Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Secret of Ventriloquism – Jon Padgett

9 thoughts on “The Secret of Ventriloquism – Jon Padgett

    “Closing your eyes.”
    In all seriousness, this could be the most terrifying couple and a bit of text pages you will ever read, especially if you follow through in your imagination with the synaesthetic instructions given to self-examine your own body and mind.
    If I do not return to continue reviewing the rest of this book, you will know that the second time I read it (as I intend to do) that I employed something beyond mere imagination.
  2. I have decided that I will only reread the first story after completing the whole book – to be on the safe side.
    “‘Now, big-head-little-body,’ my brother whispered.”
    I was pleased to see that the narrator boy was – and probably still is – one of the Big-Headed People.
    This is a powerful tale of this small boy being lethally taunted by his elder brother with all manner of imaginary enemies morphed perhaps from the latter’s archetypal ‘imaginary friends’ that we all had when small. Not imaginary so much as real, and in tune with the rigorously self-imagined first story that I have not yet read again, with imagination taking on a ritual hardening of truth, as the narrator himself ‘imagines’, layer by layer, layers of self and layers of space and containment above him as with an ice-pick he lurks beneath his cruel elder brother’s bed…
    This narrator’s entrapment of insects in jars and his own ‘big-head-little-body’ symbiosis with a daddy-long-legs are images that will haunt you, I am sure. I can only do justice here to how these insects work accretively into the machinations of eventual revenge by telling you that I can here do no justice to these events at all.
    I have heard a lot about this book before reading it, but I sense it already knows more about me than I will ever do about it.
    “Its structure folds and rearranges itself like an origami figure.”
    A weird journey, unlike no other, an indoor swamp as if it is the book’s own indoor and previously hidden swamp. Like a foreign channel for a voice from within your body? And the reading mind folds and arranges itself, too, whenever engaged with this book, consciously or not, a personal rollercoaster provided with an inbuilt aide mémoire of instructions to self. And it also explains my felt need to re-read it as I expressed earlier above without realising I was meant to feel this, because in this Indoor Swamp trip it now says –
    “But you won’t be able to resist a return trip.”
    (I intend to resist re-reading any stories in this book that I might already have read in their original publications (there are at least two of them I can see) until I can re-read the whole book as a ‘return trip’ within a re-reading gestalt.)
    At the beginning of this work there is a quote from Leo Tolstoy, but I choose a different one (excuse the length), a quote from Anna Karenina, because I think the ‘scythe’ gives some clue as to the sixth finger that later vanishes….as well as the sense of involuntary ritually rhythmic dream-unconsciousness interspersed with dream-consciousness…
    “And immediately after this came the delicious, slow saunter, with his hand on the scythe, during which he could wipe away the streaming sweat, take deep breaths of air, and look about at the long string of mowers and at what was happening around in the forest and the country.
      The longer Levin mowed, the oftener he felt the moments of unconsciousness in which it seemed not his hands that swung the scythe, but the scythe mowing of itself, a body full of life and consciousness of its own, and as though by magic, without thinking of it, the work turned out regular and well-finished of itself. These were the most blissful moments.
      It was only hard work when he had to break off the motion, which had become unconscious, and to think; when he had to mow round a hillock or a tuft of sorrel. The old man did this easily. When a hillock came he changed his action, and at one time with the heel, and at another with the tip of his scythe, clipped the hillock round both sides with short strokes. And while he did this he kept looking about and watching what came into his view: at one moment he picked a wild berry and ate it or offered it to Levin, then he flung away a twig with the blade of the scythe, then he looked at a quail’s nest, from which the bird flew just under the scythe, or caught a snake that crossed his path, and lifting it on the scythe as though on a fork showed it to Levin and threw it away.
      For both Levin and the young peasant behind him, such changes of position were difficult. Both of them, repeating over and over again the same strained movement, were in a perfect frenzy of toil, and were incapable of shifting their position and at the same time watching what was before them.
      Levin did not notice how time was passing. If he had been asked how long he had been working he would have said half an hour—and it was getting on for dinner-time.”
    Sometimes I can imagine a ventriloquist’s dummy with that sense of easy rhythmic manipulation from within – and without. Keeping my powder dry on this.
    And there is also a quote from Shirley Jackson, part of which is –
    “Everything that makes the world like it is now will be gone. We’ll have new rules and new ways of living.”
    Which rings true in our new world consciousness in 2017 that has ensued since this story was written, I guess.
    This Padgett story is a story I would have hoped to have read earlier in my life, one that conveys perfectly – with naive simplicity and uncomplicated self-consciousness and via a traditional device of a story found as a document within the story – the onset of a family man’s reality morphing suddenly and then somehow gradually out of kilter, including the intermittent poignancy of not being able to find his wife and/or children.
    There are echoes of the ‘box-screen’ that the young boy earlier penetrated with his ice-pick and of the ‘greenhouse’ into which we are now viewing the Indoor Swamp rather than looking FROM that swamp – and, again, of origami here as an intensely haunting razor-sharp stick figure as representative of the vague glitches in an otherwise familiar home. And a ventriloquist dummy and other running objective-correlatives.
    And a preternatural hint, I suggest, of Kroth-Kroll, Dunnstown-Dunhams?
    I found this story dream-disarming, which is a whole lot more than just one finger! A tale of ‘peripheral vision’…as is this review of it, in emulation.
    “broken images and hollow grief.”
    Ligottian? “The children becoming even stranger to me.”
    “There had also been an unusual, real-time consistency to the events so far, without the sudden leaps from one scene to the next so typical in dreams.”
    (In 1986, my first published story’s title was “Padgett Weggs.”)
  5. I first read and reviewed this story in October 2014 as follows –
    20 Simple Steps To Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett
    “Of course, you may think this is all complete nonsense to say, but a lot of things that people say – even most things – are complete nonsense. This is not the ventriloquist’s concern.”
    This is a rule book that starts accretively building up sense, not nonsense, regarding the art of ventriloquism, and I am confident that I can reach a certain level and be an acceptable ventriloquist as a result of practising the first few stages. In 1950s UK when I was a boy, there was a very successful ventriloquist on the wireless by the name of Peter Brough with a dummy called Archie Andrews, neither of whom, of course, we could see. There is something sinister about that, and when I eventually saw them much later on black and white TV, I was amazed what a bad ventriloquist Peter Brough happened to be, but having listened to them most of my then short life, there seemed a reality to Archie the dummy which outdid the reality of Brough. Like Miss Rosalyn, later on Romper Room, whom I mentioned earlier in this review in connection with ‘Wishing Well’ by Cody Goodfellow — she brought me to life by looking through the grainy screen that TV Screens tended to be all those years ago and saying that she could see me, scrying me into existence. And this story brilliantly captures that process by a manner of artful means, and is probably one of the most frightening stories you are likely to read if you read it properly because, as in all reading of fiction, and like these very reviews I have been doing since 2008, there is an element of my manipulating the story so that it can manipulate me. You need to work with stories so that they can work with you, working them working you, feeling their tendrils come out of the words and tug your levers and pulleys with prepared ligatures or deceptively tied ligotti. As in the Morris story, ‘the play is the Theatre’. Test out Gardner’s Yellow Bird Strings, too. This Padgett story, if it isn’t already, should become a classic that will be anthologised several times in the future.
  6. I first read and reviewed the next story in June 2015 as follows –
    A real-time review by Des Lewis
    THE INFUSORIUM by Jon Padgett
    Dunhams Manor Press 2015
    I have just received this book as purchased from the publisher.
    My previous review of a Jon Padgett work HERE.
    I intend to review this work in the thought stream found below or by clicking the post’s title above.
    Pages 7 – 18
    “Why did I bother connecting the dots between those missing persons and the skeleton letters?”
    A satisfyingly prose-clotted Dunnstown urban noir feel, where the feisty and eye-catching and asthmatic woman detective narrator crudely (yet with a good texture) soliloquises us as if we readers are really here or there, paying attention to her, our eyes agog, lungs primed, to hear all what she tells us about her police career and her partnership with Detective Guidry, and the librarian who, with her researching at his library the ‘appendages’ skeleton case, comes up on her gaydar, I guess — and, meanwhile, the skeletons case itself (weird Tree of Life and its bony roots?) and the city blending into parkland without any markers indicating where the cusp between them becomes one or the other, and the still smoky, crap-foggy residues of a derelict Paper Mill in Treasure Forest, are somehow interrelated, all striking me as pretty suffocating but also enchanting (paradoxically). Enthralling. Must eke it out and savour its soot slowly. Another 20 pages yet to read and report on here. No spoilers, though.
    The previous fiction by this author I’ve read and enjoyed is about ventriloquism. No ventriloquism here – so far. But vents? Maybe. Just maybe.
    Dave Felton for this book.
    Dave Felton for this book
    Camille Gabrielle for 'The Weirdmonger's Tales' 1994
    Camille Gabrielle for ‘The Weirdmonger’s Tales’ 1994
    Pages 18 – 28
    “Once at a railway crossing, I was nearly hit by a muted locomotive engine puffing down the tracks, winding its way through the fog-diseased park neighborhoods — the train appearing and disappearing like a ghost of itself.”
    My first published story was entitled ‘Padgett Weggs’ in 1986 when I was 38. Just thought I’d mention that gratuitously.
    I am increasingly impressed by the cut of this text’s jib. The narrator and Guidry visiting the Paper Mill, where there floats either flakes of asbestos or Sea Monkeys (please see their wonderful dialogue about the latter – not to be missed) both of which phenomena I sense to be insidiously parthenogenetic. (Parthenogenesis – along with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN Zoo – was in the UK news today, as scientists have discovered endangered species somewhere fighting against extinction with this method). The narrator’s later visit to the librarian (the reading about which I am at present tantalisingly ‘in media res’) is mordantly funny and the characterisation is believably developing in various directions of scatological and eschatological personal eccentricity, as is the Dunnstown ambiance and the mystery of the skeleton creatures (I can’t do justice here to what they are like – you need to read the book for that.)
    Preternaturally, I still seem to have the knack of choosing books to read that have that same preternatural power, judging by the evidence of this book – so far.
    This is Ligottian Corporate Horror to a new and still awakening degree of dark parthenogenesis (with the help of Padgett and various oxygen masks).
    Some more Camille Gabrielle that first appeared in ‘The Weirdmonger’s Tales’ in 1994, the third one of which at least seems, with some serendipity, to resonate preternaturally with this book:
    Pages 28 – 38
    “I’m honestly not sure even now if the content of those letters came before or after the event itself began.”
    The ‘genesis of a nervous condition’, it seems, those anonymous letters. You see, I once published a series of multi-authored anthologies called ‘Nemonymous’ that had only anonymous fictions, and I called it ‘parthenogenetic literature’ on their front covers. And now I am gratified that I may have found today – with this novelette by someone called Padgett – the apotheosis of that form of literature, even though the author himself may be scratching his own head when seeing this claim of mine. This book now reaches some form of ‘Function Room’, and in this case it is where the Paper Mills create the paper that create the characters upon their surfaces: then float off as flakes like asbestos, and the whole horror skeleton thing with its bone-misconfigurations desiccated by or into oxygen ghosts that emerge along with Sea Monkeys, like clowns, like sharks, into the Black Fog of communal anti-natalisms via the ‘madness’ of the narrator. Now doubled up by one of the reviewers of the book (me), adding madness to madness. Which the vent, which the dummy? A book evolving retrocausally on this very day today when CERN restarted at a speed it has never gone before, with each reader’s madness adding to it. Then the increased madness doubling that of the reader’s madness and so on, back and forth. I feel it as I write this about it. Till some culmination, some still centre, where truth emerges? Another Function Room existed before, a completely different one, and I reviewed it here and allowed its madness to increase mine so that I could increase its own madness. I recommend it to anyone who ‘enjoyed’ this Padgett book. Meanwhile, if you want the real plot, read the book. I have the librarian’s “unwanted enthusiasm”, perhaps (page 27).
    “Snap. The skeleton-dummy’s mouth shut and opened again.”
    “A chorus of beeping and engine gunning echoes across the cyclopean overpass-wasteland, the single eyes of the daddy-longlegs street lights glaring down.”
    The opening is like the opening of the film LA LA LAND, with the leading woman’s car on the Interstate, except here the dancers are the homeless and the music Ligottian. The imagined singing, as I call it, punctuated with sounds of diarrhoea. A powerful nine page prose poem, one symbolising the handwritten Organism is the Nightmare placard, here another sign saying ORGANVOID, with all the possible meanings of the word ‘void’ as a gestalt and the Doctor come to cure you has a name as that sign’s anagram, if anyone noticed!
    This is INDOOR SWAMP made bodily human. With more daddy-long legs than ever before punctuating any book.
    And on the underpass, looking up, like being under the bed earlier.
    A Play in 1 Act
    “Passengers were disappearing from the airport –”
    “You’re like a fucking toddler — not a man.”
    “I had been so confident — so cocksure — that I knew how to work my lady friend inside and out like the dummy she was (and is).”
    Including her “sexy tush”, it seems!
    As far as I can tell, this work was first published in 2015, and it must be seen to come up even fresher today!
    An Alfred Jarry type drama for our modern times and sharing the intrinsic unforgettability of the “20 Simple Steps” work earlier in this book, feeding off it and retrocausally feeding back into it, too.
    It certainly accentuates the hand manoeuvres of today, the toddlership of mankind, recently revealed by similar hand manoeuvres of small hands and the workability of the strange opening and shutting mouth by synchronised manipulation as well as cause and effect from a hierarchy of ventriloquists.
    I can imagine reading this book again and again in order to transcend its sheer horror but –
    “…if you tried to apply the steps to come hundreds, thousands or even millions of times, I’m afraid you would ultimately meet with failure.”
    Whether you be doll or dummy.
    Indoor swamps, notwithstanding.
    There are also strange views of a bed in this obliquely but strikingly prophetic play to match those earlier.
    “…taking its first baby steps — slatted mouth open…”
    Bathmophobia, notwithstanding.
    “…like jumping off the interstate overpass and finding yourself on the top of a mountain.”
    Little Evie’s songs for La La Land again? Or, indeed, as the story itself implies, Mary Poppins.
    This is the book gestalt’s clinching coda and if any book deserves a gestalt real-time review this one does. You will know exactly what I mean when you read the book.
    This coda itself is rhapsodic, with a dark underpass we all fear, a prose poem supreme in around seven textured pages.
    “Little Evie’s song — like the one she’s singing now — was all made up, spur of the moment like, never to return or be duplicated, melting away…”
    That makes me do the steps of a ‘herky-jerky jig’, secret hand in my back.
    But LIttle Evie can be kind, as well as mean.
    “…special knickknacks that Little Evie found for us once in a dumpster outside of the Indoor Swamp.”
    And when you do reopen the book you will find “Little Evie is singing again.”
    I hope that is not a spoiler.
    A thin mountain with its big head become dangling daddy longlegs shaped into words.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Pilgrim Stranger – Mark Samuels

14 thoughts on “A Pilgrim Stranger – Mark Samuels

  1. Caveat: I knew Mark Samuels as a friend in the late 1980s and the 1990s, one of my drinking partners and a co-enthusiast about Weird Fiction. Also I am portrayed as Snape in his novella ‘The Face of Twilight’.
    I am now a real-time reviewer of books in various fiction genres, including Modern Literary, Classic Literary, Weird, Horror, SF, Fantasy, Experimental…
    Intrigued by this book’s publisher’s name, I found this on the internet:
    Ulymas: “Either an Arabic word, meaning ‘the wise man,’ or an Aramaic word meaning ‘the mighty man.'”
    Pages 1 – 40
    “She was always calling in the same plumber to do odd jobs. Ethel said he looked just like the actor Robin Asquith.”
    I think that is a reference to the ‘Confessions’ series of cinema films.
    For me, meanwhile, an engaging enough start, in a plainly spoken narrative, with scenes depending to some extent on a knowledge of political and other references to 1981 England, two years after Thatcher had become Prime Minister.
    So far, there have been three main points of view. Or four if you count Salgado himself meeting the National Front members (outside the Comprehensive School gates) who are pushing right-wing leaflets. Salgado a 14 year old who is new to the school, an avid demonstrative Catholic and with a forceful, disruptive Intelligence out-pacing his fellow pupils and probably the teachers, too,
    There is Dennis Spencer his first teacher at the school. A well-characterised womaniser, smoker and drinker .
    The Comprehensive School headmaster nearing retirement whose wife is Ethel and with a passion for growing his vegetables.
    And Salgado’s mother who took Salgado away from the local Catholic School because of its headmaster, Father Morgan, staring at her bust and, with her hatred of modernism, his lack of what she imagined English tradition to be. Through her, we learn of Salgado’s backstory.
    I do not intend to continue itemising the plot of this, so far, presumably intended wittily didactic novel, but in future I shall only give you broad brushstrokes as to its thrust, and my reaction to it.
    I am not yet sure how quickly I shall read it. I keep my powder dry.
      • Second Caveat: I am and have always been an atheist who somehow believes in a form of spiritual preternaturalism that led eventually in 2008 to these gestalt real-time reviews, the first one happening almost by chance to be based on a Mark Samuels fiction collection at that time. I married someone in 1970 who came from a strong Catholic family, my mother-in-law being a very active noted modernist in the Church and my father-in-law a convert traditionalist.
  2. Pages 40 – 71
    “All of European civilisation is being disintegrated from within.”
    There is an authorial note at the start of this novel explaining its first draft was completed in April 2016 and nothing has been changed in the light of subsequent real events in the world. Again I keep my powder dry. But, despite this seeming to be an unashamed roman à clef, in fact not a Catholic novel, but a pro-traditionalist ROMAN Catholic one, I have so far found it absorbing in its own terms, as we grow to know Salgado and his aunt, and the surrounding tensions of North London 1981, tensions religious and political (and occult and weird Crowley literary). Including the competing heresies and dynamics of the Catholic Church itself. We also see these factors through the prism of Dennis Spencer’s world of pub culture of the times (see also ‘The Face of Twilight’)…
    I sense the tensions within its authorial voice, Salgado and Spencer perhaps representing such historical personal tensions? As I say, absorbing. And well-written for the novel’s perceived own purposes. But I, of all people, must not be tempted down the path of the Intentional Fallacy in Literature. If this book had been published nemonymously, would I have quite different views about it? Would I have considered reading it at all?
  3. Pages 73 – 107
    “The single, central source of illumination left the remaining areas of the chapel in a perpetual twilight…”
    I can smell the incense, the chapel descriptions are so redolent. Alfredo Salgado (whom, like the author, I will now call Alfredo) has a perfectly logical need for absolution in Confession, the absolvable pride he feels that he has no need for absolution. Later, (cause and effect?) there is a significant turn of events in the plot, a critical moment upon which audit trails of much literature often turns. One that leads to a seemingly ‘miraculous’ aftermath, one which makes me wonder where the weird and the fiction fantastic end and where the truly miraculous begins. I often feel the sense of the miraculous when creating the interconnected labyrinth that is my site for book reviews triangulating themselves.
    Meanwhile, the intermittent reportage of Dennis Spencer and his life – including some new characters in this book wreaking right-wing revolution — and of 1981 in England, particularly its easy smoking, its politics and social hierarchies and reactionary / progressive aspects, act as a backdrop to the Alfredo syndrome, almost, for me, like static on older communication systems. Ontological or teleological?
    And I agree with Alfredo’s view that Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis is too curdled for religion when compared with plainsong. Although I do enjoy Beethoven on another level.
  4. CAVEAT: By nature of this book’s type of plot and of the act of real-time reviewing, there may be inadvertent plot spoilers from this point on.

    Pages 109 – 149
    “He recalled, too, that his great literary hero Sinclair Egremont Xavier, the Catholic author and philosopher, had written a great deal about the beneficial aspects of tavern life and consuming traditional English ale in vast quantities.”
    I said earlier that I would give only broad brushstrokes of the plot and my reactions to it. Indeed, in accordance to the references in these pages to Van Gogh paintings and Henry James late prose, I will try to curdle the impressions, in contradistinction to the new-found high definition in some of the aspects of the plot’s new ingredients instead of static. And the political conspiracies that seem to be going on in our present day, of which we are as yet unaware, but to which we may have been given some clue via our then (in 2015) near future’s full onset of Trump or Brexit?
    This is both a Pilgrim’s Progress and a Reaction against Progress itself (or against Regress disguised as Progress?) with Alfredo now as the Stranger in a Strange Land, that Land being for him the SF year of 2015 and with there also being (disregarding the plot’s ‘mad scientist’ machinations of Miracle creating this situation) NO memory for Alfredo between 1981 and 2015. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fascinating narrative comparing the two eras in England (by nature of the circumstances of booze, smoking, vehicles, Internet, smartphone, lack of static on high definition screens etc.) and I, for one, look forward to more of this enthralling story as filtered through the viewpoint of Alfredo whose already complex personality and nature of faith we have only known so far as a 14 year old in 1981.
  5. Pages 151 – 190
    There are more surprises in these pages that I shall leave you to discover from scratch, as you should. Meanwhile….
    “Alfredo was troubled in the night by a recurring dream of a speeding car bearing down on him and driven by a man with no face.”
    I sense this book itself is also a version of the car in this dream…
    A dream with its own vestigial memories in the car’s boot of (just as a few examples) the Latin American experience mentioned in the text and the crowding in of exponential digital communication and alcohol as a pejorative word and the ability now to smoke electronically (if I understand that mechanism correctly), whereby a whole new coterie of characters (one or two mixed up with earlier versions of themselves) now grow into the story ostensibly to fulfil the promise of the past and the future of this book. Keeping it on the road, as it were.
    When this work is more well known (this being my own projected dream about it), I can imagine Mastermind or pub quizzes with questions about it, like ‘To what phenomenon in the novel “A Pilgrim Stranger” is being-pelted-with-popcorn compared?’
    Alongside Alfredo comparing 1981 and 2015 without memories between, I have been trying to place myself in a similar position by comparing from my own discrete memories the 1950s with the 1980s. It has been illuminating.
  6. Pages 192 – 203
    This is our Alfredo’s pure essay as seeming mouthpiece for this roman’s clef. A clef to a certain view on history, politics and religion. And this essay should, I feel, be read both within what I have already found to be this fiction book’s sometimes literary-preternatural disintentional context and in purist isolation without the power of the rest of the book’s gestalt as fiction. One essay, but two meanings
    My own purist view, outside of the context of this book, is that there are many ways to skin a cat, and good can sometimes lead to bad, and vice versa. It is only the gestalt of each human endeavour that counts eventually, leading to a final gestalt of gestalts, clinched in hindsight at the end of times, whatever one’s religion or beliefs. The probably unverifiable test for each individual is their skill at predicting and then hopefully using that end gestalt – and instinctively working with that prediction depending on a natural, unknowable spiritualism without prejudice or dogma, even if it is eventually discovered that any such predictions are intrinsically unpredictable or that logically such a gestalt can never be clinched by hindsight, as hindsight never ends?
  7. Pages 204 – 261
    .”The conclusions of the paranoiac, though often highly internally consistent, were dependent upon precisely not being in possession of all the facts; or, perhaps, rather, of ruthlessly filtering out or of discounting, before prior examination, those objections that do not fit the pattern of the schemata.”
    Schemata, or Stigmata?
    A section that ends with Vile Bodies in more ways than two, and not the one to one at a time version of Askwith’s Confessions, I guess.
    We travel alongside Alfredo, with various other characters’ points of views as a backdrop digital radio’s musak, scenarios disguised as temptations in the wilderness, like conspiracy theories and Catholic and Muslimak dynamics and more. Exploitable (eg by that staticless radio?) but strong, too , Alfredo is set to stand that ‘test’ of hindsight time I mentioned above. A literary hero.
    Preternaturally created, nemonymously so, as perhaps a major literary hero, Alfredo, who will be remembered, I hope, as a metaphorical example of what to do and what not to do, do and think. Setting out the options, if not the answers. So far.
    Preter as Priest? The faceless man in the car?
    “‘I can’t think why you should believe I might be testing you,’ Alfredo said.”
  8. Pages 263 – 315
    “…coupled with Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s vile…”
    vile body? vile body and blood of Christ? Rhetorical questions of mine.
    Meanwhile, there follow two wonderfully and credibly created genii-loci of Central London and Brighton in 2015. Alfredo is struck by the cleanliness of Central London when compared to 1981 and the phones that outsmart the people using them, but, later, he can’t compare Brighton, as this is his first visit – a visit to an acronym joke as well as a convention that has exceeded its traditional rationale. We follow Alfredo along this path, sharing empathy with him, hoping he can share ours. And his attritional pilgrimage towards out of the way abbey ruins, a pilgrimage now with no pills, including the pills of the ‘mad scientist’ plot – and into the ‘chaos’ and mnemonic fugues of another ‘mad scientist’ in the skies?
    Whatever your interpretation, and I still keep my powder dry (but my having consumed this book so unexpectedly fast and self-compellingly must prove something about it), this has the potential of becoming a major literary work of religion and (social) history and philosophical and political movements, including the transcendent stigmata as well as the schemata of its hero. Blighted or blessed by its roman’s clef? I’ll leave others to decide. But not the Spanish Inquisition, something nobody should expect, but a fiction work bordering on truth, blended as naively blatant as well as sophisticatedly subtle, a paradoxical blend that defeats me as to how it actually works here.
    (It seems ages ago that I said above “I sense the tensions within its authorial voice, Salgado and Spencer perhaps representing such historical personal tensions?” and I have wept inside these brackets.)
    Graham Greene, Teilhard de Chardin, François Mauriac…? Or, rather, the young man with spectacles? At Waugh with himself.
    “The connections were coming together.”

Thursday, January 26, 2017

ootHaNgbart – Rebecca Lloyd

ootHaNgbart – Rebecca Lloyd

A SUbVerSiVe FabLe For adULtS aNd bearS


My previous reviews of Rebecca Lloyd HERE and of PILLAR the publisher HERE.

I intend to real-time review this book during 2017 and, when I do, my comments will appear in the thought stream below….

16 thoughts on “ootHaNgbart – Rebecca Lloyd

  1. imag01091 Forever Is A Curious Idea
    “; work was not to start until Trumpet-time…”
    This first chapter is so entrancing I need to get up to look around and find a passing postbox fellow to take you a properly written missive rather than depend on this rather easy way of writing that is tantamount to speaking electronically…always eligible for deleting at source.
    “‘Nope. I’m of the opinion that once a thing is written, it sticks there and cannot be pulled away. But in speaking, ideas float about invisibly, and if it becomes necessary they can be denied.”
    I have already ethereally fallen in love with the character of Donal and of this book’s eponymous genius-loci, the various fellows, strictures, fraternal rivalries, named times of day, work practices, kite flying, time philosophies, the pecking order, the grand escalator and much more. All quite unique with a tinge of paradoxical familiarity. And beautifully written.
    I might read an enormous chunk in due course before reporting back here, and my comments above about its charm should in future, I am confident, be taken as read without the need of my repeating them.
    But what about the bears?
    “…as he made his way through the intersecting alleyways to the High Street,…”
    Absolutely delightful!
    Quite impossible to compare this book to anything else, although I can imagine new-grown imagInation-archetypes that underpin it from without this new world of infinity-aspiring inhabitants in denial about a place called Bristol.
    Delightful, yes, but not without strictures, and I don’t want to sour the atmosphere of this review by seeking clever-clever comparisons for its various institutions (like those of its divisions for time and of found objects and merit-giving and queuing trades), not to artificially concoct comparisons with institutions in our own world like Trump or Brexit, even though I was rather shocked by the new rules for Trumpet-Time.
    I already sense this book’s place in literature is not that of satire nor is it a young-adult or full-grown-up fiction fantasy to be read by people in our world, but it is, I am sure, a place-or-thing-in-itself that is separate from us and singularly autonomous.
    How to measure being there by a piece of string, then a string to a kite, a kite you can’t see but it is still beautiful even when you can’t see it, the machinations of the eponymous genius-loci’s civilisation echoing obliquely with our own perhaps (“‘If you get right to the top you can do exactly as you please?’ he asked.”)
    And, with the relatively complex thoughts and dilemmas strung between them as if between two landlocked kites, I wonder if it is significant that Orlando and Donal have the word ‘Or’ dividing the letters of their names?
    “‘Do you think it’s better to nearly see anything than not see it at all?’ Donal asked quietly.”
    I think I have the knack of choosing the right books to buy and review. A knack that I think would stand me in good stead if I lived in Oothangbart…
    And this book gets better and better, if that were possible. Donal’s crush on the bakery girl Miss Offering, a friend of his dreaming, with his buying bagels for their own sake rather than eat them just to talk to her. And later chewing the endearingly philosophical fat with Orlando’s brother Hutchinson, while fishing in what I assume to be a river that encircles Oothangbart…
    A potentially perfect world enticingly out of kilter with your own, that you the reader have been entrusted to rescue from its imperfections…or shoot them down from the specially erected range of such aunt sallies with the instilled purpose of your replacing them by means of a gestalt real-time review or several people’s triangulated gestalt real-time reviews, replace them with new archetypes of hope and love and quietly puckish meta-philosophical fantasy?
    “; a fellow who only sees himself in the context of the next fellow can’t see life itself.”
    This book means what it means, but now threatened? … but one FEELS that the threat will be met and conquered, whatever the muttering queues, agitation and anxiety.. But what about in our life outside this book?
    “Why must there be meaning in everything, Orlando?”
    Well, that’s my raison d’être when doing gestalt real-time reviews, whatever the cost, in the hope that whatever I find in a book or compare it to will transcend our own ills. Particularly LATER TODAY when Trump is inaugurated. This book’s ‘Trumpet-time’ now truly impends?
    I recently read this somewhere; please forgive the Goveish source! –>
    “Mr Gove described Mr Trump’s conversational style as being like a river in spate, adding: ‘You throw pebbles into it and sometimes there are eddies and currents and from that you can read what it is that he wants.'”
    And why is poor Donal saddled with a name so similar to Donald’s, I ask, too?
    And what is it that Donal et al have seen in Oothangbart’s river – something nasty that makes the fish fly out of it? I dread to think. I dream to think.
    ‘The Terror’, it is called in the book. ‘The Intrusion’, too. The sky has indeed slipped. The sky no longer has glorious pareidolia. “flummoxed and ridiculous”
    For the nonce, at least. MIss Offering.’s bagels, notwithstanding.
    “…the whole of Oothangbart could be in danger.”
    “I would suggest that The Intrusion came about because something has happened to distort the bottom of the river,…”
    An engaging, slightly self-mocking account of ‘what we do about this intrusion’ mixed with past waking dreams about going into the hills and leaving Oothangbart – and the phenomenon of the sudden rather than the expected with regard to civilisation proper…
    Cleanses the palate somewhat after yesterday’s real-time events in our own world.
    “Then how how can we do a thing when we don’t know what it is we want to do?”
    “I’d say ‘where are you going over and over again, and they’d cry out over there, over there, over there,’ until the sound of it was like the distant calling of birds in the high clouds.”
    Amid the baps and bagels of Miss Offering, Donal at last has a proper conversation with her. There is something so deadpan poignant, something yearningly so Bristol beyond the edge of this novel, not Trump’s doubtless yearning (in our real world outside the novel) for a pair of Bristols, not just one, but something memorably idyllic here in Oothangbart that i have just been entranced — only for my mood to be broken by the committee meetings including meetings inside meetings and their bureaucracy to decide what to do and when and with what, so as to cope with The Intrusion. There was so much being said and going on, so many characters, I broke my pencil when making my usual underlinings and marginalia in the book! No joke.
    For me, this work deserves – and will definitely receive – the praise and attention it has not had so far.
    “‘Make a wall on the nearside bank, just in case there is danger.’
    ‘A wall?’ Agnew sniggered. ‘A wall?'”
    11 is the perfect description of something that needs to be described.
    It also involves tantalising yearning yielding quests for the Postal Fellow and the use of Sealing Wax where, in our own world, with the Internet, there is growing less need of both! (I expect soon a sighting of my own yieldingtree to quench any unrequited love or to shorten any bakery queues.)
    The exponential growth, meanwhile, of this book’s own descriptions is manifest. Including the solving of one problem with another problem – like creating a palimpsest of the attendance crowds at two different inaugurations?
  9. I had dozing, waking and sleeping dreams about this book last night. The Post Fellow. The Pillar Box on the book’s spine with its wide-brimmed hat….
    Also, I seemed obsessed about death or deliverance in this quest for this Post Felllow, a loop that Donal is following from one to the other and back again? Not sure that theme is in the book itself…
    Indeed, as opposed to recent ‘alternative facts’!?
    Donal or Lando indulge in what I call barrack-room philosophy but points of philosophy that have an endearing charm and a layman’s instinct for the ‘power of thought.’ The simplicity of thought and of naive truth that if anywhere is going to embody such things, that will be Oothangbart itself, I suggest. Despite the arguments and other moments of attrition that The Intrusion has brought with it, including the ripples in the river.
    Meanwhile, now that Donal’s hoarded bagels have been seen in his shed, how better build this story’s wall or even Trump’s Wall I say! (I say that despite believing that this novel would have been written well before Trump-time or even Trumpet-time came to the full notice of world history. This novel was first published in July 2016 after a long period of writing it I guess, and he won the US election only a month or two ago.)
  11. img_281215 A COLUMN OF BAGELS
    “These are terrible times. The flags are all knotted,…”
    Much thought about thinking ideas and when to act upon ideas – upon the point of first thinking them good ideas being perhaps the consensus. My idea about using Donal’s ‘unrequited love’ bagels for the wall seems now to have been premature as the committee of characters has the idea now and quickly replaces it with using them as a column for holding up the sagging skies to prevent the ‘fish’ thinking they can now use the sky instead of the river. But put such a column where? The possible repercussions fill me with poignancy.
    And which came first, the book’s subtitle or my sudden (yes, sudden) idea during the reading of these chapters of the realised nature of these Oothangbartians!
    And we also need to deal with the bifurcated nature of lies after Trump’s “alternative facts” earlier this week?
    “Then the bagel column is just another illusion, and will never be built.”
    “He wondered if Orlando was still at the shed, or if the bagels had been taken to Circle Square. He tried not to think of Pearl.”
    You see, Circle Square is near Pearl Offering’s bakery…
    This is the most poignant, yearning, yielding, unrequited work of fiction I have ever read (at least so far) … and you can take that as you wish. And, if you also wish, you may read my very short story THE TALLEST KING first published in the late 1980s.
    And to know the Post Fellow does not live in the Postbox that is in the spine of this book is something like Muddle Street itself. And Hutchinson’s view of Bristol, too, whether it exists or it does not exist beyond the eponymous environs of this book is also better than anything I can think of in this real world where I think I am reading this marvellous book. Does not bear scrutiny, in Nutwood OR Oothangbart…
    How do you know things? Make them up as you go along, someone in this book advises.
    “Things are random. Everything is random. What happens in life is random.”
    “Well, suppose you didn’t find it, it still wouldn’t mean it didn’t exist, just that you never reached it.”
  13. 19 [redacted]
    “He thought of his tiny kitchen with its sloping floor and his eyes pricked with tears.”
    Donal braves departure via a vast pit and whence and whereto and backto he does go only you the reader can know. Rest assured, this is quietly transcendent literature and I genuinely, even more than genuinely In a new sincerity bred by this book itself, believe this is a major new-archetypal, beyond allegorical or fabulous, work that needs urgent attention by those not yet in the know about it.
    Donal’s rite of passage is Oothangbart’s too, its bureaucracies and strictures part of a pattern intrinsic to that journey, as well as its naively excitable population’s reactions to us as well as to themselves – and intrinsic to their destiny, too.
    Only one letter different divides Donal from the jiggery-pokery wicked Donald, and the former’s deserved requitedness is in sight, each brick in a wall a sign of love not hate.
    I have been enraptured in the last week or two by this book. And I hope I shall be allowed to play the Postal Fellow when the book is eventually screened or staged. – as it will be … but never as good as the book itself – though someone needs to go out sooner rather than later to curate the costumes ready for its first performance because such costumes will be difficult to amass, even one by one. Ad infinitum.