape to a refuge in outlying Radnorshire where one of the strange locals can’t be stopped from delivering fresh eggs to her, a man with a green tie and a reputation for chainsaws. Arcane hermaphroditism ensues. There are some amusing as well as worrying things in this text, and overall I felt harassed by it.
    11. I read and reviewed this before here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/strange-tales-v/#comment-4241, and below is a copy and paste of what I wrote about it then:-
      ———————
      THE INVESTIGATION OF INNOCENCE
      “…but the longing for connectivity was still there, a terrible ache.”
      A terrible ache, indeed. To gain innocence, is to lose my body’s frailties, I guess. It seems, via tattling (twittering on some grid that in our real world leads to all manner of GUILT?) that, here, in a world of INNOCENCE, of cyborg-honey and slick sex change, this story’s grid is one that brings us the positive poetics of familial terrorism’s nepotism and the politics of the bee-lovely hive mind. Beautifully written, immaculate, even the nastiness is just one side of perfection? Even the Unacceptables are accepted. I am still working at it, though.
    12. I read and reviewed this before here https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/14592-2/#comment-8421, and below is a copy and paste of what I said about it then:
      ————————
      Choice
      “No friendship there, just the half-joy of collusion.”
      It’s getting boring – me keep saying: another gem. But this is another gem. Aickman-like, almost Lewis Carrollian, but what I sense to become eventually Wilkinsonian*, this story of a man who seems to be suffering iritis (I personally have suffered iritis intermittently since 1973: a very mysterious, rare, potentially serious eye illness) and who moves to a bungalow in the flatlands away from the bright coast, but a bungalow with a slope to echo the ‘architectonics’ of the rest of this book… Beset by characters that want to play games with him (noisy like the rumbling in the Harman), games such as a model railway (very telling in this book’s context) or conkers… very weird, but with a truth that will hang around, I’m sure. Schoolboyish, nightmarish… It has, for me, the light-sensitivity of reality’s layering level crossings…
      *this is another name to watch. I had the pleasure of hearing this author and other authors read from their stories at the recent launch of the book. I have earlier reviewed a story by Charles Wilkinson (‘Notes on the Bone’) HERE and he has one entitled ‘Night in the Pink House’ in my own edited anthology: ‘Horror Without Victims’.
    13. I read and reviewed this before here https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/theakers-quarterly-fiction-44/#comment-8842, and below is a copy and paste of what I said about it then:
      ———————
      A Lesson from the Undergrowth
      “…a set course Kant under his jacket;”
      Another elegant story of haunting and horror from a favourite writer of mine whom I have discovered only relatively recently but one who musters, I sense, a substantial hinterland.
      This is a haunting tale of the return of Neil to the large house – skirted by dual carriageways – where he grew up as the son of its caretaker. With the telling background of social divisions, we follow the battle between free-will and determinism as it blossoms from a series of the past’s memory-lists into a brush with thoughts of a sort of badger-culling, but not in the sense we accidentally know about in the news today, followed by facing one’s own mental car-crash of an AJ Ayer-esque Drogulus…
      [As an aside, I wrestled with calling ‘confectionary’ a typo for ‘confectionery’, but decided that strictly it wasn’t.]
    14. WATCHERS IN THE WOOD
      “He was quite young when he saw a ghost looking out from the grain of the sideboard in the sitting-room.”
      This is an intriguing, but, for me, confusingly staccato, if stylishly written, account of a Welsh township of mysterious strangers, one with dissimilar eyes, – general gossip in the fish and chip shop and elsewhere – leading to an expression of pareidolia or apophenia where you progress from merely imagining faces in sideboards to believing that there are souls in the inner ring-whorled ‘carpets’ of trees, even your own soul, I ask myself? All connected somehow to the onset of wind farms in the area and, maybe, eroticism with animals…
    15. HANDS
      “…enthralled in lucid East Anglian light, an enormous blue-vault sky arching high above.”
      …echoing some of the significant poignancy of this book’s first story, but this more a coda, a story of Peter, widowered and under health investigation, moving to this seaside place, but when we find him, the place is foggy, an ambiance very well felt and described and I was particularly intrigued by “…where everyone had been far above sea breath for a week.” An obliquity full of meaning, one that should have been in a poem. The house where he now lives has a hidden washroom and rumours of the couple who lived there, and the ensuing ghostly plot is both metaphorically and literally touching.
      This book crackles with Wilkinson and, I have just realised, some of the mystic absurdism of one of my favourite writers: John Cowper Powys. Some true classics of weird aickmania and some engaging gewgaws. A definite characteristic pungency of literary flavour.
      end


      Monday, August 22, 2016

      The Many by Wyl Menmuir


      11 thoughts on “The Many – Wyl Menmuir

      1. 1
        “…waiting to feel the boat grounding through the soles of his boots.”
        Down to the boots, down to the boats…
        As the boats come in, I am taken out by this text, my own boat upon its evocative tenor of tide, I sense, as I am introduced to Ethan, this fisherman, with dreams or nightmares of diminishing but not fully depleted fish stocks, dreams, too, about Perran, a sadly-told loss of his wheelman with that name, whose house now seems to have been taken over by a suspected ‘emmet‘ called Timothy … and, beyond that, the days’ hauling and gutting, the pattern of container ships against the pattern of diminished fishing boats…
        Yes I am pulled in already by these entrancing seeds of a story but somehow ‘seaed’, too, with some truth of occupation and environment. I shall try eke out my reading reactions to this text, without being a spoiler of its rhythms or substance of plot.
      2. 2
        “Maybe this will become an obsession he can cultivate, a story that others will tell about him.”
        We now see the area through the eyes of Timothy the emmet, with our being now in sympathetic liaison with him – which is a striking change of perspective from seeing him in the previous chapter through the hostile eyes of the outlying village and its inhabitant Ethan. Apparently, Timothy has bought this rundown house through a diffident Estate Agent in London, a house in this area where years before he once holidayed with his then new girl friend Lauren, now presumably his wife… I genuinely felt the inimical tides of that earlier holiday and the cold freezing swim he takes today.
        I no longer intend to itemise the plot in this real-time review but in future just give my reactions to more sizeable amounts of this engaging text, as I read it.
      3. 3 & 4
        “Where there are jellyfish, there are fish behind.”
        It seems appropriate to be reviewing this book with the Dreamcatcher or a Hawler. Fish mauled, hauled, half-dead. A “mutated haul”. And an obsessive glimpse of Ethan’s entropic, assumed fish-god world, self-stinging, self-harming almost. And his obsessive scrutiny of Timothy, as if the latter is at one moment some sort of curse and arguably the next moment some hook of reluctant beneficence. Distantly watching Timothy’s own form of gutting, removing Perran’s downtrodden belongings (from the house he has bought) into a a heap of used objective-correlatives, as it were. I try to catch, too, passing signals, as the book puts it. And the forces, for me, of now fishing’s assumed brexited downturn and lateral pollution by others. An enormously powerful text so far. Getting down to the book.
      4. 5 & 6
        “Above the beds, a small, gaudy painting of the Virgin Mary, all blues and golds, stares down at them with sad eyes from beneath her oversized crown.”
        Timothy in the present, as the locale’s outsider Guinea pig or emmet, around and with whom the locals circle or begin to fraternise, but even in his backstory, he himself is also somewhat dislocated, I feel, (not knowing whether it was for minutes or hours Lauren and he once stared at each other), dysfunctional, especially with his ship dream (that will stick in YOUR dream tonight, no doubt.)
        I think Ethan and Timothy will deserve each other, when or if in tentative interface! Even Timothy’s memories, let alone his dreaming, are dubious, like that much earlier holiday in this alienated locale with Lauren, with that uncertain rock they hugged on, and that Fawlty Towers type hotel…
        I am genuinely captivated. No, captured.
        (Death and the seaside?)
        “…and sees someone has slid an envelope beneath the back door and it stands out white…”
      5. A telling image that I have seen issued in connection with this exponentially, if still quietly, disturbing novel… You can taste its salt, and its greycoat woman as a Slythe type character – or a Lieutenant’s Woman of the brexited class?
        image
        7 – 9
        “…Timothy stands on the foredeck trying to find his legs.”
        A tugging at the reader with atmospheric fishing scenes of the Ethan-Timothy interface accreting from scratch. Zones of containing as well as container ships, blurred fishing regulations, seabirds, fishcatch buyers on the shore in packs, and the fishcatch itself of weird but presumably buyable ilk…a dreamcatch?
        And Ethan’s cloying backstory to rival that of Timothy, including a sepia photograph of a priest and a censer, one that approximates a male version of the lighthouse greycoat woman…?
        Later, a fish offering to be buried, almost a religious rite?
        Text teeming with such plotcatch, tractable to sieve and sort – and then try to lay out like a story’s audit trail, a laying out that would be a spoiler to lay out here, even if there is an as yet distinctive one to lay out at all.
      6. 10 – 13
        “…a net of sorts and, somehow, that he is starting to become caught up in its folds.”
        I think my review’s bait earlier netted something premonitory when I said this above about Timothy: ‘…at one moment some sort of curse and arguably the next moment some hook of reluctant beneficence.’ Though, ‘hook’ now sounds wrong. It sort of would have scarred the “lucky catch”, as Clem’s two word expression puts it.
        We now reach Timothy’s baiting the mood-changing Ethan into adumbrating Perran’s backstory, Perran who ended up more a Hawler of boats, as I hope to be a Hawler of books, helping haul the boats ashore. And we follow Ethan almost literally into the scene of this man’s backstory, now Timothy’s house to where his Lauren is soon to arrive, a house emptied of that earlier self and replaced with Timothy’s own self’s accoutrements?
        A feeling of the village’s scrawny whelks, Timothy’s own precariousness, “pulling up nothing from the water”…making “heavy weather”, but should we expect a storm instead? No spoiling by me of the eventual catch, I promise, subject to the generic precariousness of real-time reviews themselves.
        I am continuously captivated AND captured, no longer either-or. And I haven’t even told you half the story of this consuming text.
      7. 14 & 15
        Timothy’s mystic vision or delirious dream, and its aftermath … a landmark of sea fiction?
        Reminds me of the tenor of some scenes in the great John Cowper Powys fiction canon without that author’s ostentation of prose. Without his Tench.
      8. 16 & 17
        “He lies still and listens to the sounds in the house and wonders what more he will find changed in the morning, what more will be unfamiliar to him.”
        And I find that with this book.
        You need to be an obsessive reader, asking questions like a dog worrying at a bone. Not relenting as you really want to know the answer. I must take a boat hook at you, to safeguard a book hook, I guess. The book, you see, has got to the stage where you will spoil it if you ask the wrong questions about it and then have them answered, although I am not worried about divulging about the two sheep in the underground tunnel or the young woman come to inspect Perran’s house for decoration purposes, or whether she is a grown up version of the small girl throwing leaves over her parents in Timothy’s backstory with Lauren. You sort of find yourself actually becoming Timothy in this way, under scrutiny. By me. By that grey woman et al. But don’t take my word for it. It is a book very difficult not to spoil. Until you read it, as I am reading it, and you find that you need not have worried because it is impossible to spoil … as long as you are patient and don’t keep asking me questions about it till it ends and then you will see, as in Perran’s house, what unfamiliar things or changes had yet to emerge.
      9. “One especial thing that struck his pragmatic and literal mind was the extraordinary difference between this murderous-looking flood-water and all other bodies of water he had ever seen or known. The brownish-grey expanse before him was not like the sea; nor was it like a lake. It was a thing different from every other natural phenomenon. A breath of abominable and shivering chilliness rose up from this moving plain of waters, a chilliness that was more than material, a chilliness that carried with it a wafture of mental horror. It was as if some ultimate cosmogonic catastrophe implying the final extinction of all planetary life had commenced.” – John Cowper Powys
        —————
        18 – 20
        “Ethan feels if he picked one of the lines up, he could pull the sea and sky towards him.”
        I shall leave it to you to decide what is dream and what is not dream here, what indeed might be dream within dream, or a different dreamer dreaming your dreams. My view is that there are few dreams here, only truths. Whatever the case, the ensuing unfamiliarities and changes, and watchers watching whom, are manifold. There is no way to convey this reading experience other than by your reading it. If it is not hawled out from among the many, then it should be thrown back into the sea of literature whence it came, and whence it will emerge again, sooner or later, even greater. (But I have more pages to read, with, predictably, more unpredictable tides of text yet to unfold.)
        ——————
        “There’s something in us that’s the same, that belongs to us all; and I’ll tell you what it is. It’s the Future being born in us — It’s the Future tearing us, breaking us, bruising us so that it may be born.”
        – John Cowper Powys (possibly his prediction of some form of brexiting, a political and social phenomenon that occurred after ‘The Many’ was written and published.)
        (The two JCP quotes, as word-musical counterpoint, are from ‘The Glastonbury Romance’.)
      10. 21 – 24
        “…he can feel beneath his fingertips the scars left by the sand the wind carries with it from miles and miles away, from another country or another continent.”
        Having finished reading this book, I have no reason to withdraw anything I have written above about it. And I now issue a patchwork of further thoughts without breaking the book’s confidence. A series of asides. Carwreck or shipwreck? Great Hope, the Grey Mary as the Many, “a faded plaster Virgin Mary”, the Great Hope vessel as Powys’ holy grail, or baby’s cradle, a sacrificial offering, the recurrent question “Who is Perran?”, to which we receive one possible devastating reply, and then there is a funeral director to die for, and the cracks breaking or brexiting from the sea, flowers given away, those flowers of the sea or its desiccated living fruit? “the dull roar of the motorway like surf on the sand”… TImothy and Ethan and you the reader: but who is looking out of whose eyes? Whose streets straiten, whose house morphs or screams?
        This is not a dislocated or dysfunctional book, but it is one that skilfully conveys such facets of existence through the means of its own existence as such, so it is worthy of listing as a prized inhabitant of my Dysfunctional Room of literature here.
        end