Monday, February 13, 2017

The Seashell Contract – Rhys Hughes



28 thoughts on “The Seashell Contract – Rhys Hughes”

  1. CHOPSTICKS
    “There is no pure authenticity anywhere, unless it is faked.”
    Burton tries to impress his Chinese girl friend with his manipulation of chopsticks in a restaurant, asking for longer and longer chopsticks that he still manages to manage whatever their length! Has the author bitten off more than he can chew with this exponential conceit? This ambitious work gives you the answer.
    [“Chopsticks” is a piano waltz written in 1877 by the British composer Euphemia Allen under the pseudonym Arthur de Lulli.]

  2. THE SEASHELL CONTRACT
    “…a lesson in humility,…”
    A second Rhys Hughes classic in a row, each alone making purchase of this book worthwhile (plus the fact that the book’s proceeds are going to a charity.)
    This story is one of those genius works that give off oblique shafts of absurdist wisdom without you noticing them being absorbed by the reading mind as real wisdom. A flashmob lemming surge to humble the sea…. But nothing is that simple, and there is much else here extrapolated into named hurricanes, global warming, perpetual motion energy storage etc etc, all ending on a romantic note, a note which is both ironic and real. No mean feat.
    As an oblique aside on my part, earlier today, BEFORE I read this work, I placed the words below on my Facebook page following Trump’s veiled threat to Iran overnight…
    {{ I recently read this in a newspaper somewhere; please forgive the Goveish source! — “Mr Gove described Mr Trump’s conversational style as being like a river in spate, adding: ‘You throw pebbles into it and sometimes there are eddies and currents and from that you can read what it is that he wants.'” — I, DFL, now feel a giant asteroid, not a pebble, has been thrown…..}}

  3. THE BELLY ORCHARD
    “And what would a botanist know about stomachs?”
    If you don’t know about something, you don’t know it is missing. And that is a statement for our times, issued by this stirony about the fallibility of naïve honest belief as part of the ‘nature’ of humanity. Perhaps explaining why believing something is sometimes compared to swallowing it.
    And the ending is utterly rhapsodic.

  4. img_2846BILLIE HOLIDAY ON VACATION
    “Why does this place mend shoes and cut keys?”
    This is a fine example of a Rhys Hughes childory – where an infantile inquisitiveness leads to a sophisticated one. Conundrums of wordplay and absurdism towards eventual unlocking of as yet unseen truths.
    Here, inter alios, there is a shrug as a worn fur low on one of the shoulders.

  5. THE WATERS OF FOSRETAWEHT
    The waters of a wet forest?
    No, this is a neat beginning and end of a story, a story that echoes the loop of its near eponymous palindrome.
    “These eccentrics were very stubborn.”
    It is also a treatise on obduracy by pitching custom for pragmatic reasons against custom for custom’s sake. By the way, can eccentrics be stubborn because eccentricity would seem to portend a fluid behaviour upon the waters of time, an open-mindedness, but, equally, eccentric opinions need fighting for with tenacity if you want others to follow your example. A conundrum that only an eccentric like me could possibly worry about.
    Keeping clean as a perception rather than as a reality, meanwhile, is a fascinating conceit for this fiction and I honour its story with a badge of eclectic eccentricity. Pegged to its nose.
    img_2863
    The above is what my wife makes me use to clean the shower every morning after my shower.

  6. FOUR AGORA CORNERS
    “(6) To expect ten commandments is a sin,…”
    To expect four corners is agora-phobia?
    Separate sections about things not being as they seem, concerning the pelican as a symbol of Christ (cf the wonderful novella by Leena Krohn I reviewed here), binoculars as a cruel gift to the cyclops, the Armstrong-Aldrin moon landing, and Priest’s Dream Archipelago conjoined by cranes under the guise of Greece as broken crockery.
    This is quadrilateral thinking.

  7. THE SALSA RAFT
    He uses the “force” of his salsa dancing club to power his raft to Cuba. There are many infantilely naïve reasons for this, and (unlike with the Billie Holiday work) the eventual narrative as well as the ending do not come to the story’s rescue in my view. And in the story’s own terms, it is illogical that he can use this “force” at all. Still, it provides a useful foil for the four agora corners that preceded it.

  8. GALAXY WHISPERS
    An essay that truly stirs the conceit buds. A midway fault-and-default in an otherwise smooth word-baton passing in a game of Chinese Whispers leads to considerations about coincidence and the galaxy itself, with a layman’s example of pizza delivery to help the less cerebrally endowed readers towards such rarefied heights of philosophy. This essay is vintage Rhys Hughesianism at its most powerful, with a default absurdist glitch at delivery’s end.

  9. A COMEDY OF GAMBITS
    “‘A smirk is sharper than a dirk,’…”
    How one gets from King Arthur to a male Queen and other rooky rockeasy endowments, ended by an ending that is as whimsical as a cornucopia of caprices in a galaxy of gambits, I’ll leave the reader to have the delight of discovering without being spoiled by any false moves or errors from me.

  10. THE BUS MUSEUM
    “I dislike arguments but they do pass the time.”
    It is easy to become blasé about the variegated works of Rhys Hughes. But this is possibly one of his very best, a rhapsodic account of a dystopian city journey on an excitable trip towards the bus museum. Rhapsody and dystopia don’t usually go together, but here they are a perfect match.
    And some of you might discard the thought of reading the works of Rhys Hughes, because you are biased against them without having really tested that bias by reading them! Or you fear being sucked into them as one of its objective-correlatives or (tuckerised?) characters!

  11. WHY LOOK AT ME SMUGLY?
    “Because I am omniscient, the assumption is made that I consider myself superior to those who aren’t;”
    The author was just talking on Facebook about omniscience in fiction and having just finished this I chimed in! There is of course a face in this book by means of a tiny mirror embedded in the page…
    This is more another wonderful absurdist essay than a story, though, one with new truths.
    Extrapolations upon smugness. Smug ones.

  12. HEAVY RAIN ON A SLOW TRAIN
    Five Go Mad In the Welsh Rain. But that’s my story. A reviewer, particularly a real-time one (even a gestalt one!), cannot afford to appear omniscient about the books or stories reviewed, for fear of issuing spoilers. And there is something about the two stories that comprise this single story that needs to be lost somewhere, anywhere other than here. You will know what I mean when you read it. Suffice it to say it features the (exaggerated?) nature of rain in Wales when compared to that in England, leading perhaps to the tongue-in-cheek front cover of this very book.
    The bifurcated stories themselves make a fine gestalt of their encompassing frame, featuring the nature of travelling in a forward train seat as opposed to in a backward one (a touching tale of unrequited love, too) and the inventions of Mondaugen in the second bifurcation. Rain talking, train bifurcating, silence empowering, the inventor is someone whom I am sure I have read about before, specially as my computer autocorrected his name to the correct version!

  13. THE MONUMENTAL MASON
    “That would be too much of a coincidence.”
    I don’t get the the first joke about ‘feeling himself’, but this exponentially mind-conceiving story — from simple puns (and I love puns, I hasten to say!) to complex twists of truth — is one that implicates the readers into the author’s world of meaningful but ludicrous names of characters towards a teasing side-step of some intrinsically secret almost Godly-omniscient absurdity you have ever yearned for but didn’t realise you did so until now, even while watching the text simultaneously carve abstractions into concrete sculptures galore, and making the monumental momentous.
    “The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg.”


  14. THE PROMOTION
    “Plethora of pawns!”
    I often marvel at how a Rhyshughesian stirony blooms from the lowest to the top rank, like literary alchemy. This again is one of the best, about more facebook mirrors now in the shape of chess pieces, the wordplay of pawn and porn, the promotion at the top rank like the Queen in the Comedy of Gambits from rock or rook, and one of the best conceits ever, this one of an astronomer differentiating between those pinpricks of light, to know the identity of each beloved star even when out of its contextual constellation… Absolutely beautiful. And more. A rhapsodic blend of the crass and the spiritually inspirational.
    The only drawback here is the relatively weak ending, but of course, as I had not appreciated or remembered, a pawn can decide whether to underpromote itself when it reaches the top rank, but never stay just as a pawn. Again a beautiful outcome, so thought provoking, too.

  15. THE INTERNATIONAL GEOPHYSICAL EAR
    “It is difficult for a man to refrain from rubbing a chin that is longer than an unwashed foot.”
    But is it the man’s own chin?
    Meanwhile, following the previous work, I now marvel how a RH work doesn’t actually work as well as others of his works? And can he, as author, differentiate the best of his own works from the worst? Don’t get me wrong, this one is not the worst but it doesn’t seem to make the cut. It somehow sags and drifts apart (a bit like ‘The Salsa Raft’). It is a tale of the giant collapsing ear with whispers but not secrets (Chinese whispers?) and the ploy for a man to straddle the date-line. I love stories with no rhyme or reason, but some stories with no rhyme or reason are better than some other stories also with no rhyme or reason. And I am not sure how or why I know how or why this can happen. I DO know, though.

  16. JUNKSHOP IN OESTRUS
    “Someone has to be the originator of trivial irrational beliefs.”
    Beliefs that, nevertheless, attract adherents.
    Following one masterpiece and one near dud, this is a sort of middling sort of stirony of the Rhyshughesain ilk, with some wonderful conceits, such as a one-trick pony whose type of trick is better than having more than one trick, our five bodily senses being butlers who do not bother us unless they have to do so, and a shop like a character from Samuel Beckett. Other than these and a few other great conceits, this work is a bit flabby and convoluted. Not convoluted like a möbius flightpath, but convoluted like a twisted root that despite such twistedness is lacking distinctive character, unphotogenic and hardly noticed when walking through the forest on the search for pareidolia in natural configurations.

  17. THE KIZOMBA WANDERERS
    “It was a sideways move…”
    Sidewise, too. I seem to have already used “side-step” above [“towards a teasing side-step of some intrinsically secret almost Godly-omniscient”] to describe a certain aspect of this author’s fictionatronic stirony style!
    This one, though, is not a classic Rhysian stirony, but an involving essay about a particular dance, a couple’s dance, an essay that is absolutely perfect, one where the reader can feel the dance within the reading soul, and the contact with the partner, and one can tell it is heartfelt. Even the ecstatic extrapolation of this dance at the end becomes real-time. It is THE Rhys work perhaps, one that will dance on forever.
    In a gestalt real-time…
    “I was completely embedded in present time, lost in the moment, fixed in the now, a state we all strive to attain but rarely achieve.”

  18. WHERE EVERYONE WINS
    “Wandering hands are faster than warnings.”
    Reading stories faster than my realising that I should have been warned against it! This work will genuinely send you mad. No joke. But, be warned, the madness is faster than my writing this review! It is a story that seems to fuse with the air around it, making it full of “Whichever way you prefer” holes. An alternative as main protagonist with alternative advisers and alternative womenfolk to meet his needs, arriving at a giant gestalt that checkmates or trumps my own gestalt. But I like being beaten. If you do, too, everyone wins.

  19. THE FOUR SEA SONS
    “…but I also don’t believe the salt of the sea can come together and form itself into a giant,…”
    …or a gestalt? The title made me think of Vivaldi, but then I found I was the narrator, ever gullible as non-omniscient narrators often are in fiction, while the sons of the seas tricked me into believing things that were not true. Which made some sort of sense regarding the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction.
    The rest of it, the mermaid, the origami, the seashells, the messages in a bottle, the hoax phone call, merely the random parts of that gestalt. A tale of literary unrequitedness.

  20. THE KIND OF MAN
    “Sometimes we must be cruel to be kind, other times we must rhyme to be fine.”
    Despite this work’s engaging absurdist randomnesses and robots (if random they are – Betjeman and Larkin had statues made in their images), ‘The Kind of Man’ is a defiant authorial statement, echoing what he said publicly a few days ago (“I forge my own path, every time…”) in reference to the splendid irony of networking this charity book on a predominantly anti-natalist website.
    What kind of reviewer am I? Not a kind one, I hope. A truthful one, I trust.
    Still, I see myself tagged in this work itself, perhaps thus seen erroneously, but this author and I have for some years been involved in a never-ending duel
    “I can see your giant face looming high over me as you read this story. You are wearing a sneer that I don’t much care for. You believe you are special and the attention you are giving me puts me in your debt. But I have been read before. I sip my cooling coffee smugly. That’s the kind of sip I do. […] I had challenged the face’s owner to a duel.”
    And Trump-Brexit – “I understood a political change of vast importance had turned my country into a prison, a perfectly circular prison…”

  21. THE SELFIE HABIT
    “The state of being inside a woman felt like being outside her.”
    With my above mention of statues of two poets, it seems appropriate that this extrapolation of the kind of man (or woman) a selfie is in modern digital-photographic terms extrapolates itself towards a ‘public monument in the main square’ of 3D instead of 2D, when blended with the historic development in exposing oneself for photography in general, and, to my mind, its development into the future.
    This book has cornered the market as well as yourself.
    Escher as ownerism.

  22. THE WORKPLACE HUGGER
    “a brace of subjects”, an “accumulation” of lost things under the desk, and a garland of stories in this book to cherish, a number of them being genuine stironic masterpieces in the Rhys Hughes canon, well worth backscratchig from their hiding-place in this ironically gloomy seashell of a book. Shoehorning the texts into your mind. Making it fictionatronic.
    A charm of a book, one with a steely stern spine beneath its jokes and overtures of diversity as well as of oneness. A group hug as gestalt. Wordplay as overt loveplay. Conceits as covert jabs and feints. A galaxy of gambits.
    A review as a fawning backscratcher? No, I hope it is a backscratcher as a device for eclectic dreamcatching not only from a single book but also from under the desk of reality and irreality at large. Any pretentiousness, notwithstanding.
    end
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Saturday, February 04, 2017

Holidays from Hell – Reggie Oliver

 

15 thoughts on “Holidays from Hell – Reggie Oliver

  1. I read and reviewed this story in January 2014, as follows:
    ———————————–
    image
    Holiday from Hell
    “…full of the kind of routine moments that some people find reassuring.”
    And I have often found some horror stories reassuring in a similar way, and notwithstanding some striking unroutine moments in this terror tale by the Reggie man, the Punch and Judy operator of the plot, I was reassured and made comfortable by its Brightsea genius loci of the vulgar, rundown seaside resort, with nods towards our country’s obesity problem and short-tempered working-class trippers, but I was also pleased and strangely made secure and safe by the fact that some well-characterised old people with slightly odd names from a Home in Diss had travelled to this coast near Liverpool, and shared digs with an impoverished actor as protagonist who himself touches a rare moment of romance with the opposite sex as well as touching dark issues with regard to all these things I have described as happening in this terror tale (and with the theatre itself in which he acted) which paradoxically comforted me. Even comforted by the poignant ‘Flowers of the Sea’ moment at the end of this terror tale that some other readers may not even have noticed. A holiday from Hell indeed – not TO Hell, I, for one, hope and trust.
  2. THE SILKEN DRUM
    “He was not dull: at any rate his form of dullness was peculiar to him which, in our part of the world, counts as being interesting.”
    This story reaches from a neighbouring dullness to a central interest, from concern to obsession, as a Japanese lady and her nine year old son rents your Suffolk cottage neighboured by the main house where you care for your wheelchair-bound wife.
    Silken hair, seen-through to head, a dinner party with hobbyist artist: neither a Magritte or a de Kooning; cantatas and liturgies, and an accretive journey via concern and obsession towards subtle terror, if that is not a contradiction in terms.
    A Yes story about Nō. And a would-be old man distracted by sweeping leaves and by even subtler sex than terror, distracted by obsession from his duty of concern…?
    Bats beating upon dull silk surfaces.
  3. THE GREEN HOUR
    “Sometimes my wit gets the better of my good nature, I am afraid, but I do not consider those to be grounds for such atrocious homicides.”
    …nor for absolving them. The wit is fine, though, even the first literary joke ever concerning the poet Mallarmé. And with clues connected to the operas of Rossini during the Paris Exhibiton of 1867. Involving the detective who solved the crimes in Poe such as the orangutan in Rue Morgue and my real-time review of Marie Rogêt (the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction.)
    The murders in this story are forensically genital-mutilative and I recognise one cannot have presumptions as to the nature of the culprit or whether the crossbow’s arrow through a green apple was any sort of clue at all.
    The ritual of making absinthe, notwithstanding.
    (Sometimes my wit gets the better of my critical abilities!)
  4. THE PERFECT AUTHOR
    “It’s about as interesting to me as how I go to the lavatory.”
    This is a delightfully witty story of writers’-conventions and feminism (here taking place in the first story’s Brightsea) as well as a fiction come alive as meta-fiction, or, again, as my ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ – where the socially-challenged (in a professional writer sense) author of this story meets the over-perfect female author of crime fiction as this fiction’s meta-fiction (as if, almost, the two of them end up collaborating on her Canon Parsley fiction as meta-Father Brownisms (my real-time reviews of all Father Brown stories here)) — leading to some genuinely eerie scenes as the female crime fiction writer’s fiction character comes to life – complete with the best fart in literature, I guess. Seriously.
    “I aim to go everywhere in my books except to the bedroom and the lavatory, explicitly, I mean.”
  5. ABSALOM
    “I dream in moods, rather than images, but they are moods to which images attach themselves, almost arbitrarily at times.”
    …just as in the story where that statement is included, such as a reference to Marilyn Monroe at its beginning and some cove called Samson more than just fiddling with blonde hair towards the end…
    And is it any accident that Absalom and Samson assonate, as does the ‘ard’ in both Hardman and Everard, too?
    On another level, this is a stylish tale where one can really believe it is someone writing to us from the 17th century, a literary exercise in verisimilitude by dint of our being allowed to read papers found as a result of a temporarily uncarpeted flooring in a University, the tale of a posh student rogue who hates God for having given him birth and lives a low and salacious life, followed by those mercenary followers who need to follow them in the pay of those who know little better but should know better. A hubris and nemesis of an eventual haunting, but that only gives you a slight clue as what lies beneath – and above. Sweep it all under the carpet, I suggest.
  6. THE DRUID’S REST
    “Some Frenchman had said that in every relationship there is usually one who loves and one who gives permission to be loved.”
    A page-turner about a pair of Sapphic-tending girls in shorts biking round Snowdonia (reminding me at first of the two girls in Aickman’s ‘The Trains’) – seemingly caught at a distance from shelter as night comes down, arriving at a hotel by name only for tax purposes, uncanny, a boastful landlord, increasingly making the story around him gradually bend out of shape, uncanny and worrying, and thus bending out of shape for the girls, a triangle of peccadillo instead of just a straight line – for the reader, too, and I feel even though I have now finished reading it somehow I am still within its pages. A seraphic ecstasy. A panjandrum. Half-smiling.
  7. I read and reviewed the next story in October 2016, as follows –
    ————————————
    THE ROOMS ARE HIGH
    “, the sea pale blue; the whole suggested the delicate, light tones and meticulous detail of a Victorian watercolour.”
    The seaside town almost unchanged since you were at school there decades ago. A ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ type encounter with a Bed & Breakfast place (reputed to have ‘high rooms’, whatever that means), a traditional old-fashioned establishment with a dinner gong, a dowdy landlady or her daughter, and a single fixed resident, other than you. You who have recently finished suffering a prolonged and painful widowering, just getting over it. You were at school in this seaside town all those years ago, and one of the teachers, believe it or not, is still alive, a teacher the boys called Hoppy. (The B&B is called Happydene.) An unwelcome return of memories as you talk to Hoppy about what he used to do in those politically incorrect times of yore. And, later that night, potentially catching up, since your unmindful loss of it, with the sex you prefer, but with a nightmarishness that makes this story, in spite or because of its engagingly bespoke dark humour of occasion and place, seem both intensely felt and felt to be believable.
    ———————-
    “True beauty lives on high.” – George Herbert
  8. THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS
    “It was a three quarter length portrait in oils of a girl with long blonde hair standing at a balcony…”
    Long blonde hair, as if passing on a current of life from story to story in this book, person to person? This story is a portrait of truly insidious horror by dark implication and salacious insinuation, as well as conveying painterly and actorly-actressly dynamics as part of an eventually exponential threnody of domestic and eschatological seediness.
    A tale of a deceased’s assisted house-moving with transliteration of his once and now defunct professional promise as a ground-breaking photographer and of the secret shots of the narrator’s own past family life that nobody surely could have taken. Not time-travelling, as such, but a triangulated or 3D gestalt.
    A sledge Hammer film to crack a nut. Or to make you trip over its somehow embedded tree root. Redolent with an old bureau’s secret drawer, and with “crumpled sheets” ready to pounce. And the visionary dead too ashamed to come back as proper ghosts other than for some vague hand-wringingly yearning appeal for some us to believe they ARE ghosts.
  9. THE BOOK AND THE RING
    “On Midsummer’s Eve Anno 1592 I hearde an olde blinde fiddler playe a fine melodious tune (though somewhat melancholique) in a fielde.”
    A fine linkage there with a part of this Tartarus booke itself and an equally fine transmutation of the previous story’s horror genre eschatology toward this story’s Shakespearean ripeness of scatology, full of damnation, witchcraft, lovely-dreadful turdid terminology, the transcribed-narrator’s skirmishes underground for what I shall call some Malebolge of a book so as to ease some Satanic path for a well-characterised witch and for this 16th century composer nearly as good as Tallis or Byrd.
    It did not seem to speak to me (with its mere added end ‘e’ or added ‘k’ to ‘-ic’ etc.) directly from the 16th century as effectively as did ‘Absalom’ from the 17th.
  10. I read and reviewed the next story in June 2015, as follows –
    ———————————–
    THE MAZE AT HUNTSMERE
    “When you go to a familiar place with someone who is new to it, you tend to re-experience it to some extent through their eyes.”
    Not only does that seem to be the perfect description of dreamcatching fiction through the author’s eyes and alongside the reader whom you visualise is the recipient of your review but also that quote seems to echo the act of entering the world that is Reggie Oliver, the fictional maze he has created, the real maze in the grounds of the plot’s stately house like the house in Downton Abbey, a figurative maze, too, that is a setting for an alchemy of sexual antics required to summon Pan, as such antics summoned him in the previous story. This is the wonderful thespian Virtue in Danger world of Reggie Oliver you are entering with me, a story that is also an amusing grotesque satire of various snobbish mores representative of nobility and of generally posh people, the orienteering of sexual politics, theatrical Etonian types now making a living from TV series….
    There are people like the narrator who concocts his own backstory as a magick alchemist of the old school, the Marquess of Martlesham, Samuels the chauffeur, and a posh character who seems to morph from gay to hetero – an imputedly parallel magick alchemy from dross to gold – called, by the narrator, at one point ‘a notorious wrong-ender’, all inter-mazed with a Chinese Chippendale Fourposter bedroom, and much more. One ends up wondering whether it was the Statue of Pan in the maze that brought to life the sexual antics of the characters in its vicinity or those actual sexual antics that brought the Statue of Pan to life. A virtuous or vicious circle?
  11. TROUBLE AT BOTATHAN
    “I was struck even more by a feeling of fragmentation in the writer,…”
    …as I was struck by this writer in the shape of the first-person narrator. Until I was sort of confirmed in this at the end, lending even myself the reader a fragmentation without, for once, its eventual natural gestalt…
    On the face of it, a frightening ghost story with a rationale of why the ghost haunts where it haunts, a tale of an elitist, not snobbish, retreat in an academic-historied house as refuge called eponymously the Place, in the vicinity of Launceston and Bodmin Moor. A momentous inhibition as our narrator finds himself alone in the surrounding wilds when he should be acting sociably or listening to a talk on Beethoven. Hands all over him in a creepy field near a rill he imagines flowing to an empty Hell. I can give you no further clues, for fear of spoilers, other than a diary he thinks he was meant to find on the well-characterised library shelves in this genius loci of various places, the house and the paralysing field, a diary by a young female for this equally young narrator to read – as if the Place is a bin as well as where he’s bin himself, too, or about to go to. A party of kindred spirits?
    This book is full of, not found art, but found documents. The prose is admirably workmanlike and beautifully inspired, but eschews art (other than its story-title illuminations). Hume sweet Hume. ” the absence of all presence…”
  12. A DAY WITH THE DELUSIONISTS
    “…the Pléiade editions of Proust and Mallarmé…”
    This, as a sort of sequel to the previous story, is the best story in this book I can safely say having already read the final two stories in the past, if the past is the only place where you can have already read something! The past is a country where they do things differently, as they do in this story. A brilliant whodunnit, with many delicious literary references, among those bright young things of Oxbridge. Where one can literally as well as figuratively get away with murder – like Boris, George and David? Click that link.
  13. I read and reviewed the next story in June 2016, as follows –
    ——————————-
    RAPTURE
    “…a sun setting (or rising) over the sea.”
    A classic Reggification — by a compellingly limpid story of genuinely memorable Machensque weirdness over London skies — of truth and rapture, of vice in danger, of absurdity and religious satire, of all those unpolitically incorrect things going on in the world around Hampstead Heath and Archway Road, behaviour here stared at unswervingly without fear of the social justice warriors tearing it to pieces on-line should they ever get wind of it or, even, without fear of such warriors’ favour when deploying their interpretation of this text and praising, to high heaven, its even higher moral high-ground.
    This whole book, like this story, I already sense, has more than just one face. More than one version of textual interpretation or exegesis as well as more than one version of physical production image. This first story, within it, also has an engaging characterisation of a man in his small flat – someone who has recently split up with his fiancée – and tells of his interface through thin walls with his equally well-characterised but, for me, frightening neighbours, whose High Church draws him into a battle against the dark forces of our End Days, seasoned with sexual undercurrents and switching selves as well as a switching book that contains such selves.
  14. I read the last story in September 2016 (when I had a brief chance to talk to this author), and reviewed it then as follows –
    ——————————-
    LOVE AT SECOND SIGHT
    “We were in the middle of September…”
    For those who love the work of Reggie Oliver, this is unquestionably a real treat. I could inadvertently give you many spoilers; all I will say is that I strongly sense the presence here of the personal as well as of the creatively extrapolative – not that “bleak no-man’s-land between tonality and modern atonalism”, but a memory of your past with a certain place and person (since mostly forgotten), a memory experienced before life directed you to another more pre-destined place and person (if pre-destined CAN have a less or more?)
    Certainly the regretful, as well as the assured, and the perceived ‘avant garde’, the characterfulness of various parties of the past extrapolated into the future, even beyond their own capacity to subsist, eventually towards the ghostly, as if the ghostly can also have a ‘more’ or ‘less’ attached to it. A musical comparativeness. A performance still to be perfected. All possible paths of pre-destination equally to have been loved and responsibly exploited, whichever path it had turned out to be.
    The feelings of this deceptively powerful work continue to resonate… It is the apotheosis of Uncertainty, or a Certainty that Uncertainty is the optimum Certainty. I have a feeling that these two volumes of stories are full of things where the authors have truly given of their best, these being some of my genuinely favourite writers in what I see as the genre I was always pre-destined to love, but now seen, in sudden memory, as this genre of Uncertainty, a pre-destiny now clinched to house them. Tomorrow, I might have forgotten what I thought. But not now, having written it down here.
    ————————————
    I shall now read for the first time this book’s Introduction by Robert Shearman and Afterword by Reggie Oliver. I am sure these will give me more food for thought.
    end