Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cinnabar's Gnosis (2)


The Autumn Keeper – Mark Valentine

“ ‘What will you do when you find the last lantern?’ [...] ‘There will always be another city.’ ”

I fell in love with this author’s fiction when I reviewed ‘The Nightfarers’ here:
And I fall more deeply in love with it by the addition of this story to his canon. Lovecraftian texture, or M.P. Shiel, but predominantly a highly clause-tentacled and wordy, if piquant, style that is a unique Valentine-doux admirably suiting this tale of a Magus who collects prodigies in what I have learned to be Meyrink City as a Platonic Form – eventually shading off into (then majoring as) the tale of one of these prodigies, a young lantern-painter who learns to look below the lanterns he paints and meets a procession of life’s lessons in the shape of tasking people. Not a Pilgrim’s Progress so much as a Dreamer’s Duress made sweet with a meaning only you the reader can blend. If that reader is Meyrink himself then I’ve found this book’s ‘literary being’ at last ... myself? Or yourself? (26.12.09)

Modern Cities Exist Only to Be Destroyed - Michael Cisco

"The train glides into the station. The doors part like buttocks."

Carrying on an Autumnal of the 'Dreamer's Duress' from the previous story, a Pilgrim called X enters a Ligottian synaesthesia and a reality that needs an engineer as all is potentially Machine. And a Magus Meyrink who leads the Pilgrim towards Knowledge. A clever story of Meyrink City with tasking commuters and a train - leading to a possible symmetry of two trains. There are sharp phrases from time to time that awaken the reader - the reader who develops apace as this book does. Each story standing on the shoulders of the previous stories to reach the cabinet-panel in the Wellsian, if not Wailing, Wall. (26.12.09 - two hours later)


The House of Sleep - Stephen J. Clark

"I have made extensive notes but the more I try to detect a pattern the more it eludes me."

A further effective Autumnal (judging by the dates), this time of epistolary cabinets - invoking another Absurd Theatricality acting out a reality of darkness and truth. An unrealistic Theatre performing the part of a realistic Theatre. Or vice versa? The epistles' scholarly protagonist finds out the answer. And so do I. Meyrink as inner playwright.

"The walls of my room here have become a map of those events yet it is the blank spaces between the pages pinned to their surfaces that still haunt me." (26.12.09 - another 4 hours later)


The Multiples of Sorrow – Steve Rasnic Tem

He had absolutely no hope or optimism for his own future, and yet it was a future he looked forward to with great anticipation.”

A haunting (non-1984) Orwellian treatment of Meyrink City (just after the 1st World War) with Praguesque, Londonian, Parisian resonances, whereby (Eucharistic?) blood and “architecture of ruin and rust” (Cinnabar? Chrome Dioxide Magnetic Tape?) of the City as the engineered Machine are hinted at, in some further ‘chess sacrifice’ of down-and-outs for the gnosis-alembic belonging to the book’s Meyrink, allowing this very Meyrink to continue forming theosophically as a further warm-up act for its very reality-in-your-(the-reader’s)-room. “Cinnamony dust” and insects... (26.12.09 - another 2 hours later)

The Cabinet of Prague – Mark Beech

The ‘psychotrope’ of miscegenation. This cleverly combines the book-magical library-lore of a Carlos Ruiz Zafón and the naïve initiation of a chance street-adventurer from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ as he becomes out of his depth ... here endangered by the actual fiction text that describes his Praguesque rite-of-passage from family to exile. A story that wonderfully tells of being the very thing that is most threatening to its protagonist, i.e. a story that the reader cannot ‘penetrate’. A City as a symmetry in pain. Eventully to be encroached by another City whose wholeness as a single word is divided by a river.
“ ‘...the true intent of the writer lies between the lines...’ ” (26.12.09 - another 4 hours later)


White Souls that March in the Astral Light – Jonathan Wood

“There is hunger now for certain strange knowledge in this society where so many have died so young.”

At least partially in tune with the visionary fiction of Arthur Machen, this is a heart-breaking story of London amid the guilt-passions of the First World War, with Theosophy and Christianity and Decadence -- ‘or’ Life and Death and the insidious state between them -- fighting their own tri-partite battle for literary angelhood. It creates a fulcrum of intense text-effulgence that is not just about a séance but is a séance.

Alongside the efforts of some ectoplasmic ‘slop’ on a puppet-string, this story seems to combine many of the threads of this book so far: e.g. “You were their heavenly Father, their beloved uncle here upon Earth”, “...his expectation of a deluxe copy of ‘Lanterns of the Astral Complex’”, “rusted guttering”, “the dissector’s table, where blood runs so slow”, “concupiscent maid”, “a thousand beloved and symmetrical faux Father-priests reflected back and back upon one another”, and (not mentioned so far in this review but apparent heretofore in the book) the implicit faces on banknotes. (27.12.09)


The Cylinder of Shunyakasha - Adam S. Cantwell

"...Nowak did not greatly love the unnerving slow malice of Webern, the subdued and cryptic control which seemed to hide violence."

This is a delightfully funny but significant piece regarding The Reality Meyrink in which this book is steeped, both historically and spiritually. Harkening back to the 'magnetic tape' of an earlier story, I really enjoyed this tale of a writer using a wax dictating-machine to write an article on a Meyrink who had given him the machine in the first place - enjoying its novelty, experimenting with sounds of birdsong but also annoyed at his neighbour's chants across the wall. I'll leave the reader to discover exactly what happens.

But this story took on new heights and depths for me on a personal level. I mentioned earlier in this review the Large Hadron Collider (a future 'engineering' of the dictating-machine?) and the recent serious scientific theory that it is sabotaging itself from its own future. And the real news of the bird that temporarily halted it by dropping bread into it. This story now lends retrocausality to that very retrocausality! In addition, there is the 'Turn the Crank' story in 'Cern Zoo' ... and think of 'Cone Zero'... This is all too good to be true. I can't believe it! I feel that not only is this book on a roll, but I am, too, by reviewing it.

"Our perceptions and selves are arbitrary, fragmented.... like Europe itself, we are all continuously tearing ourselves and each other apart..." (27.12. 09 - two hours later)


The Chymical Wedding of Des Esseintes - Brendan Connell

"...women like giant lizards strutting about in silk..."

[Talking of the 'Cern Zoo' book, this author is one of its authors.]

And this story is a tale of a Frenchman on holiday in what I see as a Proustian form of Prague being led in a Dreamer's Duress, if not upon a Pilgrim's Progess, by the story itself in the guise of one of its own protagonists through the city's ambiance of tasking inhabitants towards a wedding and this book's Meyrinkian reality - where symmetry is more than just pain. A wedding as collider? Very evocative with gem-like prose. (28.12.09)


The World Entire - Ron Weighell

"The junk shops and dustbins were overflowing with discarded treasures, leaving the houses free for the incoming tide of ugly, cold, soulless furnishings that were the latest fashion."

Here the book's Meyrinkian reality is cleverly transported, amid Lovecraftian miscegenations of hatred and envy, into the English reader's heritage of Richmal Crompton and 'Just William'. The Meyrinkian power of this book is to open a Cabbalistic synaesthesia of tongues and loosely cousined religions and literary decadence within even our most mundane or once youthful readerly minds that have forgotten how old one must be to be erudite or sensitive enough.

The come-uppance of the boys described in 'rusty ink' takes its textural toll as text. I find it difficult to forgive even the sympathetic I-protagonist let alone the nasty boy who accompanies him on this mischievous foray into a private Semitic domain as accessed from the city's roofscape. All brilliantly described by a narrator who has lexic power beyond his apparent youth. Only the retrocausality and insight of hindsight and of later learning can summon such detailed boyish antiquarianism. And a wonderful half-glimpsed stone monster. (28.12.09 - two hours later)


The Light Invisible, the Light Inaccessible - Peter Bell

"She wrote mystical poetry and reviewed esoteric opera, like Rutland Boughton's 'The Immortal Hour'..."

This is another Autumnal (judging by the dates), not epistolary this time, but a Journal in real-time that seems aptly at this stage to parallel the endgame of this real-time review itself, a review of the book in which this journal sits like a wind-swept, loose-limbed Island in denser Meyrinkian seas. I feel tempted to make my review follow the intent of the story's narrator: "I will hide this journal, unsigned or otherwise identified."

It seems to be this book's context-untypical tale of an occult search surrounded by a wild, yet neatly delineated vision of the Scottish Islands and the High Church of Christian and non-Christian symmetry. It is a piece of Baxian music. A Fall from Grace or nearly so with enticing young feminine charms set possibly to make the Journal-keeper forget those older charms of a woman he mourns. Airy yet opulent descriptions. Meyrink as Centaur? Delightfully old-fashioned, with a sense of wonder as an aftertaste. (28.12.09 - another 2 hours later)


Tzimtzum – Quentin S. Crisp

“I hesitated, my very soul in that hesitation.”

This is the longest story in the book, almost novella-length. It is extremely powerful, and, if not ‘deliciously bleak’, numbingly nightmarish. I recently reviewed the author’s ‘All God’s Angels, Beware!’ HERE and I honestly believe myself, as a result, to be a changed reader forever, if someone of my age can be changed for good or ill.

‘Tzimtzum’ is the Dream’s Duress at length and, for the previous story, is the finding of ‘the last of the charnel cairns’ and, for the book as a whole, ‘the spiral of my pilgrimage’ towards summoning its words into its 'literary being', the Meyrink that becomes me ... or becomes the ‘nameless You’.

There is too much else to only-connect or to draw to your attention in this story, in this whole book, this review being a sort of inner absurd playwright of the critical spirit.

Porridge or Urine, the circle is complete, ‘Of Human Bondage’ towards a literary darkness as a version of retrocausal self.

I seriously believe that this book as a whole is a significant landmark in the history of Weird / Horror Literature.

I shall now privately read the Biographical Notes at the end of the book for the first time, hoping they may give me further food for thought.

“Prague, it seemed to me, in all the world must be the very capital of twilight.” (28.12.09 - another 3 hours later)


Thursday, December 10, 2009


The CERN ZOO book (June 2009) originally based as an anagram of its prequel books CONE ZERO and ZENCORE, with 'Cern Zoo' *subsequently* found to be real terminology from 1995:

The CERN ZOO book contains stories about the Cerne Abbas Chalk Giant and the Large Hadron Collider and Zoos. My comments on the stories from a real-time review on 17 October 2009 that take on a retro-causal significance in the light of links below.

November 2009: HADRON COLLIDER'S OWN SABOTAGE FROM THE FUTURE - VIS-A-VIS 'CERN ZOO' plus bird with beget bread. AND NOW (Nov 25, 2009): BERNE ZOO INCIDENT AND NOW (10 Dec, 2009): NORWAY SPIRAL LIGHT. Links above that are astonishing connections that the book makes between the Large Hadron Collider and events in the world.

Well, it's good to dream. :)


The importance is not in the cause of events but that they happened at all to make a perceptible pattern of connections.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Berne Zoo Mauling - Hadron Collider

Nobody has yet connected the recent start of collisions at the CERN LHC, Switzerland with yesterday's mauling of a man by a bear at Berne Zoo, Bern Park, Switzerland.
Quite seriously and astonishingly, the common factor is the earlier published book CERN ZOO as described and illustrated HERE.

This is also connected with recent upsurge of retrocausality TV fictions like 'FlashForward' and 'Paradox' and 'Dr Who and the Waters of Mars' - and the two scientists who recently suggested that the Collider may be sabotaging itself from the future ... and the bird that dropped the beget bread into the Collider?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Final Fanblade

Last night CERN turned the crank of the Hadron Collider. In the next days or weeks we shall see, through their spinning smoothly by synchronous chance or clashing with random skewed wings, what they will blow into existence of the Universe’s meaning or meaninglessness. Its demise ... or denemonisation as what? Whether ‘The Inherited Clock’ will bite and snag our curiously poking human finger or will make it new again minute by minute.

I was wondering what is the opposite of ‘collision’. Collusion?

I have long sent my stories around the Weirdmonger Wheel, some in opposite directions to others, others in the same direction as that of yet unwritten ones and head-on towards others never to be written, and vice versa, so as to discover something about ‘a-man-too-mean-to-be-me’ that I call ‘I’. A self-indulgent or solipsistic spin of the roulette wheel, the balls probably ricocheting out into endless space because I spun it too fast.

The world’s single stripe-streamed balustrade of fanblades – flash-forwarded by dint of hindsight into today’s imagined subliminal unison wheeling – is what I call scientifically ‘the last balcony’: a temporal as well as architectural term with many competing meanings of protruding frailty and symbolic strength. Of final welcome or forever’s first farewell.

The immediate bow-wave of far-future’s collision of ‘Never’ with ‘Now’.

The final spellcheck will hopefully alter collision’s first i to u.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Fanblade Fable (8)

The living-room felt a sense of its own perfectibility. A Haydn harpsichord sonata in surround-sound, hyper-minimalist furniture and a sculpture of an old-fashioned Compact Disc industrially slit from the centre into fanblades splayed-out for optimum air-resistance when spinning. It set the teeth on edge to imagine it inside a CD Player emitting a damaging clatter beyond even the most avant garde of composition.

There was also an old-fashioned diary or journal upon a near-invisible glass-table. The last entries – on three consecutive days – were found to be:
Cone Zero
Cern Zoo

The previous days bore normal entries of events, thoughts, appointments and so forth. Scouring these essentially un-mysterious passages for clues as to the meaning of the three mysterious entries was a pointless activity. The fact that scouring was attempted at all must have served some purpose in hindsight, however. With no further attempts being made, untoward amounts of time were now not to be wasted in doing so by whoever.

Perhaps all entries worldwide were abruptly first left blank on the same day but how many more days were left blank between then and now?

Anything can be downloaded from anything these days, even empty minds. Flashing forward from blog to blog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Immortality takes on a new achievability

The retro-causal theme of Cern Zoo has, in many ways, been taken over by the later real history of the Large Hadron Collider as reported in the world’s various media during recent days and weeks. The bird with the beget bread in its beak now leading us, two by two, towards Nemo's Ark. The respected scientists who seriously proposed that the Collider was sabotaging itself from the future. Just symbols, perhaps, but they have given a new dimension that could not have been foreseen when initiating the Nemonymous ‘win immortality’ competition all those months ago: HERE
This unique competition is still open until 31 December 2009. And all its implications have yet to be played out while, even as we speak, new dimensions of the Cern Zoo open up day by day in parallel with real events.
It is not beyond the realms of imagination that the prize to be won now is not simply a fabricated, semi-laughable version of immortality, not simply a gimmick of publicity to underpin a ‘guess-the-author’ competition, but soon to become an immortality that is achievable. A fictionhead. Dr Who’s own water-park of forever. A flashy FlashForward.
After all, Cern Zoo was originally a near anagram of the previous Cone Zero and Zencore books, but it then beget from itself a hindsight destiny when a real professor duly gave a lecture entitled ‘Visit to the Cern Zoo’ on 4 February 1995: as indicated HERE.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

New Fanblade Fable (6)

Cave Art is supposed to be pre-technological, yet when I entered the underground system beneath the Abbas Chalk Mines as a producer for a TV programme on popular aesthetics, I was astonished nobody had noticed a scratched image in a dark corner that only the strong camera lights (needed for such a venture) could sufficiently illuminate for me to see what I could only describe as a modern domestic cooling-fan complete with electric flex.

Of course, it only looked like one. On closer scrutiny, I could see it was just an accident of chance shadow and my imagination that made the 'whole' from the bits and pieces of expertly dated caveman art. Abstractions as well as cunning representations.

The flex was indeed a queue of what appeared to be animals – two by two – just made out with a magnifying glass. How the cavemen had had the wherewithal to create such precise down-sized figures – with just a stone implement upon a rock wall and in utter darkness – was quite beyond me.

We were the fist TV crew allowed on-site and I had yet to meet the head curator of the Abbas underground system. His girl assistant had led us down – more concerned with her love life, no doubt, than what she was showing us.

Indeed, it appeared she, too, was surprised by what the TV lights and magnifying-glass revealed.

“They are like lemmings slowly heading towards some vast spinning-contraption,” I said.

The adverb ‘slowly’ seemed an odd choice of words in the circumstances, I guess, but I am not a scientist. I am an entertainer and reporter, and sometimes the two became far too close even for my comfort.

Eventually the programme was made. On my instructions, we did not feature the mysterious Lilliputian zoo creatures heading towards their own collision with Fate. It was a great success. One does need to balance truth with secrecy. The showing of the bizarre interesting bits in the corner would have undermined the whole Abbas project, even if those bizarre bits were just as real as anything else we showed. In fact, I later suspected that the only genuine caveman art in the Abbas system was that depicting the zoo animals and their fate while the remaining more believably ordinary images shown on our TV show had earlier been completely fabricated.

Who says crime doesn’t pay? The crime of concealing bizarre truths in favour of boring fabrications.

I wonder how many other projects, artistic or scientific, are dogged by similar considerations. It makes one wonder. I only report this here for my wife to post on the internet when I am gone. It seems right somehow bearing in mind where we first met.

You see, the flex had no plug.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The New Fanblade Fables

Gunfleet Sands Windfarm

Old Fanblade Fables:

Links for the New Fanblade Fables:

First five Fables in comments to this post:

New Fanblade Fable (6)

New Fanblade Fable (7)

New Fanblade Fable (8)

The Final Fanblade

All above by DFL

A Fanblade Fable - by Bob Lock


The Cerne Abbas giant had a 'hadron'.

Original spin-off from the CERN ZOO book (June 2009)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Fanblade Fable (4)

As the bird left the vicinity of the Hadron Collider, the beget bread it had dropped in a cooling-unit had created all manner of concertina results – a domino-rally of fanblades toppling upon each other round and round, flashing forward and back in the Swiss sunlight....

Meanwhile, the bird returned to the aviary at Cern Zoo to the sound of resounding cheeps.

And roars and lowings and squeaks and brays ... and silence from the snakes and insects.

Amazingly, one Zoo feature that was assumed to be ever silent broke into what could only be described as the screeching of chalk (or nails?) on an old-fashioned school blackboard. It was the crudely ‘drawn’ giant carved into the side of the limestone hill overlooking the zoo - a priapic landmark that the visitors took for granted as it had been positioned there for years on the upslope of the extraneous glance.

Loaves and fishes went missing, too, as the sound of hollow feet vanished in the opposite direction by which it was thought the bird had flown back. The pity was a drawing couldn’t fly. Even by the skin of its fingernails.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Fanblade Fable (2)

In those far-off-the-wall days, resistant baffles were built within the inner-tubes of the tyres on bicycle wheels. And the spinning spokes were fantail-flanged to mimic fanblades.

Brian loved pedalling around, thus fanning the otherwise stagnant air in his wake. Summers, in those ancient boyish days, were not only quite endless but also steeped in what sensitive souls like Brian called 'atmospheric doldrums'. Indeed, the sky formed its own version of the Sargasso Sea, reflecting* the sun-scorched countryside through which Brian's bike travelled in a circle to and from his family home.

*Reflections that the sky's intrinsic blueness turned from bleached-yellow into weedy green.


The world then needed more fanblades at every turn, so Hadron Colliders of various sizes were built all over the land in the same way as wind farms were once built at sea. For many years, there has been one such wind farm opposite where I live. Now derelict as its fanblades no longer turn. Tangled-up as they are in the sky.

Today, at Summer's end, the pedalling silhouettes of various increasingly breathless Brians on bikes gently pedal along the aging horizon of my hopes and dreams.

Not off-the-wall so much, as off-the-earth.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Pillowcase

“What counts are the tangible books on one's shelves, whatever the soon-to-be-forgotten chequered-history of their publication and distribution.”

The man who spoke carried a large old-fashioned suitcase, as battered-looking as himself, one with metal spring-loaded catches that could be fitted into the notched slots of each of two fastening contraptions with rather more difficulty than a quick getaway would have required. Or so I surmised. It looked to me as if this individual who called himself Brian couldn’t get himself away anywhere quickly whatever the emergency or the nature of his suitcase!
I imagined it had a number of elasticated pouches inside for compartmentalisation of its luggage load. But before I could speculate further, he continued with a non-sequitur:

“Everyone is the outcome of a patchwork of motives, deceptions, truths, honesty, falsehood, chance luck, deserving fortune... of Toynbeean challenge-and-response.”

He spelt out one of the words because I looked puzzled, before he continued: ”I think this fits in with any observation about adding one's own experience to the melting-pot of history. All reality is a sum of such experiences. Mine. Yours. And everyone who has experiences at all to tell. This is why the internet can be such a useful tool in pooling all such experiences towards the goal of solidifying reality. But, meanwhile, the books are what count. The people behind them sink back eventually into anonymity or rise up to fame, whether deserved or not. They just do. The books remain.”

This looked if it was a chance conversation between strangers much like that time-passing small-talk in which one often indulges when on a train journey. Except we were in the waiting-room, not yet on the train. It was late.

I replied: “I am with you regarding books, Brian. But the internet! I never know whether to resist it or embrace it. A part of me once used to wait for the postman in the same way as today it waits for the email inbox to open. There's no helping people like that part of me. Actually, most of me wants to escape that bit of me. But, there again, just because communication has been 'oiled' by electronics (just as it was 'oiled' by the printing press in the Middle Ages), why should we destroy it by walking away from it, as I am often sorely tempted to do, as the only means to escape it? Partial, moderate use of the internet is not an option. When things are so oiled it sort of oils you, too. Makes you a different person. And soon you will not be able to recognise that different person because that different person will be you. It’s Hell on earth. Walking away from the internet cannot now reverse that process. That's the frightening thing ... just like the Large Hadron Collider.”

That last reference of mine opened the floodgates. Brian mumbled of the collider being 'the fast-swirling of nightmare’s moat' – 'a crystallisation of candle-dreaming' - 'the erection of a last balcony like a sea-side pier where we all walk towards its end and one by one drop into the sea after waving at the waves'....

“Only yesterday (7 November 2009),” he continued, “there was a nemonymous tweeter escaped from the aviary at Cern Zoo that dropped a white pellet of beget bread into the collider causing it to overheat...”

The train seemed as if it would never come, its steam fried to a frizzle on its boiler, I imagined. Giving up hope, the waiting-room’s benches looked decidedly uncomfortable for sleeping on. But beggars couldn’t be choosers.

“Never fear,” said Brian, “I have something for our heads.”

He tried to unfasten his suitcase.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Weathering


Sunday, November 01, 2009



Thursday, October 29, 2009

Candle Dreaming

Now published in THE LAST BALCONT book (InkerMen Preas 2012)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

CERN ZOO - DFL Real-Time Review (part two)


See above for important context.

The Rude Man's Menagerie
This is an apocalyptic story deriving from the Chalk Giant thread weaving through this book as well as the Zoo one, where chalk drawings become a menagerie of creatures, comprising the female protagonist's touching (still conversational) relationship with her dead Dad and her righteous cause against the Rude Man drawing in the well-depicted landscape and the Rude Man's own tethered chalklings. One cannot do justice to the crop of joy and anguish intermingling so tellingly. It is a fictional rite of passage like none other, I suggest. One that will haunt you with chalk dreams. It does me.
Here, too, the Dead Speak again (as part of THEORY?): an added dimension I had not appreciated before. Or is this me hindsighting yet again?
(18 Oct 09 - three hours later).

Window To The Soul
"'Welcome to CERN ZOO. We buy your unwanted memories,'..."
Another fable that deals with the core of this book, I feel. Today, even more so than I originally thought, with explicit reference to the Higgs particle itself so central to THEORY. Hindsight and pathos, exquisitely conveyed, with Alzheimers perhaps on some future horizon cone-zeroing back in on us through time...
(18 Oct 09 - an hour later)

Salmon Widow
"...Sam: tall, boyish, sharp-of-nose and eyes full of tomorrow, she..."
This tour-de-force (literally!) -- well, it is tucked away in the Cern Zoo book and, like other stories here, deserves a wider readership. How can anyone go through life without, for example, reading 'Salmon Widow'? But it passes even under the radar of most of the reviews, too. Even (almost) under mine, other than to say: it is a swirling rich fishbone-marrow A.S. Byatt time-woven shoal of images and emotions and horrors and coincidences and 'Who Do You Think You Are?' with Kate Humble or David Mitchell or Marcel Beque or Prickle / Holly / Samantha... all conveying a real story-plot.
All I can really do is quote the actual writer of this story who has given me permission to quote here what he or she wrote to me when he or she heard about THEORY: "Salmon Widow's circular construction was not unmindful of Hadron. Similarly Marcel's snakebelt, that from some angles might be seen to eat itself. And remaining on the mournful: as you'll know, the Old English Cerne (hmm, from the Old French "dark circle") refers to a cairn or grave. Big Crunch theory suggests that we'll meet ourselves on the way back: the collision may or may not be pleasant."
This writer has also reviewed the whole CERN ZOO book (other than 'Salmon Widow') here:
"Perhaps her husband had joined her..."
(18 Oct 09 - another 3 hours later)

"...the clouds threatening a rain that had not yet come..."
A simply beautiful short tale of a girl collecting pink pebbles from a beach and the boy protagonist who met her. Ending with a dying fall that contains a poignant contentment at impossibility. It seems a shame to mould the meaning further than that. But did she really seek just one pebble, one particle of our existence? The story does not give the answer to that question because, I suppose, it does not ask it.
(18 Oct 09 - another 2 hours later)

The Shadow’s Departure
A dark vision of Distraction, derelict Glass Factories, enticing madness... this is the Shadow of the Future that is tied to us all. Whether we reach full liberation from it is a knot or ligottum that few can untie. It is just that (and this is my thought and perhaps not the story’s) if the future speaks to us we are truly the Dead who Speak back to it.
In honour of this story, I have concocted a short waking-dream from its Synchronised Shards of Random Truth & Fiction, i.e. distilled from the prose in its first half (I dare not distil anything from its second half!):-
the secret life of broken glass
a shadow haunted sector that even the cranks and the closet cranks of academia dare not analyze
I secretly hoped to meet that one-in-a-million madman who clasped some shocking inner truth
the stupid whir of a trillion pointless devices
(19 Oct 09)

Inspired by last entry above and by 'Salmon Widow': SHOALS (19 Oct 09 - an hour later)

Being Of Sound Mind
“...sending an attack of the vbvbvbv’s into a current opus.”
One of a number of stories in ‘Cern Zoo’ that I accepted and contracted without first knowing who wrote it – a writer who has since kindly given me much information on Time and Parallel Worlds and other philosophies that also perhaps underlie the Cern phenomenon. As does the story itself implicitly and explicitly.
An enthralling and touching and concept-provoking story of someone recently retired now taking fiction-writing more seriously, later facing a whispering then clamouring ‘political correctness’ after the sudden bubbly arrival of a mysterious ‘granddaughter’ manqué. This plot really blossoms even further in the (for me) new light of THEORY. I am so glad I spotted this memorable intarsia of ‘magic fiction’ before fully appreciating it as such.
(19 Oct 09 - another 2 hours later)

Dear Doctor
The girl on the cover suddenly has a pain in her stomach. Or on it. Incredibly, now, I find, in hindsight, this brief and (for me) hilarious joke letter to a doctor is the plainest example of the power of hindsight itself. This all seems to be in a synergy with THEORY that I, as editor, never foresaw.
(19 Oct 09 - another hour later)

Mellie’s Zoo
“'I wish you were real,' she whispered.”
I just ended re-reading this story with tears in my eyes. It’s that kind of experience, especially today, in context. A tale of Mellie, a Child as Mother of Man – faced with a ‘lost domain’ Zoo beyond the woods we know, of memorable inward atmosphere, in company with other children (one boy as their internal ‘pied piper’). ‘David Almond’-like sensibilities are punctuated with visions of a metal bird and shadow-creatures (both in tune with ‘The Shadow's Departure’) and a Salmon ...
And a caged version of her own stuffed purple hippo at home...and much more. Extrapolating wildly in an uncaged way, I feel this is the Zoo of ‘The Lion’s Den’ version of future self in logical progression as transmuted and rusticated by its return journey come back to haunt itself with pathos as well as bathos.
(19 Oct 09 - another 2 hours later)



Sunday, October 11, 2009


“A pirate as a person or a group involves an element of illegality or at least a bending of the rules, does it not?”

It sounded more like a statement than a question. And a long way short of a chat-up line, I guess. He stared at me at the dark bar on the edge of a nowhere where, lost, cold and hungry, I had just left my car in its car park of no obvious allotted spaces.

Women on their own in such places must be a rare event, I continued to guess. I had only come in here for directions, while deciding whether or not to partake of the establishment’s ‘hospitality’.

I looked sideways at the solitary barstool-occupant. A man wearing glasses that must have made the interior even darker, by the look of them.

“Excuse me?”

“A pirate can also mean people who are not eligible for things but take them nevertheless.”

I felt affronted. Could he mean me? Perhaps this was a club for carefully chosen members and I had parked my car outside ‘illegally’?

I was immediately inclined to leave without further conversation. This was part of the country to which I was unaccustomed. Visiting someone from University days I hadn’t seen for years. We’d just got reacquainted by some internet finding-old-friends site. Maybe old friends were not meant to rediscover each other – as in the old days, with very little means to do so. Such precarious reunions could cause all manner of ‘not-meant-to-be’ situations – and the world sent off into directions equally ‘not-meant-to-be’. These were not original thoughts of mine that I was thinking as I waited to decide about my next move in the dark bar. I had had these thoughts for some time when deciding to pursue, via the internet, certain lost friendships in the first place. But there was something ringing at the back of my mind about my current predicament in the dark bar being a ‘not-meant-to-be’ of some significant risk to my health and safety. A pirate destiny, as it were.

If words could be caught like infections – there I had just thought about the word that seemed to be preoccupying the man in dark glasses who had just used it – twice. As if he was toying with it. Worrying it, teasing it, trying it out on his lips. Obsessed with it.

A member of the bar staff – and I was pleased to see it was a female of some age – now suddenly arrived in my vicinity to take my order.

“Is that your car outside?”

She pointed at a shape I could hardly discern through the window.

“I guess it is,” I said.

“Well, can you move it? It’s private.”

So, I hadn’t been far wrong with my earlier presumptions. But the place had a sign outside indicating it was a public bar serving drink and food.

“Private?” I responded in questioning echo.

“Yes, private.”

“Private,” more forcefully echoed the man in dark glasses.

“Is this private, too?” I asked with a nod towards the bar, trying to take some initiative without antagonising anyone with a forceful reference to the public sign outside.

Thoughts raced through my head. Time seemed to stand still. Many things put on the internet with the wrong assumption of it being private were often available for viewing by many millions. Just see the hit counter if there is one to see at all. Just because these potential millions don’t make their presence known to you does not mean they aren’t there, watching, reading, toying, teasing, worrying at your words ... obsessing ... storing up a whole host of ‘not-meant-to-be’ scenarios. How often have you conducted what you think is a private conversation on a blog or a supposedly ill-frequented forum – only to discover it was far from private. It’s easy to imagine seclusion even when millions are watching you.

Suddenly, the bar woman pointed at a word engraved on the mirror – the backs of the shorts and optics reflected dimly in it.

The word was, of course, “Private”. Except the letters seemed slightly mixed up and one letter had teasingly been rubbed off as if in a game. It was then I saw the woman was wearing a black patch over one eye, fixed in place by a single elastic band around her scarfed head. Stepping nearer, the man took off his dark glasses, then opened his chest...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Two Old Gents Have Flights Of Fancy

“The address is dot dot dot,” said George.

“No, it isn't, it's dash dash dash.,” replied Albert.

The two old gents sat on the bench outside Blackwoods Supermarket, gazing across the fields at the spire of a distant church. They knew there was a town over there quite different and separate from the town in which they always sat whiling away the hot Summer’s day.

Passers-by somehow proved that town’s other existence. They were not consistently the same passers-by so they must live at least somewhere else. They’d always be the same passers-by if they lived in the same town as the two old gents.

The times were ones when people didn’t travel far from their own home town – either because of a lack of money or due to rudimentary transport systems that worked irregularly. Different towns then were different countries now.

The two old gents were speculating beyond the realms of their usual gossip. Gossip became a bit tedious after many years. So they used to make things up. About imaginary places. Imaginary towns. Imaginary people. Waking dreams tossed between them as the day shone on.

Sometimes the imaginary people took off like semi-real existences upon flights of fancy. Often they became so very real to the two old gents, the existences fleshed out and became the new passers-by miming the people just conjured up by the two old gents as passing by.

Then the two old gents returned to gossip of the trivial and mundane. Then they perked up again with fresh flights of fancy. Except their vocabulary was not a match for their fancies. They interspersed their talk with 'dot dot dot' and 'dash dash dash' as a sort of personal morse code to fill any gaps. But, meanwhile, they were able to visualise the things that underpinned the dots and dashes, but whether telepathy worked or whether they visualised quite differently not even their telepathy could tell them.

“The address is dot dot dot," said George, visualising the road before he visualised the house. The road was indeed “Dot Dash Dot Avenue” and the house-name “Dash Dot Dash Villa” – and out from it came a figure made completely of dots and dashes that needed joining up into shapes as in a children’s dot-to-dot puzzle. He gradually made out a woman’s bits and bobs from amid the emerging squiggles.

Suddenly, he visualised his own eyes welling with tears.

“You know, I love her,” he said.

“Why don’t you go there, then?” asked Albert.

“I’m not sure of the address.”

“Sad, that.”

“Yes, sad, that.”

“But do you know her name?”

“Dot. Her name is Dot.”

“Short for something?”

“Ah, yes.”

“Ah, I know her. You’re welcome to her. A flighty piece.”

Silence, punctuated by dry sobbing.

Written today and first published here

Monday, October 05, 2009

Different Skins - by Gary McMahon

I’m starting another of my real-time reviews. This time it is of ‘Different Skins’ by Gary McMahon (Screaming Dreams 2009). [My previous reviews are linked from here: ]

This review will be done slowly, savouringly, in real time, so please do not look back here more than once every few days for additions.

Part One - My London Ghost

"There are hundreds of streets out there in the Shitty City..."
As stirred in me by an incident told here, I think Horror Fiction is looking through the fish-eye into the corridor outside your bedsit? Do you open the door when you have first glimpsed what you have glimpsed...? For one moment, I though it was a real fisheye and a real me looking through it.
The initial setting casts an under-grounded, inward-swarming, dead-leaning London as a receptacle for the Personal and the Recurrent. Our first-person singular protagonist addresses us direct and we cannot help but participate in our act of reading something that flows more like listening.
A shame the very first sentence contains, to my eyes, a blatant hilarious misprint. Or maybe it isn't a misprint. I may hit on its signficance later. Or it may just prove that the inadvertently ridiculous is subservient to the deliberately compulsive, especially when the protagonist's own dreaming of the unreal him forces you to dream of the real him. (4 Oct 09)

Part Two - Body Badges
"'The tattoo's forever...'"
The self-dramatised monologue continues, beautifully, darkly threaded with its soul-mate (dialogue) and its parameter (vision). London is not only an eschatological receptacle hinted by the previous part, but a vessel of paranoia, reconciliation-of-evil and irony. Not only eschatology but a faecal scatology. Amazing stuff.
"The choice is simple: we either reach out to connect or let the moment pass..."
The skin-tattoos are a particularly effective metaphor, i.e. of permanence, the ultimate non-nemonymous late-label, contrasting with the pale transients and the Traveller tattoo (upon our protagonist himself) as signs of impermanence that is strangely more permanent than permanence itself. And now not only the underground, but the under-underground of weirdly named stations. And a new form of sex and cross-addressing.
"'It is all diversion therapy, of course: a way of pussyfooting around what you already know...'" (5 Oct 09)

Part Three - The Big Black
This completes 'Even The Dead Die'. I have many thoughts going through my head, as stirred by this final part. Some I can't nail. It's as if the escapist Death Games of childhood are now provided by this book for us in adulthood. But none of those games took account of 'The Big Black' and Kerouac.
There are some rather disturbing images in this part (with the power of a McMahon in overdrive), images, that if you are not a seasoned Horror reader, will probably scar - or tattoo or 'God's signature' - you or your skin for life. Even if you are seasoned, I don't give a very comforting prognosis for your peace of mind...
At times, I was perturbed by the almost automatic, too easy unrolling of seemingly outlandish plot-data via dialogue in this final part. But if that was a fault, it is a minor one. The earlier irony now often touches on satire.
Strangely, one of the most frightening moments, for me, was the female protagonist ringing someone called Pin on her mobile.
And, if I may touch on a frivolous point, I fear for the long-term safety of Mr Tweety in view of what appeared in that first sentence of Part One!
I still reserve my judgement on the whole book's gestalt, as I prepare to enter its second half, as entitled 'In The Skin'. (6 Oct 09)
One - All Alone Together
"...the love I have for my family causes me an exquisite agony."
McMahon, I feel, is the master of what I call 'the Horror Prose', both literary and slick, whereby all senses are subject to synaesthesia but personal aspirations fall short of those senses. A synaesthesia that artfully hints of Horror tropes within it ... plus a disconnection, a detachment that is paradoxically sensual. Here McMahon even excels himself, telling of a family man, his business trip to New York away from his family who have just moved into a new house, his temptations, inbuilt goodness, urges, self-deceptions, aching soul. This promises much...
An interested party publicly asked me yesterday about this review - "But do you like it?" Yes, I like this book, am enjoying it very much so far, but 'like' and 'enjoy' are difficult words in this context. As if they, too, are detached.
"...we reach out to each other but rarely ever touch, missing the connection by inches, miles, light years..." (7 Oct 09)

Two - We Are It
Upon returning to it, this story itself becomes its own changeling. Honestly wrenching stuff, and, for me, as a father long ago of small children, horrifically empathisable. The connection breach between him and his famly has widened so much it needs bridging with things that try to climb from the story to your very own personal story-within ... in parallel with that thing in the garden craning towards pawing the protagonist's own window. I shall not say more for fear of easing things too much for you by preparing you for coping with it. I don't think I'm being too melodramatic when I say I now need simply to prepare myself - with "the ghost of a smile to tickle my lips" - for proceeding onward to what must await. A changeling of a changeling, a notch or ratchet up? Or down? (7 Oct 09 - three hours later)

Another two hours later -- I shall deal with the final two parts together, as the reading-rush (much like the sugar rush in eating) has become all-consuming and the fourth part is relatively tiny:
Three - The Patter of Tiny Feet
Four - Thin as Skin
Firstly, may I get this particular exorcism off my chest: "...the twisted corpse of a house cat, a neighbour's pet. The skin has been peeled carefully from the cat's skull, and the strange marking I rubbed off the door frame is stencilled onto the sticky red bone..."
Strangely, however, having quoted it, that tangential moment seems to parallel the whole rite-of-passage in the final two parts. I will not describe further the outcome of the plot. There is no safe bridge between it and us. I think at least part of me - as a reading-soul - slipped between. "There is little distinction". No distinguishing the edges.
Indeed, I don't think I have experienced such a self-rending tour-de-force as a book's finale in empathy with any protagonist during my long history of reading fiction. You can only experience it for yourself.
Like it? Enjoy it? Forget it, big man!
I shall not read the author's story notes at the end of the book. I hate author story notes. The text is all. If the text needed more, then the text would have been given more. Indeed, I did glimpse that McMahon himself has headed these notes: "Oh, no, it's the Story Notes!"
I will return to the beginning of the book, however, and soon read Tim Lebbon's Introduction, to see what further food for thought this luminary may give.
The whole book as a gestalt? There is one. John Donne's HOLY SONNET TEN and John Donne himself. (7 Oct 09 - another two hours later)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Another Two Old Gents

Once I grew used to the idea, it would still be hard for me to get to know the two old gents who replaced the two who had gone. There always had been two old gents populating the bench outside Blackwoods Supermarket – near the Town hall car park – opposite the Bookworm bookshop – all in a town that tried to be a village.

The previous two old gents had occupied that bench for it seemed forever – at least two decades just by my reckoning alone. Most of the time, they hardly grew older than they originally were.

The town went on day by day, with little change. Mrs Clark of the local Blackwood family, with the ear of each recurring holder of Mayoral office, was a stickler for keeping all change at bay. And shop signs were kept in position even when the shops using them had changed completely. Some called it laziness, others the credit crunch – but any change seemed to be a badness in itself whatever the bigger badness that the change may have changed into a goodness.

So when – overnight, as it were – the two old gents that had long held fort outside the supermarket in sedentary male gossip changed into two completely different old gents, I was perhaps the first to notice. My philosophy of life involved things staying the same by only changing gradual, in fact, the changing was barely perceptible. So, here my sense of accustomed reality was challenged.

As witness, I was not alone for long. The Bookworm proprietor came out with the usual array of cheapies to stack outside in all weathers. He double-took the bench opposite with the two new old gents sitting on it. He then looked at me – triangulated, as I was, beside the car park entrance in relation to him and the two gents together as one.

But not an unchanged tableau for long. Mrs Clark, now squaring the set piece, was soon spotted scowling beside her Austin Mini.....all of us as if in an ancient sepia photograph being taken by an unseen onlooker who is new to the town.

From Blackwoods Supermarket comes the Undertaker in front of the first of two cheap coffins upon the shoulders of faceless procession.

Written today and first published here

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Summary of DFL's Readings Aloud

MY GIDDY AUNT: - Published in Year's Best Horror Stories 1992
SNAIL TRAIL: - Abridged by Amy Ewbank
THE HOUND by HP Lovecraft:
THE TELL-TALE HEART by Edgar Allan Poe:
DOWN TO THE BOOTS: - Published 'Dagon' 1989 and 'Shadows Over Innsmouth' 1994
MELTDOWN: - First published in 'The Starry Wisdom' book (1994)... foreshadowing the 2009 global meltdown?
WATCH THE WHISKERS SPROUT: First published: 'Cthulhu's Heirs' (Chaosium Press 1994) Republished: 'Weirdmonger' (Prime Books 2003)

Regarding the links below, please download from yellow bar at the foot of the page as shown. Please let me know if this presents a problem.
The Brainwright (1990):
Snail Trail:
Bloodbone: .
The Piano:
Small Fry:
Egnis: .
Padgett Weggs:
When I was An Old Man:
The Tallest King:
In Unison:

NOTE: Reading aloud of my novel THE HAWLER:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tea and Biscuits

written today and first published here

I always had the same dream during that period of two weeks when staying with Sarah. It is a long story to tell you about Sarah and how I came into her life. Suffice to say, that I did not befriend Sarah for her large country house; I did not befriend Sarah for the regular sex that later ensued; I did not befriend Sarah for the comfort and confidence-building she provided as we talked into the late afternoons around a moment-in-time, an occasion that we happened simply to call ‘tea and biscuits’.

We often met in the wet streets of Colchester, visiting the cinema for unwanted, unwatched film matinees - flickering screens that seemed to wash over us - then eventually migrating to a cafe that kept open later than the others for our sessions of ‘tea and biscuits’. Neither of us crossed the line. We simply met, then unmet ... until we met again. A routine that was not recognised as a routine. A routine with no obvious end ... until, that is, out of the blue, Sarah invited me for a two week stay in her country house.

I record here – in the hope you may consider this tantamount to a legal document – that I did not spend those wet afternoons in Colchester meeting Sarah in our late middle-age for any other reason than that we had met at a book club and simply met again outside of the book club with no ulterior motive within each of us or no ulterior motive between us together. There was not even the motive of neutralising loneliness. In fact, Sarah never gave me the impression she was lonely at all. And she, I am confident, never received the impression from me that I was lonely. So it was not for that reason. Our meetings just were. The fact we called the core of each meeting ‘tea and biscuits’ seemed to relieve us of the necessity or duty of rationalising our relationship any further.

Our relationship changed, of course, following Sarah’s sudden invitation to me to visit her country house for a two week stay. In hindsight, that was not only the seed of the relationship’s growth but also the seed of its destruction. We should probably have left it at ‘tea and biscuits’.

It is a long story, too, about the circumstances of the recurring dream. It only started coming when first sleeping in the guest room at Sarah’s country house, a place I often visited just for various weekends after the initial much longer toe-in-the-water fortnight.

Suffice to say that most normal dreams – or normal dreams to which I at least am accustomed – feature flowing events, whether linear or non-linear, but certainly events, moving images, echoes of real life in recognisable if possibly mutated interaction, some echoes forgotten, others not. But, no, the dream in question was what I called a ‘candle dream’. Since then, I have heard of many people having candle dreams, once I admitted to those people about having candle dreams, i.e. once having had them during stays with Sarah, with whom, let it be said, I have since lost contact.

How many of you have had candle dreams?

You need to know what a candle dream is before being able to answer my question, I’m sure. Others may know candle dreams with different names. Let me tell you that a candle dream, in my understanding, can be also called a fixed-camera dream, a frozen dream (or, at least, near-frozen), an unwavering dream (even if the candleflame itself wavers), a static dream (even if it flickers slightly), a single-frame dream (even if the image imperceptibly strobes or, as they say in the trade, cart-wheels), a single-flame dream (even if there is an after-image of a flame burnt on the retina by the original flame).

Simply put, a candle dream is of a single candle with a slightly flickering flame (with or without a candlestick, but usually with an ornate candlestick), and your minimalist view of it is as a slightly unwavering, non-shortening candle-wax and, from within the dream, perceived to be alight for eternity. A fear of eternity within a dream, let me tell those of you who are unaware of this fact, is the greatest fear of all. In other words, a candle dream is not a nice dream to dream. It cannot really be called a nightmare, I suppose, because nightmares are traditionally never static, never single-frame, indeed never single-flame. Nightmares have monsters and obvious fears and mutant echoes of life. Many who dream candle dreams rarely have contact with lit candles in real life. Many who dream candle dreams never complain of having nightmares.

One never knows whether any particular candle dream is the last candle dream you will ever dream ... whether, indeed, the eternity you sense from within the dream is a real eternity or not.

Sarah once told me during our tea and biscuits in her drawing-room at the country house that if I could tell someone, like herself, about the dream, as I was then doing as part of our usual small talk, then that fact was proof positive I had escaped the eternity of the candle dream.

I suppose I should have insisted that we abandon the sex and return to just meeting in the wet streets of Colchester, visiting the cinema matinees and late-opening cafe as part of a routine that may, in hindsight, have lasted us for a good while, even until we both no longer needed or even wanted company. It is now strange, looking back on it all, how I never questioned, during our small talk, how our afternoons together were always so wet, with Colchester being in the driest part of the country.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cern Zoo Review

A 'Cern Zoo' review by The Author of 'Salmon Widow':

“Untitled”: Far more than “sweet nothings”: a wistful call to arms for the world’s broken hearted. The young inside the old, and - for the lucky few - the other way around.

“Dead Speak”: Polonium behind the arras? Weather hawks fight over knowledge and wisdom. Off at a good clip!

“Parker”: The messenger not the message. An intimate portrayal - and I raise my own Lady Parker in salute!

“Artis Eterne”: I love the timeless, placeless quality - the return to childhood haunts and hauntings. Arthur’s legacy passed like a dusty baton. Some very careful writing. I was completely absorbed.

“The Last Mermaid”: Big and bold. A rich seafood supper indeed!

“The Lion’s Den”: Assured and relaxed, the writing becomes invisible - no higher aim for a writer. Bravo! The animalism is powerful and - for me - is the truest embracer of the Cern Zoo concept. A FAVOURITE.

“Virtual Violence”: Lord of the Flies meets Cluedo. A wild little number. Liked it.

“The Rude Man’s Menagerie”: This piece put me most in mind of the “Untitled” opening story. Loss, memory and the very chalky earth itself reaching up to engulf Rebs. Beautiful. Unusual. Ooh.

“Window to the Soul”: More memories. At a price.

“Pebbles”: I have as much respect for this story as the author obviously has for her or his reader. It hangs like a dream. I loved it. A FAVOURITE.

“The Shadow’s Departure”: Jittery, spiky and full of icicle limbs. Strange, frightening. Truly visual.

“Being of Sound Mind”: Sara is faith personified. A leap of Sara. Did Sara leap? Uncomfortable. Moving.

“Dear Doctor”: Hah!

“Mellie’s Zoo”: The childhood answer to “The Lion’s Den”. The amplified imagination of children create creatures, worlds. Mellie’s purple hippo becomes Sara’s Dolly. The mazey zoo, its puzzles leading to... A deep story that I shall enjoy reading again.

“Turn The Crank”: Breathless, fearless writing! Loved it!

“The Devourer of Dreams”: A canny hand on the tiller here. Respect! A web woven with skill and precision - and the web is woven around... the reader!

“Just Another Day Down On The Farm”: Downbeat, downtrodden, the men are as caged as the animals. The men have no names - nor do their charges. I was numbed with real pain.

“Strange Scenes From An Unfinished Film”: Rather like the final paragraph of “Devourer of Dreams”, “Strange Scenes...” directly addresses the reader/narrator; tricking the light too drastic, the shadows between the sprocket holes of the film blurring story reality and story fantasy. Should he crack open a lager or a Kia-Ora? A bleak triumph.

“Lion Friend”: Perfectly formed - like an acorn in its cup - and polished like the deft shoes of a tap dancer.

“The Ozymandias Site”: This piece of vivacious cognitive estrangement is strong, moving, beautiful rhythmical stuff. Sustained otherness; utter humanity. To actually smell the moon... That such a story was written - and that I was lucky enough to read it - made me dance. I am still dancing. Thank you - whoever you are. A FAVOURITE.

“Cerne’s Zoo”: Animal souls slip through a gentle one. And - like “Devourer of Dreams (yet again!) - it’s a gift that keeps on giving. A little charmer.

“Sloth & Forgiveness”: Now here’s a right old laugh. Not “Albert and the Lion” but “Albert and his One Alternative”. There’s evidence of genuine madness here. I smiled all the way through.

“City of Fashion”: Some might read this story and give it no further thought. I think it’s one of the best stories I’ve read in the last ten years. A FAVOURITE.

“Fragment of Life”: Fraught and finely worked. Relentless. The electrician’s brain becomes re-wired and uncrushed. A liberation of sorts, a beginning of an end or... A very, very good story. Loss as a process, not as a memory. Boy, what writing. I should give up. A FAVOURITE.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Like Falling Snow

A story by Simon Strantzas

My review of it:

"I don't need to know any more sick people. I know me..."

I found this story quite unbearable, in a deeply poignant way. It should be read by everyone who is terminally ill. And we all are. I made the 'mistake' of reading it while listening to Mahler's Adagio from his 5th symphony. I shall never be the same...genuinely. The story is like a symphony in itself, alternating between the sick person's diary and a straightforward narration. That we are all part of each other - part of our history and future as self and unself. Even when those we loved we may not have loved enough because of inbuilt negative as well as positive symbiosis.

To think the ghost child within me may live on gives some sort of comfort. As does the story's ending. But deep down, we know that ghost is a snowdust bunny.

Literature like this can give you inspirational remissions along the way, but it is never forever. Old is only one letter short of cold. Esche one letter short of Escher.

"She coughed in a fit [...] until her eyes were full of stars."

My review of the whole book HERE

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Susan Boyle Prefigured

Melissa and the Singer (by Terry Grimwood)

My review of this story:

This is a brilliant story. Simple, staccato language suits Grimwood. Actually, with 'Melissa and the Singer', I was compelled to read to the end voraciously, quite agog. Both cringing and uplifting. I really felt Melissa's emotions. The stress of an office party in all ts nightmarishness. It is an effective story of a gauche, overweight girl in a highly believably-evoked office scenario of professional and personal politics. Presumably, this story was written before the Susan Boyle 'Britain's Got Talent' phenomenon? (The story is in a book that was first published in 2008). Whatever the case, it either prefigures (or echoes) that phenomenon with panache and memorability. I won't forget this story for a long time. I will continue fathoming how Melissa progresses beyond the story's end, Susan Boyle or not.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Night-Farers

I’m starting another of my real-time reviews. This time it is of 'The Nightfarers' a collection of short fiction by Mark Valentine (Ex Occidente Press 2009). I shall attempt to draw out the book's leitmotifs and mould them into its gestalt.
This review will be done slowly, savouringly, in real time, so please do not look back here more than once every few days for additions.
All my real-time reviews are linked from HERE.

Upon the cover is writ large:
Caveat to my review: This book contains a story entitled 'Undergrowth' that was first published in NEMONYMOUS in 2007.
The 1909 Proserpine Prize
This is a delightful tale of a literary pize that should itself win a literary prize for invention an imagination. But no, it is not imagination. It is a truthifiction upon the cross of fantastical literature, in a gloriously textured prose and atmosphere: an admixture of the two Jameses, M.R. and Henry, sown with many of the weird fiction giants, some of whom are mentioned in this very story.
It tells of the judging of a literary prize that is awarded for works in the tradition of Lord Lytton. in the year in question, Hodgson, Stoker, Bowen (Marjorie not Elizabeth), Shiel, Upward, Blackwood and a near nemonymous work which causes the judges much coincidence-angst and trial author late-labelling. Both hilarious and dark. A true treasure of conceits. The best conceit is left to the end.
I was delighted that the Blackwood came close. This was because the work in question, his novel JIMBO, has long been a favourite of mine. To prove it: HERE is me including it in my top ten novels in 2000.
I won't give away what book won and the circumstances of its winning. A story that simply has to be read. (2 August 09)

Carden in Capaea
A philosophy of the ineffable here cast as a highly-honed ‘poetic / scientific’ explication to a within-text audience. On the face of it a fantasy of a fantasy, making a special form of palimpsest. An alchemy of colours, an ethos of dust and nemonymity. The intrinsic power of more words for things than sense. This story is made up of words. There is also a clue in Marsh Fever, and therefore in Swine Flu (?), to unlock further linguistic delight from this text. Yet its sense-flow of words is more limpid than these words of mine portend. We’re all in its audience. Not outside looking in, but inside looking out. And, thus, we reach some form of literary grace. (3 August 09)

White Pages
Oh, Crikey, for me, this is tops. For a start, I love seeking out obscure books in secondhand bookshops simply for the quest itself. But, here, we have the quest for varieties of blank books! Heaven!
I've already formulated a picture of THE NIGHT-FARERS' gestalt: the drogulus. And I already truly think that it is THIS book that is the book I've been seeking all my life.
'White Pages' is beautifully worded and imaginatively illuminated - and prefigures 'Undergrowth, or vice versa. But I'm jumping ahead of myself ... literally.
[A personal note: Nemonymous Six doesn't actually exist, and it probably never will. "The Non-Existent Edition," as it's dubbed by the editor, was announced in May 2006 as existing in the tradition of stories such as 'The Vanishing Life and Films Of Emmanuel Escobada', 'Four minutes thirty-three seconds' (the world's first blank story published in print, i.e. in Nemonymous 2) and 'Mighty Fine Days' (in Nemonymous 2) and 'The Painter' (in Nemonymous 4), plus the blank cover of Nemonymous 4 ... and other features of previous editions. Nemonymous Six is a drogulus... [from 'Wikipedia' that possibly will be blank, too, one day, when the Internet as a whole vanishes up my fundament.]] (3 August 09 - 3 hours later)

The Inner Sentinel
The prose is golden. It is a sheer delight, both textured and simple at once. This is surely a classic weird tale of the first water. Why have I not read it before? It shimmers with dream and MR Jamesian scholarship, but eventually effulgent with Hodgson, Lovecraft, Blackwood, Wagner, Tolkien, Sir Granville Bantock, John Cowper Powys (and more) in varying degrees of word-anvil beating. Here we see the making of the drogulus into a form of waking dream where it seems to begin to exist as a double negative. The word 'Redoubt' takes on a double meaning, in this very sense of 'magic fiction' as opposed to 'magic realism'. I cannot recommend this tale enough to the Weird tale specialist and layman alike. But how do we know we can trust the story's Narrator - or, even, the story's head-lease author? Into the Vale of the Valentine.
On a lighter note (and I do not lightly use that terminology), I was glad to see an Oast-House (that Kentish birther of beer) likened to a 'great cone turned slightly awry, twisted out of true'... LAWKS! I've just quoted part of the text. (4 August 09)

The Dawn at Tzern
I will not repeat mention of the prose in this book. Please take it as read.
This story is a charming tale of an enclave called Tzern, the death of an Emperor, a postman's loyalty to the deceased's immanent spirit by retaining in defiance the old stamps with the Emperor's head, a priest who likes his tobacco and reads things, not into its leaves, but into the wrapping in which it is delivered, who also reads a breviary or what one assumes to be a breviary. A retreating army, one of whom is a young man who thinks himself invulnerable. And that's only scratching the story's surface. It's gorgeous. Thought-provoking. And resplendent with the resurrectional power of a story's soul.
The story's ending, that I will not give away other than to call it a 'dawn', gives justification to my form of real-time reviewing of books. You see what you see. And I see Tzern as in Cern Zoo. And that gives me all manner of readings from and into the story's innermost being and outermost wrapping, readings with which I will not bother you. But they are there. (4 August 09 - 5 hours later)

The White Sea Company
As a long-time visitor to Dunwich, Suffolk and a seeker of the engulfed cathedral, I love this Debussyan, Dunsanyan well-characterised take on the the voyages of historic exploration made meticulously ledger-within-ledger of open-ended terrestrial treasures of discovery emerging either because simply you have not found them before (like Darkest Africa) or because they actually emerge from the fantasy itself as fully-formed land masses. A delightful tale told with conscientious precision as well as with a wide magnanimity of the careless soul. The paper on which words float itself is a White Sea, methinks. (6 August 09)

There is no avoiding it. I have for well over two years thought this story to be a genuine well-seasoned literary gem that shall be an anthologised evergreen. And it is, even more so when seen in the context of this beautiful artefact: 'The Nightfarers'. If you are browsing this book in a bookshop this is the one to read for free as you stand there. Short enough and inspiring enough to set you on your way and loosen your purse - because you're then certain to buy the book itself. A deadly curse, however, if you pilfer it. Anything I say about its plot and sensibility and references will spoil it, I feel, which is rather a cop out thing for a reviewer to say. One person's undergrowth is another's overgrowth. This, though, for me, sprouts between them both: a benignancy bang right in the middle of my soul. (7 August 09)

The Seer of Trieste
Literary constructions built upon a 'genius loci', richly evoked by words and the spirits of words, trawling not only myths of authorial intention but also masked balls, alter-boys, an octopus and more entwined. I sense I need to read this tale at least twice more before I write anything about it. But I fear that the second time I'd be engulfed by a sort of 'Finnegans Wake' monster that was only stirring slightly during the first reading.
I am utterly dumbfounded by this book, I have to say. I have known of MV for many years and in fact a friend of mine used to correspond with him in the late eighties. I may even have done so. But I can no longer be sure. Icons seem to have no past. And, as a result of this book, MV is a new authorial icon for me. (7 August 09 - 4 hours later)

Their Dark and Starry Mirrors
Echoing from the quoted verse on the book's front cover shown above and following the previous story, this is of semi-disgraced seer (or, in this case, eventual non-seer), exiled to scry, for the Caliph, scintilla of distant messages by light and mirror. He is still well-regarded by the court astrologer and, indeed, the harmonics of astrology I myself have studied to the point of scrying the darknesses (droguli) between the stars and the planets as more efficacious than scrying the stars and planets themselves....
This is a beautifully told story of ephemeris and banner. I took it personally. I, too, ill-jested and crossed swords with tradition ... and was exiled to sea-lit Clacton to fiddle with anonymous texts.... (8 August 09)

The Bookshop in Nový Svet
I'll say straight off: I can't do justice to this story. I'd only rewrite the whole story, if I started analysing its connections and charms, its synchronised shards of random truth and fiction, its highly-honed magic of conceit and prosody. Merely, let me say that over many years (during my career as Principal Pension Trust Secretary) I mixed socially and professionally with highly-placed Actuaries but, truth to say, I never imagined them extrapolating their highly-wrought and empirically tested Mortality (Death) and Morbidity (Illness) Tables towards the statistics and mathematically-matched considerations of poetry, art, imagination, 'me-ness' and professional mourning...all for financial gain! There is a poet in this story, too, who is known under the nemonym of Z. I merely add that because of my own mischievous sip at the black spirit. Rest assured, meanwhile, I shall not relinquish my struggle with this book's gestalt as a drogulus-in-disguise. (8 August 09 - 3 hours later)

The English Leopard: An Heraldic Dialogue
A non-linear academic overture to its own inbuilt Notes (Notes with Numbers but no correlative Numbers adjacent to the correct references in the Dialogue's text and, in fact, the last Note has no reference at all to de-Note let alone an adjacent Note number in the text)...followed by a double-barrelled Appendix. The Adjacency and non-Adjacency and Double-Barreledness are tantaleon to a form of Alternate Heraldry in my mind. The core of this Chamber exercise in ill-notated Early Music is the devices of Lion and Leopard and how each or both relate to the de-Noting heraldrically and occultishly of our heritage through the onward thrust of Social, Monarchical / Maniacal, Religious History in England-France and elsewhere. Knowledge of History in general is recommended when construing this admittedly well-limbed exercise. My knowledge of History is cloudy, so I shall move on and seek my drogulus rampant elsewhere. (9 August 09)

The Box of Idols
Again I am astonished at this book's substance of language. 'The Box of Idols' tells of a bibliophile who tries to solve the mystery of his friend's idols (or household gods) fidgeting once they were housed in a compartmented box found by chance.
The story's own precision is no match for its own conceits. A story that out-stories itself. An imputed Sherlock Holmes descrying connections, connections that lead to concerns outweighing the weightiest imaginings.
I once owned a toy printing-set when a child, whereby, with tweezers, I meticulosuly transposed the tiny letters from their bank to a their new home of language, then ready to be stamped on an ink-pad of black spirit and later dye-cast upon the white sea of paper. Little did I know what revelations would be unlocked by my future reading of those very same letters - if in different positions - compiling this excellent story today.
The characters are well drawn. The rationale pitch perfect. And the letters thankfully no longer lonely. (9 August 09 - 7 hours later)

The Axholme Toll
This story has the strongest 'genius loci' I think I have encountered in all literature. Seriously. Even more so than this book's own Vale of Valentine I earlier sensed, if not read about: a place where, as towards this story's end, there is an 'amiable and pottering sort of man' assisting you to explore ... a tutelary spirit who may or may not be the head-lease author himself.
I will let the reader explore this story's 'genius loci' for him- or herself, without describing it at second-hand. I have not checked all its facts in obvious places of reference, but the place rings true, in more ways than one of its title. It is a delightful MR-Jamesian journey of a solitude-loving man who meets lore and legends, not head on, but head within. Four ghosts, or what I took to be ghosts, that will haunt me forever. And, serendipitously for me, there is an unresolved famous nemonymous book that acts as backdrop to the 'genius loci'.
This story is this book's island where the only toll needed is the price of this book. It is essential to remain blinkered to the other more modern things that have been built on this 'island'. This story's amiability of narration does just that for you, but, miraculously, not without describing those modern things for the sake of your complete 'reality' as visitor. (10 August 09)

The Seven Treasures of Bucharest
(a collaboration with Geticus Polus)
In the Nineteen Sixties, it is on record that I formed the Zeroist Group, loosely tied with the Dada movement, or an attempt even to reach some Sub-Dada realm. I also collected my then near-juvenile poems under the overall title of 'Dark Lights'... perhaps all that culminated today with Cone Zero ... and this makes me think that the gestalt of this whole book is not one single gestalt but each and every reader's past, each and every reader's own set of personal connections with it, connections and leitmotifs that the book actually entices into existence in different forms according to which reader is reading it at the time.
Looking back at what I have written in the whole review above, this theory of bespoke gestalt very much seems to be the case, and its final realisation or crystallisation was at this very moment ignited by my reading 'The Seven Treasures of Bucharest' (a story in seven parts and of near novella length). However, that is not to say that each reader's individual 'crystallisation' is not a drogulus in itself. Each a drogulus with different characteristics.
'The Seven Treasures of Bucharest' itself tells of arcane matters, but essentially of quests and quests within quests, the garnering of relics or 'ready-mades'. I could delve into each and every 'ready-made', each and every quest endlessly. It is a significant event in my literary life and perhaps I should devote much space here to explaining why. But, no, let it suffice to say that the main quest is for the ultimate throw, the ultimate chance, i.e. the optimum Synchronised Shard of Random Truth and Fiction ... mixed with religious and semi-religious affairs, politics and gameplaying, loyalty to self even if the self's constituent selves are slippery, art and preservation of one's environment in traditional ways, diplomacy, imprisonment, luck, statistics, language, serendipity, the 'Circle of Contemplative Thought'...
"The letters gleamed as if their darkness was coated with a curious light." LAWKS! I've quoted from the text again! I thought that there's no teaching an old dog new tricks. But this book has proved me wrong. I highly recommend the whole book for its separate 'ready-mades' (first the letters and then the words), for its quests within quests (the stories that can either be enjoyed like 'islands' or as a 'white sea company') and, finally, for its gestalt within the larger gestalt that is you.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The 'Warriors of Love' by PF Jeffery

I hear it rumoured that this is to be a twelve novel series, making one gigantic novel. I believe it to be a highly significant work, judging by what I know of it already.

I have already commented on an earlier form of a different novel by this author HERE that as 'Odalisque' is being revised, I understand, and will form one of these twelve novels.

The first novel, recently completed, is: JANE

I intend to comment - in a modestly timely savouring - upon each chapter, as provided to me by the author. You can ask me a for a word document of each chapter at

The links to my comments will gradually appear below.

I shall be trying to prevent my previous knowledge of this work from affecting my approach to 'Jane'.

JANE - the first in the 'Warriors of Love' novels by PF Jeffery

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six

First Entr'acte

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six

Second Entr'acte

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six

Monday, July 27, 2009

Nemonymous / ANONthology

Until further notice, if you specifically request it, every order for Nemonymous will be accompanied by a lovely copy of ANONthology (Harper Collins). Thanks to them for supplying these for this purpose.
My review of ANONthology here.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Following my real-time review of 'ANONthology' HERE, I show below my guesses of authorship. I have no reason to believe I should be good at this task!

DO - Christopher Nicholson
THE HYPNOTIST'S WIFE - Joyce Carol Oates
THE APPROACH - Laura Spinney
PURPLE INK - Rebecca Connell
LETTER FROM PARIS - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
IN THE CAMP - Philip Hensher
THE BEARS - Rudolph Delson