Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Head Full Of Ghosts

A Head Full Of Ghosts – Paul Tremblay

A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS by Paul Tremblay
WILLIAM MORROW – An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (2015)
I have just received this book as purchased from Amazon UK.
My previous review of works by Paul Tremblay HERE.
I intend gradually to real-time review this novel and, when I do, my comments will be found in the thought stream below or by clicking on this post’s title above.

6 thoughts on “A Head Full Of Ghosts – Paul Tremblay

  1. I intend to take this very slowly… and no spoilers.
    Chapter 1
    The narrator is Meredith or Merry, whose older sister is, I gather, called Marjorie. He has arrived at the large house where it all happened without our yet knowing what happened. He accompanies Rachel, best-selling author who has borrowed the house in order to interview Meredith about what happened there, presumably in his childhood. (It must be a coincidence or preternaturally fated but I started real-time reviewing yesterday HERE another new book about a different large house and others talking separately in interview about what once happened there. I like reviewing books in tandem, often a symbiotic process without my having planned it. We shall see.)
    A Head Full of Ghosts. Is it a coincidence, too, that, as well as setting the scene evocatively, this first chapter has two separate ‘objective correlatives’ of baby teeth and a blue hat.
    I also like the way the paper pages are rough cut along their edges (like those French books that I used to need to cut in the 1960s) and aesthetically coarse, with the titles being faintly shimmering upon the fade.
  2. Chapter 2
    “Beware of spoilers. I WILL SPOIL YOU!!!!”
    A change of text font and I suddenly think Mark Z. Danielewski. (I recently reviewed his THE FAMILIAR novel). Also reminded again of ‘the Preterite and the Preinternet mind’ (my expression, not the text’s) as this brief chapter is a transcription of a blog loaded from HTML or about such a blog or planning for a blog although I am confused now not about gender but about the chronology. A blog about the hindsight of a Reality Tv show called ‘The Possession’ that helped my problem with the gender of Merry. I hope that THAT isn’t a spoiler. Does a fiction about Reality TV – where people often role play and thread themselves along the audit trail of some fiction in their minds – make it true?
    I’m glad I am confused. I like being confused. I am meant to be confused, I sense.
    I will not unconfuse you if I later become unconfused, as that WOULD be a spoiler.
  3. Chapter 3
    “Here in the pre-beginning, I only wanted to demonstrate how tricky this is and how tricky this could get.”
    Merry tentatively starts her hindsight pattern of memories, telling Rachel of her parents and older sister, Marjorie. This, I infer, is in the shadow of the subsequent on-line and televisual fame about what actually happened.
    But it is tricky for me, too, at my own pre-beginning of a review, as this is a book that makes thinking aloud dangerous. I started as I intended to continue,
    But I may have to change tack and review this book traditionally in one fell swoop after I have finished reading it. Or continue as I started, while carefully excising plot spoilers as they emerge, nipping them in the bud just before they escape into any onward real-time review that I manage to maintain. Textual Exegesis as Exorcism?
    If there is a long delay, you will know which of the two paths into this plot I chose.
  4. Chapter 4
    “Marjorie sensed the twitching and grinding in my head and started talking thirteen thousand miles per hour.”
    A new day. I have not yet looked back at what I wrote yesterday before going to bed early. This chapter sees Merry at 8 years old, narrated presumably by her older self to Rachel the author, telling of her made-up stories about floods of molasses (helped by the instinctive story-telling of 14 year old Marjorie), Merry’s cardboard house, her relationship with Marjorie, so utterly believable as younger-older sisters, with an impending sense of what happened later, I guess, subtly so, so subtle you may not even notice it. Not knowing what happened later in this house makes it very difficult to notice it. Beautifully done.
    The feel of this book’s pages made me think I was turning them while being a denizen of Merry’s cardboard house.
  5. Chapters 5 & 6
    You know, so far, this Merry, Marjorie, Dad (who seems to believe in Heaven) and Mum family reminds me slightly of the girl and her family in Danielewski’s ‘The Familiar’, although I know the latter and this book were published more or less at the same time. Spooky, perhaps. The family discussion about family discussions around the kitchen- (not dinner-)table and about Marjorie’s recent appointment is engaging and intriguing,
    Merry, the de facto narrator, meanwhile, seems to make all manner of things from cardboard as well as a house, like a laptop computer, giving me more clues about the earlier blog chronology, this being 15 years before that? Marjorie can get through doors without moving the booby traps left by her younger sister, it seems. But is her younger sister, now 15 years older, an Unreliable Narrator about when she was 8? A rhetorical question. Not one explicitly posed by the text itself.
  6. .

A Choir of Ill Children

A Choir of Ill Children

by Tom Piccirilli
I intend to read this novel for the first time and slowly savour it the way that I preternaturally sense that it deserves to be read.
If I should also real-time review it, my thoughts will appear gradually in the stream to be found below or by clicking on this post’s title above.

6 thoughts on “A Choir of Ill Children

    “She’s the kind of girl who might smuggle hashish in the binding of D.M. Thomas’s ‘The White Hotel’.”
    The Narrator, Thomas, lets drop that his three brothers, Jonah, Cole and Sebastian, are Siamese triplets (although he may not agree with that terminology), triplets with joins at such points of the body that their phenomenon all seems paradoxically impossible yet possible within the instinctive world of this text. One of their joins is to to be able or be forced to share the syllables of a single word.
    A swamp community, and I already have a strong feel for the place, for Thomas’s circumstances, for the dual TV crew come to documentise the family, for the loving urges of each triplet separately – and for the Godly aura or hinterland that pervades the land, so much so I wonder (without any real direct evidence from the text) whether the Holy Trinity as a Christian Mystery – of three separate leitmotifs and a single gestalt? – is a pervasive force, too. Whatever the case, I am already half-subsumed by the text, struck by its sense of its triumvirate of wonder, place and people, plus a smidgen of singular fear at what I have learnt of those joins.
    “To lay her down on silk sheets, dapple her pale cheeks with rose petals, and read ‘Les Fleurs Du Mal’ to her in French. I’ve done it to others.”
    I didn’t predict what I was to land myself into when first starting this book yesterday, despite my claims otherwise. It seems to be a very powerful spike-ball gestalt of the suppurating separates or curative curds of humanity’s physical and spiritual condition, involving the cultural and the trashily ephemeral, the porous ability of bodies to join and interchange in empathy or resistance, lovesex and swamp, God and Evil, faith and fellatio, writing as writing or as the cruellest form of tattoos. A strikingly original portrayal of a community and a family within that community interpersonally ricocheting with others, either taut on high-wire or kicking dogs at ground level. Natural and drug-induced inspiration. All in a language Thomas uses that actually deploys IN ITSELF the spike-ball gestalt I mentioned above.
    “Jonah recites the names of symphonies, poems and sit-coms, from the core of his third of that brain.”
    “I haven’t brought the Holy Spirit down on him this time. It’s the beauty of the morning, the taste of too much sweetness.”
    This is the the best book simply about spasms – as well as containing its own intrinsic spasms – that I have ever read.
    The flat rock girl, Drabs’ sugar rush, a primordial and ramshackle Twin Peaks community with Mill and a deep-rooted Hex of Sex. With a cornucopia of ‘objective correlatives’, just as one example, some Meloy dog-kickers. Magic-Real high-wirers, and the prospect of a carnival’s arrival. I shudder as I think of the root of the word ‘carnival’, and feel more and more this book’s sense of both Evil and a Holy Spirit, two sides of my earlier premonition of the III Trinity… Three, not Ill.
    Thomas calls these factors a “convergence corridor”…
    Thomas, both Doubter and Seeder?
    I shall give the tightrope of this text a bit of slack until at least tomorrow.
    “Sebastian is delirious with fury, his complaints coming from three throats, hitting three different notes, harmonizing well with a little doo-wop shuffle going on.”
    “The mouths are going at once, all of them talking at the same time with a dissonance of words, the tributary voice, the subtext and cacophony of tone and meaning.”
    Thomas questions his own powers, his own mission, amid a tempest, next to a Wallenda Monastery conceit in his soul, as if this hybrid text itself is the sister he sloughs off.
    A secret agent for investigating, not a missing child or such Twin Peaks like mystery, but the opposite-of-missing flat stone girl near the monastic.
    There are some amazing passages in these pages that evoke the human condition that all of us recognise by being human, whether it be in swamp or city, here the hexed, polarity-sexed swamp, and its kitchen corner bruises.
    I am human but I try to slough off my humanity while I test-run this text, try to catch its dream – or nightmare.
  5. CHAPTER FIVE up to “But my belt was gone.”
    “Instead I’d become turned around and continued heading deeper into the broad channels of slough,…”
    Taken separately if perhaps not in context, this section is possibly the most moving fable in all literature, telling of Thomas as narrator following his mother’s voice towards the seemingly troubled man, boy and bull stuck in the swamp. The fable’s moral is the most inscrutable and beautiful I have ever encountered. Including, beforehand, this passage that, in the circumstances, means more than can be told, whoever told it to whom in or out of context:-
    “‘I bet this here story receives some national coverage on the TV, and folks from all around our great nation will hail your name.’
    ‘You really think so?’
    ‘For certain. And tell me now, just what is your name?’
    Not that I know the circumstances nor the full context.
  6. .

Wylding Hall

Wylding Hall – Elizabeth Hand

WYLDING HALL by Elizabeth Hand
Open Road (2015)
I intend to read this purchased publication in due course.
If I conduct a real-time review of it, my comments will appear in the thought stream below or by clicking on this post’s title above.

8 thoughts on “Wylding Hall – Elizabeth Hand”

  1. Chapter 1
    “But back then, Wylding Hall was a mere dot on the ordnance survey map. You couldn’t have found it with a compass. Most people go there now because of what happened while the band was living there and recording that first album. We have some ideas about what actually went on, of course, but the fans, they can only speculate. Which is always good for business.”
    That’s the last long quote I shall make from this book. It’s not a spoiler as it’s almost at the beginning of the book. It’s a scene setter. All stems from that. And with the twenty twenty hindsight I haven’t yet got about what is going on, I shall no doubt be forming an accreting gestalt, in real-time, from the later inter-threaded conversational monologues of Windhollow Faire’s folk band members (and others) talking about the time when The Velvet Underground and early Dylan were popular, each monologue a bold-headed leitmotif – describing, interpreting, evaluating (I guess) what happened all those years ago when, following the then recent suicide (?) of a previous band member, they needed to be ‘purged’ by making transcendental music at Wylding Hall? I am guessing some of that. These entries will be my own bold-headed monologues, threaded with the characters’ own, as my real-time dream catching review… At least, that is what I hope. But no spoilers.
    I may be a nineteen sixties sucker myself (now in my late sixties) and, yes, I feel sucked in. Slowly does it.

  2. I have just remembered that I have ‘dreamcaught’ this author – or tried to do so – in 2011: a story entitled ‘The Boy In The Tree’ HERE.
    Chapter 2
    “’Cloud Prince': I wrote that about Julian. The boy with the sky in his eyes.”
    Early 70s, I see, not the 1960s. Progressive Folk. And I join this group in that hindsight I mentioned before as a result of their intermingled but discrete (if not discreet?) monologues or ‘backstories’ still starting to come together, as they build up their own characters (discrete within an intermingling) amid the house’s genius loci of “ensorcelled” creativity (the monumental music album subsequently to be named after the house, it seems) – their sexuality, their beauty male and female, their personal losses and gains of an audit trail starting to spike out like a graph…or so I sense impendingly.
    An engaging text.
    In future, I may follow my public path of intermingling with their intermingling by reading and reviewing tranches of text that straddle more than one chapter. We shall see.

  3. Chapter 3
    “He even taught himself to play the viole de gambols, a true sign of a man with too much time on his hands.”
    Tellingly not ‘viola da gamba’? Dowland, John Clare, Rimbaud. This text itself gambols, it seems. References to the Preterite of the Preinternet, as I call it, contrasting wifi with books and album covers, and what life was like then with a pre-Internet mind. Reminding me these are indiscreet talking faces being filmed for a modern documentary, not discrete literary backstories that are likely ever to remain discrete. And Julian’s watch tells sacred and profane time separately, just as I found this single chapter felt like straddling two chapters, by dint of its lengthening before my eyes.
    Woodsmoke imbuing the house – but no fires, being hot season? Could it be the commune’s spliff smoke in disguise?
    Music as ‘shared dream’.
    “Have you ever seen a bird without its beak? Horrible, just tiny dead eyes and a hole in its face.”
    “Like looking into the wrong end of a telescope and the right end, both at the same time. It was a very strange window.”
    I am now ensorcelled myself. Encircled by people, time and place.

  4. Chapter 4
    Windhollow Faire had already passed the old grey whistle test, but two of them were now busking just for drinks down the road in the village pub called The Wren, squandering their cachet, as it were. But seeing old photos there, photos here today, gone tomorrow, showing a ceremony with caged wrens that even this text itself says was all a bit wicker man. Wicker Whistle. The old grey man, rather than the green one?
    These interview answers — as discrete, eventually-to-be-a-gestalt ‘backstories’ to a now famous event involving this fey group — are the forming of the novel text about Windhollow Faire similarly forming a music album within the very same text? Or vice versa? Enhanced, entranced, enchanted, ensorcelled, encircled by a fey hinterland of old song and Cecil Sharpery.
    Tempting fate.
    Unquiet Grave or Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Windhover?

    • It must be a coincidence or preternaturally fated but I just this minute started real-time reviewing HERE another new book about a different large house and someone about to start talking in interview about what once happened there. I like reviewing books in tandem, often a symbiotic process without my having planned it. We shall see.

  5. Chapters 5 & 6
    “…the colliers didn’t just bring the canaries into the mines to warn them against the poisonous gases. They took them down because they sang so beautifully, even in the dark.”
    A telling contrast between canaries and the earlier reference to wrens. An outsider to the group turns up and gives her own interview or backstory in the future, a psychic woman as counterpart to those mine canaries, sensing auras and atmosphere, a previous connection in her own way to one of the men, but she immediately felt ‘wrongness’ about the house, she tells us, and this rubs off on the others – as the hindsight ‘backstories’ almost blend or somehow talk to each other, while remaining discrete monologues, in parallel to the bodily contact at the time of all of them in meditative communion, whereby things happen to some and not others, and (my expression) a cat has now been put among the spiritual and sexual pigeons, I guess.
    I will, from this point onward, resist retelling this book. My own monologue will now become a description of how things that are about to happen – via this text’s two time frames of actual happening and reported happening – affect me rather than describing the details of exactly what seemed to happen or did happen. I am after all another outsider like that psychic woman. And, unlike her, I have no connection with any of the parties.

  6. Chapters 7 & 8
    I had a an early night last night, and I haven’t yet looked back at what I said about the previous chapters before reading the new ones today.
    Following an eerie scene with a (un)trapped bird in the beams, a new leitmotif is added to the gestalt, with the hindsight-seen, journalistically ‘told’ visit of a gay lady journalist at the literally far-fetched Wylding Hall to report on the creation of ‘Wylding Hall’ by the already relatively famous Windhollow Faire. Through her auspices, we gain more of the house’s genius loci and the persona of long-fingered Julian, and the girl ‘apparition’ that has already been prefigured by a different ‘backstory’ narrator’s leitmotif.
    “What, like locking a bunch of monkeys in a room with typewriters until one of them writes Shakespeare?”
    This well-trod conceit is almost dropped in casually at some point. But just switch ‘monkeys’ to ‘birds’ and you have, in the context, a staggering new conceit.

  7. Chapters 9 & 10
    “Later, I was afraid they’d be angry I hadn’t told them sooner. I never told anyone, till now.”
    Another single bold-headed backstory of my reading of two chapters in this multi-leitmotifed feydom. I suspect that most of these backstories — unless they can leak into each other as perhaps happened earlier — have never been told to anyone “till now”. I often hope Julian would add his own backstory, the only protagonist so far who has not done so. These two chapters together tell entrancingly of false perspectives, one up and then down and up again a spiral staircase and the other from a mound in the seemingly distance-ensorcelled countryside around Wylding Hall. And they also deploy a possibly fuller picture of long-fingered Julian.
    I sometime speculate upon the literary device of the Unreliable Narrator, but here we have a whole range of suspects as leasehold narrators, including insiders and outsiders to Windhollow Faire but present supposedly at the events in question. Then there is the anonymous documentary-maker who is presumably collating (editing?) these backstories and, finally, we have the freehold author herself in supposed overall control. This creates all manner of possible permutations towards or away from the truth.
    But what of the unreliable real-time reviewer’s input, too, I hear someone ask? Thankfully I’m not connected with the book and have no influence on it. Although, some do propose that each time a book (especially a book like this one?) receives a new reader, it becomes a slightly different book. Well, I at least proposed it once – here in a previous real-time review!

    Jul 26 2015 12.53 pm
    An aside -
    Those following my trails closely may be interested in this connection described HERE about 'A Choir of Ill Children' that I have been concurrently reviewing alongside both this book and 'A Head Full of Ghosts'. A trinity of reviews, as it's panning out?

    Jul 26 2015 1.34 pm
    Chapter 11
    I am now filled with a sense of being 'on the hoof' as it were, this real-time review recording its feelings section by section of Wylding Hall, and the Wylding Hall album itself recorded by Windhollow Faire chance by chance, also done on the hoof, with new equipment that didn't need a studio. These chance-takes became the album itself, and the chance photos taken by a new outsider contributing his backstory - youthful son of the local farmer - who becomes innocently and emotionally entrammelled in these chance golden days, chance innocent photos used by later design for the album cover. A chapter beautifully painterly, and I am fascinated by the phenomenon of perceived ordinary human beings and their chance activities later becoming iconic...
    Caught by chance by chance shots and later hindsight of those involved and chance retentions by outsiders like the book's author and the inner documentary she has created and the book's readers, its reviewers. And perhaps the cinema film that ought to be made of all these factors!

    Jul 26 2015 3.56 pm
    Chapter 12

    "Jimmy Page told me once that he listened to Wylding Hall a hundred times, trying to figure out Julian’s fingering on 'Windhover Morn.'"

    ...and out of the connections that I adumbrated in my previous entry or real-time backstory, there seems -- as if by true magic, or some form of hippy faith, or artsy-fartsy airy-fairydom -- a special point of conflux, an undreamt-about moment that worked with precise held-breath perfection, as they busk again in the village pub before a bunch of country bumpkins who later possibly morphed into a distant future would-be audience of Windhollow Faire aficionados. Busking this time special performances of the future album, with bespoke riffs, all of which summon that precise conflux as the presence of a fey waifly personification...? Perfect expression of rough perfection.

    Jul 27 2015 4.11 pm
    Chapter 13

    "The story goes that there was a young man in the village who sang in the church choir. His voice was so beautiful that every Sunday, a mermaid would come out of the sea and walk up to the church and sit in the back just to hear him. I don’t know how she walked with a tail—they didn’t go into that. Eventually she converted to Christianity so she could marry him."

    Forgive me making another long quote, but as in the plot itself this discrete anecdote needed to be told for undivulged reasons, but my reasons for including it in my review are different.
    There is an extraordinary scene in the pub and then later, as the personification is lightly adumbrated into a highly believable attractive figure that makes me feel dizzy with lightness; that reminds me that I have been suffering such dizzy spells in real life recently. And the later mysterious outcome and vanishment within the house -- accompanied by a sort of reference by someone saying 'Julian going off with another bird' in the sexist parlance of theses times when Steeleye Span sang, I recall -- is convincingly conveyed. A literary memory to conjure with.

    "Truth is, often Lesley got the fuzzy end of the lollypop."

    Jul 27 2015 6.44 pm
    Chapters 14 - 19

    "That was our golden moment—we were all young and beautiful and gifted and so incredibly fortunate to have found each other. That was the peak. It was pure serendipity..."

    Some relatively short chapters close this exquisite novel up to chapter 16. The group's coda as three bonus tracks (17 - 19) is optional, I guess, as they were recorded no doubt after the 'golden day', and I would have opted out had I read them first. As someone with his own backstory weighing on this whole book, I think it is my right to do that. Expunge what happens after chapter 16 to my forthcoming dementia gap.
    I had some doubts in starting this novel - it did not seem my usual thing. But something at the back of my mind, something instinctive, made me buy it, and it all worked perfectly for me in the terms of the novel that now resides in my memory. The tale of the snaps taken by the farmer's young son that golden day finding the light of another day is wondrously adumbrated. Belief is everything; I yearn to own a copy of that album and its cover - and meet those people who shared their backstories with mine.

    My own bonus track to this real-time review is to predict that, one day, they will be interviewing us various readers about our first reading of this novel and how it affected each of us and, of course, how each of us affected the book itself.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

In the Lovecraft Museum

In The Lovecraft Museum



Cover Art: Jason Van Hollander

A purchased book recently received from PS PUBLISHING (2015)

My previous reviews of work by Steve Rasnic Tem are linked from HERE.

If I conduct a real-time review of this book, it will appear in the thought stream below or by clicking on this post’s title above.

7 thoughts on “In The Lovecraft Museum

  1. I. THE PARK
    Pages 3 – 9
    “He’d wanted to be both a good husband and a good father, but he’d learned long ago that the universe did not care what he wanted.”
    The more one studies that description, the more it seems a natural sentiment for a man heading toward the autumn of his years to have. But then it suddenly dawns on you how utterly Lovecraftian this sentiment is without being obviously Lovecraftian in the sense of a Lovecraftian style. It’s sort of unLovecraftian, unmentionable, too, if it weren’t for the feeling that Lovecraftianism is something that can now be mentioned in any ordinary conversation or small talk.
    Jamie is one such Autumnal man in America, as he thinks of his wife Chloe and son Henry, and Jamie also tells someone other than the reader about these thoughts. And about the Park and the dread it holds for him. About Henry’s imputed weirdness as a boy. I thought Henry should be the name of the father, Jamie that of the son. Why? I have no idea. But, meanwhile, we learn of Jamie’s pen friend in Great Britain, writing quality handwritten letters to each other, as I still do to my own handwritten-pen friend, someone I met in 1966 with a shared interest in Lovecraft, but that’s beside the point. Jamie’s pen friend is founder of the Lovecraft Appreciation Society in Great Britain.
    I am already intrigued to say the least.
  2. image Pages 9 – 17
    “He was perfectly aware that every time he picked up this collectible book and began to read, he was decreasing its value, but he had decided not to care.”
    Like me and this book with a wonderful cover. I have already pencilled in its margin.
    imageThe novella started with a ‘wall-eyed’ Young Man at the front door. Seems to be echoed by the walls in the Park…
    The guilt about Chloe, with her passed on, and Henry, also gone, mysteriously, I gather, and, now a Lovecraftian himself, Jamie is invited over by his Lovecraftian pen friend to Great Britain….
    MR James, too, Jamie turns his name back to James, so as to escape something childish. My earlier feeling about the names now borne out!
    “–the longer you lived, the more you knew how little you knew.”
    Which is perhaps a blessing in disguise, or you might start correlating everything you would otherwise grow to know?
    James now takes a second trip (after ten years) across the Atlantic towards Great Britain to meet up with his pen friend. I have always been scared of flying and this chapter fills me again with all the anxieties flying would entail. I don’t need to fly to reach Great Britain because thankfully I am already there.
    I could ramble on about my various reactions to this text or explicate its plot’s audit trail endlessly. But the important thing is to state that if you are interested in great Steve Rasnic Tem fiction with, here, an original slant on the Lovecraft phenomenon, swaddled in poignancies of marital and filial relationships, relationships now gone but hopefully somehow retrievable, travelling along time parallels of reported interview, memory and present moment, and the most interesting prospect of a Lovecraft Museum now taking shape by means of third-party notes of observation – THEN this book, I can already tell, is for you. It’s taking off very strongly.
    “The world always feels strange to people who are unhappy.”
    Not the book’s view but the view of someone summoned by the book.
    There are some arcane designs by Jason McKittrick scattered throughout the pages, that actually seem to stain the text beneath or above them. Not significantly so, but enough to become a remarkable effect that reminds me of (inkspot) by Gahan Wilson.
    “I not only read the text, I interpret it. I attempt to determine what the author is really saying, what images and themes obsess him,…”
    I have read a lot of Steve Rasnic Tem fiction and this work is the author at the very top of his game. Unless, it tails off in the second half, then we surely have a classic of Weird Literature in our hand, with this book. PS: American literature in and from UK print.
    The UK is not as James remembers it from ten years before and I take this for granted as I have been here the whole time and might not have noticed. He looks for his son Henry who would have also changed – into an adult during this period. I feel intense worry-free anxiety and guilt-free paranoia while reading this text, a sense that I am outside this book, as well as truly within it. I empathise with the body-bandaged Britons returning on the same plane (like they must have done from a Terrorist blackspot abroad, recently?)
    And I feel myself to be ‘socially awkward’, while reading about the transcribed deadpan interview of James referring to the Barton Fink toiletpan in his B&B, and then there is Clarence the penfriend who turns out to be without that earlier mentioned ‘small talk’, plus the customs exodus with kafkaesquely inscrutable corridoors, posters of children holding vaguely unidentifiable pets, a BBC 0 channel, and talk of our bodies with design limits evolving askew, making me think again of my own social and physical askewedness. Aickmanness, too, awkwardness.
    Page 43 – 58
    “Chambers appeared to spiral into chambers…”
    The journey towards the Museum on the tube, in company with Clarence the penfriend, the sight of the Museum itself, our deadpan take-it-for-granted acceptance that such a public service exists in London in such a building, and our entering with James to tour it, are, well, quite astonishingly done and believable, and to tell you too much about this ‘journey’ would spoil it. So, just as Clarence withdraws from accompanying James within the museum, I shall withdraw, too. You will, I promise, find this part at least of the journey devastating in a positive way.
    Some of accoutrements of the journey, however, I will mention – the Lovecraftian fear-of-foreignness in behaviour, body and dress, the false alarm sightings of a grown-up Henry, the sullen and the deadpan, the acute and the revelatory.
    This section ends with the question of why on earth such a New England ethos is housed in England, together with some of its more careless elements of curatorship.
    “The intention, I gather, is that every visitor’s experience be different, and that with successive trips a sense of the whole is, I suppose, accumulated.”
  6. Pages. 58 – 73
    “…several books floating in glass jars full of a yellowish liquid.”
    The reader’s journey continues to run parallel with that of Jamie, via a monumental vision that this Museum provides with every aspect of Lovecraft. Nothing can do justice to what is in store for you in these pages and I feel privileged to have read it so far (save for a short section yet to be read). There is an urgency now, a pursuit, through this monumentality, and a feeling that there are implications for Jamie in in his personality, his whole past life, his family…
    Also, I sense that the privilege that I feel in owning this book is in having been granted a child-like taste of Lovecraft himself, a taste for my ageing Autumnal self retrocausally toward my younger self, even toward an age before I had read Lovecraft. Summoning me up then now.
    A James to Jamie.
    An Old England to New England.
    (I note the name Chloe with its own guttural Cthl- affricate ‘attack’.)
    My use of the word ‘sullen’ earlier comes home to roost in this coda. A thoughtful closure, if it is closure at all. I gained a sense of those Mountains of Madness at the end, where aloneness ultimately prevails, glimpsed recently (after this book was published or coincident with it) as Ice mountains on Pluto and its its moon Charon.
    I think this book is so strong on Lovecraft and what that word means, it might even summon the man himself who lies behind that unique word or name in some shape or form. I say that half-seriously because, if I said it seriously, they’d take me away for a Shoggoth sandwich.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Seven Nightjars


TOUCH ME WITH YOUR COLD, HARD FINGERS a short story by Elizabeth Stott (2013)
Copy 120 of a signed limited edition of 200 copies
Purchased this week from NIGHTJAR PRESS
  1. “The pizza boxes look untidy on the table. They will annoy Tony. She leaves them there anyway.”
    A story that starts almost like chicklit with a woman getting her feet under the table for a future with Tony. Friday was his night for stag dos, Saturday THEIR night. Her looking forward to this particular Saturday night, for which she brings to his place takeaway pizzas … she is halted by a tangible ellipsis, a sudden double-take, and is in for a very creepy ride trying to relieve herself of an onset of horror, not a hard cold pizza, but something hard and cold while cloying as if it is still warm. Jealousy made as if into a fabricated self-rehearsal that can’t be clawed off.
    I was very interested by my first experience of the quality format of this discretely presented short story, giving a ten page work some bigged-up power over you, without impulse towards a gestalt with other such fictions alongside it. I can’t yet explain this effect, in contradistinction to the more normal effect of a mutually cosy anthology accompaniment in a big realbook or as an effete ebook. Maybe I will have more thoughts after reading six other fictions waiting – within this Nightjar-container format – in my eventual reviewing pipeline on this site.


M a short story by Hilary Scudder (2013)
Copy 72 of a signed limited edition of 200 copies
  1. “I crossed the square and headed the way I guessed led west.”
    …which happened soon after she “saw an onion rolling unnoticed on the ground.”
    But who did not notice it? It was as if it was unnoticed till the split second she noticed it was unnoticed. There is a slow motion version of that split second in this resonating story, still resonating as I write these brief thoughts about the second Nightjar today whence I’ve released its genie. A book with a story that has an enormous interior like an emotional Tardis, I’d say.
    The woman (inspired by some Longfellow verse) goes west away from an unhappy marriage, leaving her husband Rolf a letter that exposes her hatred of him. She has planned to meet a man, someone who has swept her off her feet, it seems, a man whose name she’s shortened to M to fit an even smaller book than this. The hotel meeting-place, near the docks (from which docks there is the potential of an even longer journey west as a pilgrim?), seems to have inimical and labyrinthine features. Having encountered another woman called Kristina whereby they share a stolen coat looking like “one lonely fat drunk”, she later rolls unnoticed, like that onion, back the way she came, having been warned against M, and she returns to her husband and her cat Hades.
    A few undivulgeable last lines, still resonating. This didactic or undidactic story is, for me, simply what it is, and that is good enough.


THE HARVESTMAN a short story by Alison Moore (2015)
Copy 73 of a signed limited edition of 200 copies
image“His grandmother always believed that travelling south was easier than travelling north because south was ‘downhill’ on the map, as if anyone trying to go north without concentrating risked rolling all the way back down;”
This atmospheric story is a subtly brutalised seaside scenario, with poignant battles against what fortune brings a young man named Eliot who is renting a downbeat flat from a woman’s boyfriend, a woman who seems to like Eliot…
Well characterised, this story also has various premonitions of leitmotif that, when you finish, you realise in hindsight what a perfect story it actually is. Indeed, it was a pretty good story already in real-time even before the hindsight kicked in.
A creature in a nightjar with long thin legs.
My previous brief review of another work by this author HERE.

SULLOM HILL a short story by Christopher Kenworthy (2011)

  1. image
    “Cloud had closed the gap to the horizon.”
    A simply expressed, but complexly felt, deployment of believable boys at school, one the norm, another the bully, and the third the ‘slow’ miscegenate, all playing themselves as well as roles in a Fylde genius-loci. The bully is bullied by the schoolteacher, in incantatory insulting refrain of verbal ping-pong – later paralleled by the bully bullying the slow one in a similar manner, as they burn tyres and climb hills, mediated by the norm, while watching coastal horizons and eventually passing into a range of inferentially difficult or easy homes or ‘households’ at day’s end, arguably paralleled by mutual interchangeable containers of their own skulls (each a competing storm or calm in a nightjar?)
    The wild landscape of early childhood, towards the eponymous aftermath of the solemn and sullen.

PUCK a short story by David Rose (2012)
Copy 182 of a signed limited edition of 200 copies
  1. “But next to the skull is some sort of pot, seen from above. The pot has been identified as an earthenware jar, a pun on the name Alfred Jarry,…”
    Jars, pots, bowls, pitchers, Longfellow’s Priscilla as a second name, too, echoing my earlier Nightjar reviews, and more.
    This was as if written for me seeking a gestalt from leitmotifs, an extrapolative rhapsody on art, blending textured specific and general painterly references galore letting the real stars through, a countrified escape from light pollution, with birdwatching terminology; estranged marital artists and their singular progeny symbiotically enhanced as well as threatened by art and the disease that is also let through as well as the stars being let through.
    Beautiful and frightening.
THE HOME a short story by Tom Fletcher (2015)
Copy 5 of a signed limited edition of 200 copies
  1. “The landscape has no edges. It goes on forever. There is nothing to see.”
    This tellingly crosses themes with the return of the wanderer wife and the ‘home’ as skulljar, here as TV screen, in two previous Nightjars I have just read.
    In itself, it has a traction of intriguing, worrying build-up, seeing one’s wife on the screen, unable to help her, a ‘jar’ that contains an endless emptiness as well as a claustrophobic relationship. The ending is highly disturbing.
    This is only about three and half pages. I say ‘only’ but it does seem significant that something so physically slight but equally so complexly meaning-full is contained within the quality covers and sleek paper of a single svelteness of container. The overall gestalt works, the story working for the format, and vice versa, something that I have found true about all these Nightjars so far.


JUNGLE a short story by Conrad Williams (2013)
Copy 157 of a signed limited edition of 200 copies
  1. image“You can’t show a child that. You can’t be afraid.”
    Crossing themes with the threatened or enhanced child from the involving-impasto effects of painting as locked in a previous Nightjar of various colours, this wonderful story is of an artist, naive like Henri Rousseau, who lives in the ‘homeskull’ of a one bedroom flat with working-at-home wife, and a toddler son Fred. This protagonist is, for me, physically paranoiac, if there is such an expression. Scared of his own shadow? Overly protective. The eventuality of a jungle adventure gymnasium to shelter from the rain with Fred, as crossed with a nightmare version of the first painting he had not been able to sign, makes a fitting climax to all seven reviews of Nightjars I have just conducted one by one in real-time.
    imageI fondly remember sharing with this author the story contents list of a horror fanzine called ‘Dementia 13′ in the late 1980s.