Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Remember You're a One-Ball!"

My review of "Remember You're a One-Ball!" by Quentin S. Crisp (Chômu Press 2010) continued from here:

pp 104 - 129
"I shall tell you - there is always a third figure."
I dare not take you into the realms of this book fully without you having the 'benefit' of its full context. That stricture, however, rather diminishes the ability to do a proper real-time review. Suffice it to say, I am in the thick of it now. I can't retreat and a part of me dare not go forward. Here the inner laws of Playground Lore (hinted at before), the esoteric matters I couldn't divulge earlier, the care one needs to feel and then demonstrate towards living roadkill, the rage against bullying, the (what I call) Astrological Harmonics upon flesh and mind, even when it's only bits of your flesh, bottled and exhibited in front of reticent souls and human shapes.... That does not give a clear picture of the plot but it does of the state of my reader's mind, here, 'in media res' - with half the book still to read. I will, however, mention the specifics of Thirds in literature. I encountered this first in the fiction of Elizabeth Bowen*...
Hopefully, I can be more up front with my review in later sections of this astonishing and frighteningly poignant book. (30 May 2010 - three hours later)

*THIS touches on Elizabeth Bowen's 'shadowy third'.

pp 130 - 142
"The mere act of reading seemed like an escape that had gone wrong midway..."
My relationship with this book is akin to the same correlations that Ramsey himself is making - as if I'm in battle with the book in the playground and I hear the chants of 'Fight! Fight! Fight!...' in the background. And, like Ramsey, I need to clear the decks of other more artificial relationships in the real-time world of people before I can get to grips with the reality of the text in greater privacy and then grasp its implications.... The book is almost like a rubber file that keeps the impress of my fingers in its pliable spine and sides ... and people will point and jeer at me when they know I have handled it as proved by the unique fingerprints. (30 May 10 - another 2 hours later)

pp 142 - 157
"Some of the children were making sounds impossible to record phonetically..."
Jotters with secrets on (they called them 'blotters' in my day) and dustbins used as filing or postal way-stations. Ramsey searches his memory about the past and a school friend of his and Bagpuss and the spitefulness of girls and (perhaps to my mind alone) some mysterious binary code with bits missing.
Tell-tale tits and a secretly documented systematic sports injury (like a chanted skipping-game?) to retrocause deficiencies in most boys to harbour for when they grow older and even more miserabilist? I puzzle over what I am reading but, overall, I am enthralled by possible Jungian undercurrents I sense underlying those old fuzzy mis-scrolling small-screen black and white puppet shows on TV I used to watch on TV before TV people got cleverer with doing TV and gave things pink and white stripes. (30 May 10 - another 3 hours later)

pp 157 - 166
Combining memory and a school file from the time, Ramsey recounts, for our benefit, primary source interviews with the then headmaster and direct experience narrative (all of which is 'fiction' to us but filtered into truth via various authorial 'baffles' to interrupt or ease the flow of events) concerning the eventual de-bagging of that erstwhile school friend (not a friend really but one of those kids whom one shares a past with at 'Primary' School) and the spitefulness of child-evil interactions so typical of our memories of them when filtered by time as an extra ingredient in the mix of transmission to our present (but still fluid) selves. But who is the most skilful at this: the author or the narrator? Who invented whom? (31 May 10)

pp 166 - 184
"It was almost as if there were an actual plot against him."
Continued bleakness, induced semi-obliqueness, 'third' party admissions via kept counselling records, Ramsey makes this story of a previous school 'friend' doubly unbearable. A narrator who also puts it on us to carry these things in our own minds. Too late now to retreat. A mind like a carelessly kept attic or loft of memorabilia where the throat of sound is a stylus dropping on to tight dusty spirals within long-abandoned vinyl.
"I saw a great rock from some unknown quarter of the unspeakable darkness of eternity..." (31 May 10 - eight hours later)

pp 184-190
More discoveries in that dusty attic of childhood's artefacts are seen in interface (across the river space between two chapters - a chapter being a sort of guild or secret club)... in interface with telephonic tantrums from Jacqueline. It would be over-forward of me to comment on those discoveries in the attic. Ramsey has now told me, but he hasn't told you. Da da da-da da! You haven't bought the book yet? Ummm, I'm going to tell! (The book itself has a Foreword that I have not yet read. Forewords are unashamedly forward, too). (31 May 10 - another 2 hours later)

This real-time review is now continued here:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Peacock's Eye - by Frances Oliver

My real-time review of 'The Peacock's Eye' by Frances Oliver (Secker & Warburg 1986) continued from here:

pp 75 - 89
A new day. A new mind. And I have now met Stefan - and his implications for Mitzi - the sore or scar ... or soar towards an immortality. We are now under no illusion of a biography of her grandmother being tried on for size here in this fiction, but a full-blooded auto-memoir of Mitzi's own self taking sway. And moving on from a TB sanatorium's gardener to the act of painfully kneeling on hard peas seems a symbolically fitting rite of passage. I shed a fictional tear or two at a fiction that makes me feel it is realler than reality itself. (As an aside, Mitzi (called by her real name Maria (ie her grandmother's name) at the convent to which she's sent as an example of an era's disgrace) may have come into life from her grandmother via her mother but a two-way filter doesn't often work well in one of its directions). (27 May 10)

pp 89 - 99
"I have spoken much of deflating myths; in the last few pages I have indulged in a myth of my own."
My own myth is a pretence that I can manage this book in a real-time review. Nah! It grows beyond my ability to summon succinct summaries of character and event. While some become faint, others become bright, but we only have the narrative viewpoint to trust which is which. Mitzi herself has admitted defeat - effectively - inasmuch as this book is nothing to do with her grandmother or with others who are shouting from the biographical sidelines to keep the plot in check. It escapes even the poignancy of hindsight. Felix's bravado, Stefan's iconicity, Mitzi's mother's 'mating' habits. This a Mahler symphony. Each note (or word) larger in meaning than simply itself. It needs re-invention, needs packing....
" 'All you need to get rich is a new kind of zipper.' (Soon after that someone did invent Velcro, but it was not Felix.)" (28 May 10)

pp 99 - 113
"...what you commit is what you feel you are committing."
When earlier thumbnail-reviewing this author's novel 'Xargos' I wrote: "The relentless scenes of sleep and waking and nearness within the claustrophobic expedition tents are absolutely incredible. The flutes of shepherds in lands of hot-steaming misbegotten wonder. The faces in rocks..." Here, in 'The Peacock's Eye" we have a startling scene involving the edges of sexual protocol: and "the rhythmic motion was that of glittering caravans crossing the purple darkness, going over the horizon in a blinding shower of stars..." I will not shatter that beauty with any potential shame - but the 'faces in the rocks' are the battling biographers for the soul of the biography that lies at the heart of this novel: now swirling around the wonderfully stylised portrait or conception of Felix's 'future' wife: Betsy, an American unscarred by the war, bubbly-fey, precious and with, no doubt, lovely legs and grasping hands.
And scores to be settled by Mitzi across the years.* (29 May 10)

pp 113 -122
"...if you behave outrageously with an air of behaving well, you are quite likely to get away with it."
Or presumably so thought Mitzi's amoral half-brother Felix. He even uses Grandmother's senility to befog his tracks. Not for me to say, but I sense a bit of this in Mitzi's own method of narration-of-reality. Not only is it Betsy who has a fast-moving 'sincerity' on tap to suit each moment! Dysfunction and dissembling as a method of autobiographical insulation.
"Felix reached over and heaped whipped cream onto Betsy's plum cake." (29 May 2010 - three hours later)

I have not yet resumed reading this novel today, but it has occurred to me - 'tween dreams last night - that Mitzi and Felix are a version of Hansel & Gretel, and the witch's oven is a sort of palimpsest of time-spans into which a Biography manqué is thrust - figuratively, a 'scrambled Shakespeare' that is being noisily typed for show instead of the 'magnum opus' it is boasted to be (Cf. Frances Oliver's novel: 'The Children of Epiphany') ... scrambled by time and self-deception?? But what of the trail of crumbs? (30 May 10)

pp 122 - 133

An amusingly satirical interval where Felix falls foul of dog-food during his marital sojourn in America ...

Upon his return to the family hearth in Austria - amazingly as it turns out by my premonition of 'scrambled Shakespeare' above - he assumes the mantle of writing a serious work of literature upon which he is about to embark.

Another writer (and American) - Joshua Prescott -- of whom, from time to time in the narrative, we have heard mention ostensibly en passant (as it were, but possibly with the power of the chess move with that name?) from various angles of time and authorial omniscience as a potential biographer -- is worth noting here as still a pervasive force. A force, but how strong a force? (30 May 10 - four hours later)

pp 134 - 142

" '...we only know our own sufferings, we only know what we feel ourselves.' "

Joshua has arrived on a visit and "... my fanatical search for what are, after all, only approximations to truth is getting the better of me again." Approximations to truth: Mitzi writing her autobiography as a part of someone else's biography, Joshua planning to write a competing biography(?), the head-lease author (Frances Oliver) writing about Mitzi, Joshua et al, and me writing a review of all these tenants of truth via text and subtext....

Meanwhile, Grandmama, mixing up names between her various servants, Paula to Janka to Gordana, encompasses us all in her fading mind, me included. (30 May 10 - another 3 hours later)

pp 142 - 149

It may be my inattentive fault as a reader, but, until this section, I had entirely forgotten (in my conscious mind) that Mitzi limped following the handicap caused by the aftermath of the Stefan affair - but realising it here amid the relative happiness of being in the handsome company of Joshua, Werner, and Felix - made it so much more effective a realisation for me.

We hear talk of Grandmama's papers. How many audit trails of reality can be found in private papers when compared to the faltering attempts of fiction as the ultimate truth, a fiction that created those papers in the first place? The sense of Joshua's doom has been with us since the very start of this novel.

[Schubert is mentioned en passant - someone who died very young when his genius was already flowering - yet we now believe he was one of the greatest composers who ever lived. How many flowering geniuses were nipped in the bud?] (31 May 10)

pp 149 - 158

We reach some crux, following others' girlish bigotries and Mitzi's Mother's misbegotten match-making, as Joshua's only real love-match becomes the letters to Grandmama, (including Kafka's and Freud's?). It is as if Mitzi now bows out in favour of her older namesake. An autobiographical narrative that commits its own form of lexic self-destruction in favour of a different narrative based on perceived primary sources, or so I sense at this its early crucial stage. Poignant? Utterly so ... in the context. (31 May 10 - three hours later)


This real-time review now continued here:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Null Immortalis - order of stories

A Pause for Thought

NU Immortalis

I have now decided on the order the stories will appear in this forthcoming book:

TURN AGAIN by William Meikle
A GIANT IN THE HOUSE by Daniel Pearlman
THE RETURN by S.D. Tullis
LUCIEN’S MENAGERIE by David Fitzpatrick
EVEN THE MIRROR by Ursula Pflug
LOVE IS THE DRUG by Andrew Hook
THE SCREAM by Tim Casson
THE SHELL by Tony Lovell
OBLIVION by Derek John
TROOT by Margaret B. Simon
ONLY ENUMA ELISH by Richard Gavin
ICARUS ABOVE... by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
HOLESALE by Rachel Kendall
FIRE by Roy Gray
BROOM PEOPLE by Cameron Pierce
THE GREEN DOG by Steve Rasnic Tem
SUPERMARINE by Tim Nickels