Saturday, April 29, 2017

CARTESIAN SONATA & other novellas – William H. Gass

CARTESIAN SONATA & other novellas – William H. Gass




My review of THE TUNNEL:

When I real-time review the first three novellas in CARTESIAN SONATA, my comments will appear in the thought stream below ….

15 thoughts on “CARTESIAN SONATA & other novellas – William H. Gass


    The Writing on the Wall
    “Shall we play a few more games? Tromp about in the rosin box, it’s slippery on the wire. […] Adam — wheedle by wheedle — in the same way, got existence.”
    Ella Bend Hess is introduced, amid writerly wrestling with words, including the words in the Biblical book of Daniel. And other characters that are digressive. And shoes and slippers, and the salesman purveying such objects. Earlier today, I read a story elsewhere about shoes stalking and haunting the protagonist.
    “Bless me. The careful reader. I had forgotten him. […] …I don’t wear a thing when I write but work naked and compose by staring at my cock and balls.”
  2. The Clairvoyant
    Pages 25 – 35
    “The world rolled through her like a sea, the skin no seawall to it, and no one afloat in that tide could have guessed by a sky change or by any other that they had been swept beyond her body wall and bobbed now in the basin of her brain.”
    We now continue Ella’s backstory, her insurance husband, her clairvoyancy, a typical Gass-filled texture that out-Joyces Joyce, in a good way, second to none for deep transformational structures of bodily fluids and bodyprint, words as sinew and more.
    It also inadvertently and generally chimes with Melanie Tem’s versions of different types of Ella that I am concurrently reading here. Shoes, missing toes, and all
  3. Pages 33 – 43
    “Ella Bend could be called clairvoyant simply because she possessed an abnormal number of sensitive receivers. She was almost totally attention and antennae.”
    I happen, by chance to be concurrently real-time reviewing the selected poems of Fiona Pitt-Kethley (here), and I sense a similar soul behind the prose-poetic words of Gass with the poems (some of them prose-by-hindsight-enjambment) of Pitt-Kethley, whether that linked soul be by dint of authorial soul or the soul of the woman being depicted. I often feel a serendipity reaching between works, allowing readers or writer of one to be led to the other, by a synchronous or preternatural power, and vice versa, by cross-references in a hyperlinked labyrinth such as the one this site has become over the years.
    Here there is an unforgettable long passage about words in a dictionary, and the alphabetical order by actual texture, shape and spelling of the word, being significant…
    “And what lies so snugly between ‘truism’ and ‘truly’? ‘Trull’! That’s right — truth is a strumpet.”
  4. I wish you wouldn’t
    “Mud, mold, matter — what one called it didn’t count — but it had neither courage, nor loyalty, nor conscience.”
    The language is matter, the reader is the mind. The language here is actually chips off old blocks, with body parts, and body effluence, and sex. You will never meet language quite like this anywhere else, putting live flesh into words and leaving it to rot or fecundate itself. It is Ella’s husband as matter, and I sense he has already been dead, now brought back to life, to light, to MIND, in a Cartesian sense, with this atonal sonata of solid music in the form of words. Brought to re-existence and narrative point of view by the fiction-erected incarnation of Ella’s clairvoyance as a creative force rather than just a scrying one, and by referral his mind is ignited again and wakes to Ella as a view he has of his once-upon-a-time wife who is dying or now dead instead of him, while all the time she is inadvertently re-creating HIM, or bringing him back into the world as a thinking confusion like a lunatic in the same way as René Descartes had a thing about dreams being what a lunatic thinks in life, [trumping out the Trump for this world, even though such a character has, all this time, lain in abeyance all these years in this text without being thus correctly identified as Trump? We just need to find the woman who is inadvertently ‘holding’ him alive, by dint of her special form of clairvoyance created in this living text, holding him in her mind like real matter. We simply need to tell her to stop doing it (e.g. I wish you wouldn’t) within this leasehold fiction. Or destroy all copies of this book, but we would still have a problem if its freehold author is still alive and will not stop holding it in HIS head?]
    (My wild extrapolations within square brackets.)

    “…and here was ‘Ann Lee’s & Other Stories’. What the hell? That was no proper title. Ann Lee’s what? Elizabeth Bow-… the spine was smeared, the black had run. Bowen. Bet it wasn’t Ann Lee’s quim.”
    This is a fascinating and pungent portrait of a low-key travelling businessman checking into a motel room, finding a ‘secretary’ full of old books, that we explore with him, their titles, bookshapes, contents, pencilled marginalia (like mine?), and mixed in with these book explorations are carnal thoughts of his wife Eleanor and his Girl Friday Miz Biz, and more. Why has literature not marked this striking chapter as one of its landmarks?
    Perhaps this book’s an example of those ‘abandoned’ ones in the motel room, now rediscovered?
    “As his eye sniffed idly about, released like a dog from his thoughts, every surface which shaped the room and sheltered him seemed to be drawing aside like drapes, but their shiftiness made nothing more spacious for him.”
  6. 2 – 3
    Riff is the name of this travelling accountant, one with theories about deliberate insurance losses, here finding suitable b&bs via the b&b booklet, this one, or is it a customer, too, full of objectilia, and if the bathroom is like this –
    … you can imagine what sort of bric-à-brac the rest of the place contains. Clutter and chintz as sort of spiritual angst? And not sure he's seen the back garden yet?
  7. 4
    “…more objects he hadn’t noticed when he’d first come in began to solicit his attention.”
    In his Walter persona, Riff is almost absorbed in the lists he creates, and I now see my photo above may not be an exaggeration. This is amazing stuff that I recommend to all readers or students of literature. A book that might only otherwise have previously been found in an unlikely array of objects you have not yet really looked at?
  8. IMG_3156
    5 – 6
    “At last, Walter slid naked between the cool sheets, as careful as if he were a layer himself, and felt their cool calming touch, the touch of an other who wanted nothing from him but would grow warm when he relaxed and went to sleep in his skin.”
    The whole Aesthetic of this Walter Riff’s bed and breakfast stay, Bettie saying Grace at breakfast itself, as if thanking God not for the forthcoming breakfast but for what happened during the night?
    The objects, some precise and meticulous, cluttered as well as ordered, plush and ordinary, stacked and coagulated, while separated, too, are like Trump’s mind today, and each itemised separate Patna rice tweets…
  9. 7 – 8
    “The world was flooded with ruck. And these things had made their way here, sometimes, like the corded candles, even two by two, to Bettie’s Bed and Breakfast, where they might be borne away in safety, surrounded by peace and solicitude.”
    Gass works. The books again as part of the mass objectilia of emotional objectification, wherein a book of Frost poems, and a tussling with the words ‘befit’ and ‘bereft’, a model schoolhouse with strangely pinging bell, and memorising the date of every penny as part of an accounting process. Does Riff stay in this B&B with his monetary machinations and lending a hand in kind as part of that process? This is literature made out of things, collections of words, as well as the objects the words represent. No real comparison to Gassworks. Experience something unique.

    Pages 144 – 153
    That must be among the most striking openings to any literary work.
    From outset, it seems, so far, to turn into a staggering theme and variations on the novella’s title where words become prehensile shapes or feathered creatures, hard-nosed as well as poetic, and sinuously flowing, being compared to the ‘cloud’ that it mentions, too, prophesying the new version of ‘cloud’ today wherein words float like the hopefully eternal ghosts of birds?
  11. Pages 153 – 191 (end)
    The slow fall of ash far from the flame, a residue of rain on morning grass, snow still in air, wounds we have had, dust on the sill there, dew, snowflake, scab: light, linger, leave, like a swatted fly, trace to be grieved, dot where it died.
    That is the sentence of Bishop’s Emma enters. Here a gestalt of Gass driven words you cannot possibly imagine being possible until you read them here, strung together with pain and murder. From flat, unpenised babychild, in desiccated interface with her father… and mother. And the words as concupiscence made semantic, beneath the desiccation. Matchless material that cannot be demonstrated here, not done justice to, simply let it flow over you. The Poetics of Pain. Edith Sitwell, too.
    Punishments to fit the crimes…global as well as individual.
    I think all that needs to be said about this final novella, Gass-piped with scatology of revenge and resentments and sensitivities akin to Trump’s, is said here:
    Should hopefully put Trump in an underground cage, too.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

NUMBER 11 or Tales that Witness Madness – Jonathan Coe


19 thoughts on “NUMBER 11 or Tales that Witness Madness – Jonathan Coe

  1. “It’s about how 140 characters can make fools of us all.”

    Beware inadvertent spoilers that sometimes accrue when one is real-time reviewing…



    1 – 3
    “…until she reached the limit of her parabola, hung suspended there for the briefest of moments, whirled and then dived again, rushing down towards the coveted lump of meat with preternatural speed and precision,…”
    Feeling my way, so far, a cross between a Famous Five childhood adventure and King’s Dark Tower, plus a reference to a real news item in early noughties UK,
    Intriguing and captivating. Plus a racial undercurrent?
  2. 4 – 6
    “The Mad Bird Woman.”
    It is interesting how 2003 (and its news accoutrements, including one strikingly public discovery of a dead body) has become almost like seasoned history as taught in school classrooms, and here we have two school girls, in a sort of possibly news-connected and mysterious adventure, on the cusp of adulthood…one acting more adult than the other..staying with the latter’s grandparents whilst their two mothers are having a ‘singles’ holiday abroad, with all that such holidays entail?
    On the approaching brink of the Brexit syndrome, too.
    No sign of Trump, of course… yet?
  3. 7 – 11 (end of The Black Tower)
    “Alison ignored this objection, and played her trump card.”
    The bit about Bates.
    This has been the knowhow or Green Knowe of 2003 – Nameless Alley, or an evolving dual path of social history and fiction, cockles and Chinamen, and characters first seen as Psycho because of their name, and later as something more friendly by sheltering foreignness when foreignness was already in GK Chesterton and would be nasty persona non grata in fledgling Brexit Britain (but note that this novel was first published in 2015) – a card game that needs a Trump to change fortunes – but for the best? Or just the matching of spiders? Foreignness and colour.
    A children’s Blyton mystery, and something far more serious, where good is bad, and bad is good, as we head into not a new Middle Ages but the first Mixed ones. The inter-costal muscles of communication fledgling with MySpace in 2003? Or was that a bit later?
    I sneaked a look at the start of the next section and glimpsed the date 2011. We shall see.
    On another level this is a compelling, well-written mystery so far, with elements of a David Mitchell and something else I cannot quite put my finger on.

    From this book’s earlier “loving irritation” to its “classic humblebrag”…
    Some gems to elucidate the poignancy of life.
    Here we learn a second thing about the number 11, but how strong does your bladder have to be to circle in the city bus ring route several times, just to keep warm and unlonely?
    Our characters have evolved into 2011 and beyond, into post banking crisis ‘austerity’, and into Snapchat. Life is a slow motion Snapchat, I reckon. But Alison (we now learn about her physical disability and sexual diversity) has a once semi-famous pop-singing mother who screams, I sense, ‘I am a celebrity, get me back in there!’
    Reality Tv is another form of Snapchat, too.
    Only novels in real handleable books can aspire to retain a tractable durability, even if they are ABOUT transience.
    Any Anthony Gormley sculpture, notwithstanding.
  5. 2. (End of The Comeback)
    “Choose a path and set me free, to beyond and yonder.”
    One of the most compulsively, genuinely, foully horrific, yet hilarious, passages in all literature, involving a time calibration as trajectory of a famous Reality TV Show and its tortures, in parallel with real-time viewers watching elsewhere, in another time zone, all subject to ‘fake news’ editing. Tweets, too, and all the Internet can throw at you and yours.
    Insects, and Incest.
    And Alison’s mother’s song is sooooooo utterly beautiful, the poignancy is unbearable. Then back to the city circling bus.
    Sheer reading experience. I wonder where this Consequences Game of a novel is next going to take me?

    Pages 127 – 151
    “…Anyway, this one was that every generation has a moment when they lose their innocence. Their political innocence.”
    I am enticed back to this book more and more as I readily read further into it, but I do try to eke it out, to savour each Consequence as it emerges. Now the latest Consequence is the rôle of the Loch Ness Monster – and the inconsistently-used privacy settings of Facebook. We are following a character we have known from the beginning now within the viewpoint of an academic setting and a lecturer whose husband – who collected, inter alios, pre-recorded VHS tapes – has died. This durable character, once a friend of Alison, is invited by the lecturer (for what motive?) to the Cotswolds, the site of that particular loss of political innocence we encountered, in this book, back in 2003.
  7. Pages 151 – 177 (end of The Crystal Garden)
    “It wasn’t just a hankering for childhood. It was bigger than that. It was to do with what the country was like — or what he thought it had been like — in the sixties and seventies.”
    From earlier ‘loving irritation’, ‘classic humblebrag’, ‘paranoid fiction’ and the ethos of ‘whistleblowers’ via the Loch Ness Monster and collected, sometimes trashy, films about such monsters…we now reach a ‘nostalgia’ and a Brexit-like yearning for British old days that I imagine this 2015 published book is prophesying … reaching it via a magical-memory-of-‘wonder’-unrequited film (now lost) that once filled a gap on ATV’s afternoon schedules some time during the 1960s. A ‘wonder’ that is truly wonderful in this section of the book, despite the long narrative info-dumps, and reminds me of HG Wells’ Door in the Wall, and of Le Grand Meulnes, and Sarban, and … and ironically a key phrase is now ‘monetising wonder’. That this book is doing for its author?
    The element of ‘routine’ in the 1960s is also well depicted as based on my own only-child family experience of the Fifties and Sixties, same meal every day, that I, too, yearned then and yearn now for a Consequences Game that transcends the need for choice, and the outcome of yearning and seeking for the lost film by the lecturer’s husband is a perfect example of my gestalting fiction into truth, the connection of yearnings and death, a convulsive coincidence, that again involves the no. 11.
    Consequences and Connections.

    Pages 179 – 197
    “The criminal does not act in a political vacuum.”
    “To solve an English crime, committed by an English criminal, one must contemplate the condition of England itself.”
    The Consequences Game seems to have reached a genuine non-sequitur? But, if so, an engaging, witty one, where we learn about a cultivated police constable as well as the backstory of a female pundit that, in this 2015 published book, seems to be an accurate prophecy of someone like Katy Hopkins, both brilliantly characterised, and the former tries to solve the apparently separate murders of two stand-up comedians in different areas by his own methods of gestalt real-time reviewing…and emailing Scotland Yard from his branch constabulary.
    Nicknames at the Nick. The Bedroom Tax, notwithstanding.
  9. Pages 198 – 209
    “Nathan lets out a whistle of alarm. ‘An explosive situation,’ he said.”
    …”thesis art” vs “ambiguity”, essence vs quintessence, electronic blogs like this one, a summary of the philosophy of laughter, then as a shorted circuit or explosion, romance with a swaddled figure, and modern day food banks.
    Fiction is a sort of food bank, I reckon. Think about it.
    Meanwhile, the gathering into a gestalt all the clues as to pastential murder or potential murder, seems to be leading to an awards dinner where this fiction’s ‘Katy Hopkins’ will be attending…the tables numbered.
    Still eking out the reading of this wonderful Consequences Game of a quilted narration.
  10. On this hardback book’s earlier Page 11 – “Where are we going now? How are we going to get out?”

    Pages 210 – 230 (end of The Winshaw Prize)
    “vinegar punch”
    These scenes at the awards dinner may be too philosophically slapstick, absurdist, laughter-inducing for some readers’ tastes, but they worked. At first I thought the eclectic-catholic Winshaw award was to be a Tontine (a running theme for my Gestalt Real-Time Reviews) but, instead, it turned out to be more the Best of the Bests. Ingenious! – and what happened in the middle of each dining-table I will not spoil here. Nor will I divulge the coincidence involved with the ‘Katy Hopkins’ character and one of the dinner’s waitresses, as they shared a smoke outside.
    I will merely mention the mention of the clearance of “unexploded ordnance (or Explosive Remnants of War)” when factored into the earlier short-circuited explosions of laughter philosophy.
    A whodunnit to die for. A potential Murder Dinner.
    And at one point, I was sure that Lucinda was planning to go to bed with her table’s menu, while Nathan slept on the sofa!
    (Also cf the father and daughter here in this 2015 published book with Trump and Ivanka.)

    1 – 3
    “Other times I think that, just as a certain famous Romanian used to suck the blood from his victims’ necks, now it is money itself that has begun to drain the life out of this great city.”
    In London with Livia the Romanian, and from Beverley to South Africa with Rachel, and back again to Beverley and Rachel’s grandparents …but what happens when Rachel is back again, I have yet to read. Rachel, who threads this book, is employed as a tutor to an Etonian, boy on safari with his parents and twin sisters, Rachel with an intriguing job description, and a what else? I love meandering in this book, guessing. And this review will not give you the answers; only the book itself can do that. If that.
    Dog-walking for a living, another door in the wall, and this final (longer) section headed with the title, I somehow recall, of a trashy film about the Loch Ness monster? None of that can give you even a clue.
    Beautiful descriptions and human observations, Graham Greene-like, when we are in South Africa. And not to quote Rachel…
    “There are no lions in this park, none at all. All we saw today were those stupid elephants again.”
  12. 4
    “Tests had shown up a large cancerous tumour in her grandfather’s colon.”
    Perhaps that is this section’s ‘whopper’?
    Meanwhile, Rachel is re-employed by the Gunns as a tutor, this time for the twin girls, this time down in London. Another phoned method of entry – and a door through a wall in a near building-site? Yet I cannot yet gather whether the building works are a sign of property speculation, speculation gone wrong, as lot of Trump’s once did? And the employer and father is the man-called-Gunn and his wife, Lady Gunn, has the forename Madiana (I learnt earlier in this book that she was once a fashion model and came from Kazakhstan) – tinges of Melania? – and a property with a bath encrusted with ‘fake diamonds’…
    I am God-smacked.
    VERY intrigued to see what happens next. It is sure I will not tell you.
  13. 5 – 6
    “…it’s part of the same move to express everything in monetary terms.”
    … which seems to be the on-going theme, Cf the monetising of wonder and of other abstractions, as Rachel connects with the itemised previous tropes and characters, via the magic door of fiction, towards a gestalt — items such as obscure British films and not-so-obscure ones like Quatermass and the Pit, the overbearing modern ‘choice’ of entertainment and art as compared to what was available in the past (I remember the days when there was one channel on Tv and they had an hour’s interval at 6 pm so that parents could get their children to bed), and the ‘joke’ (here in a possibly non-unionised lap-dancing club) and more.
    “…and we estimate that the discovery of these human remains today probably adds about £1.2 million to the value of London as a whole.”
  14. 7 – 14
    “‘He’s using invisibility as a metaphor,’ said Rachel, […]
    ‘Sounds s as if he spotted a real gap in the market there.'”
    I cannot do justice here to the accretively miraculous gestalt of this book’s previous perceived Connections and Consequences, loose cannons and other objective-correlatives.
    I’ll draw out just one – Madiana’s insistence on 11 floors being dug as part of the building works in Chapter 11 of this section, a pit like that of Quatermass, where a connective spider lurks. Scenes worthy of any great work of hyper-imaginative literature or horror genre or shape-shifting SF. Not only The Invisible Man or The Midwich Cuckoos. Or George Osborne in another No. 11.
    Scenes worthy of an art gallery upon a sudden chance visit to Lausanne, too. Breathtaking passages.
    Oh yes, I must not forget the story of Alison and the poignancy of food banks and residual ordnance, and a dog-walker as cellist, Trumpish private jets, Freddie Francis as an exponent of Hammer Horror as well as Tax Management, and more, much more, in this miraculously accretive gestalt upon our hollow or pitted world. Meanwhile, I ache, literally ache, for Val’s jungle song to be exhumed. No reason, sadly, to believe it will be. Nicest, remember, not Insect.
    Simple linear equations upon my return from Brobdingnag.
  15. 15 – 20
    “The Scottish Tourist Board have asked them to come up and put a price on the Loch Ness Monster.”
    “the taste of her childhood; the taste of home;”
    “threads and webs had been strung up everywhere.”
    The three quotes as pre-cursors of the couple of years after this book was published, that yearning for the lost past, as well as the shape-shifters and their Internet webs, objective-correlatives of sentiment and Trump-Brexit or the realities of those who share the interconnections of the 140 characters in this book?
    We even have the caped crusader and his philosophical-cultivated, not Dr. Watson-like, companion. And that Rachel shares her surname with the author of The Invisible Man, as she does for real.
    The lair that is No. 11 Downing Street?
    Or Bucharest?
    A bath encrusted with fake diamonds?
    Or where?
    Dig as deep as you can in its words.
    A book that connects and contrasts, by seemingly haphazard consequences, the unfair with the unfair, say, Sir Gilbert with Alison. Quantitative easing with obscure or trashy tropes. Connections with Consequences. Ultimately a game called life.
    At least this great book adds a bit of human fairness back, as well as entertains the reader with both rumbustiousness and mind-provoking nuances.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

You Will Grow Into Them – Malcolm Devlin


12 thoughts on “You Will Grow Into Them – Malcolm Devlin

  1. January 24, 2014
    Passion Play by Malcolm Devlin
    “…there’s a click-flash from the direction of the photographers and stick-man shadows appear at our feet and then vanish again.”
    Beware of flashing images, they say on TV, or following the Hook story. But the crowd (of readers?) “snaps into focus” as we enter this intriguing narrative point of view: a 15 year old girl who is acting as a double in a police reconstruction to help trigger memories of her missing friend Cathy. Their backstory as friends, even their young love-life, is entwined. We receive the now: this reconstruction, and the then, when various others saw the pink coat of the missing girl pass by, and a further then, when Cathy and her friend the narrator visited a church and found a strange ingredient (the cross-hatch man) within the paint of the religious paintings (daubed on, vestigial or original to the natural brush stokes?), paintings of the stations of the cross, Jesus and the saints – One saint carrying his own skin, if that one is St Bartholomew, I infer, … which, for me, and perhaps for me alone, gives some clue to the story’s highly haunting denouement. Pry or pray, nothing can resolve the paint or the pain.
    A beautiful, staggeringly great story.
  2. June 2, 2015
    TWO BROTHERS by Malcolm Devlin
    “…numbers on both sides would fall until only two remained standing, one on each side.”
    They would then fight to the death, as predicted by presumably real History they were re-enacting. This is perhaps that Aickman weather forecasting cabin again, right against wrong, tradition against revolution, friend against foe, predestined history against a more dynamic version, challenge against response, self against self, brother against brother, who will emerge today? Judging by the reference to the Peasants’ uprising against the Tsar, I guess this compelling, obliquely intriguing, relatively plain-narrated story, with immaculate prose, takes place at the beginning of the 20th Century, as brothers grow up in isolation, re-enacting history, as in the quote above, with their toy soldiers and crudely made countryside ‘fortress’. The text’s well-characterised boys, amid an artfully constructed claustrophobic ambiance, have eventually separated when the slightly older one is sent by the diffident father to the traditional school for the family. His eventual return (himself now diffident) is disturbingly conveyed, with the nicely ungraspable but telling pivot of his self with self (now fleshed out and already in my earlier list of polarities above), a parallel sort of self’s changeling (shrunken or depleted as their Governess is described to be in retrograde parallel with the two boys’ natural growth), leaving the younger brother even more alone – with his “stockpile of cultivated lies.” One of which lies is the vision of the changeling itself? And discussion here of possible further meanings might spoil it for anyone who has not yet read it.
  3. May 27, 2016
    BREADCRUMBS by Malcolm Devlin
    “She thinks of the way birds congregate on building sites and rooftops. One loud noise, she thinks, and everyone will fly away.”
    …like those earlier starlings? This is a girl called Ellie who eventually asks of herself, after many rites of passage and her own brand of waking-dreams: “How could she have forgotten how her mother once fed her worlds?”…
    This is a fascinatingly efflorescing and vegetatising of a Cinderella morphing (in reality or by leaking dreams?) into a Rapunzel, amid her neighbours in a city apartment block, her parents and brother, she dreams, having already gone to a ball without her, or was it them leaving to attend not a ball but an aunt’s fall? One never knows, and it is a constructive never-knowing, with her waking-dreams as telling objective-correlatives for the growing soul of a fifteen year old girl, a girl who seeks the seeking of her by a Prince. But she is not really a Damsel in Distress, but rather a visionary chrysalis for our own dreams, I feel, with each of our bodies eventually to become a husk: a constructive thought for me, particularly in recent days. Beautiful material.
  4. May 21, 2015
    HER FIRST HARVEST by Malcolm Devlin
    “…but together, the movement, the colours and the music combined to bleach such process from her mind. She felt herself existing solely in the present…”
    This process is the dance at the debutantes’ ball as if straight from Jane Austen as filtered through the story’s quote from Katherine Mansfield. But much more than that, the story is an exquisitely enthralling treatment of sowing and harvesting one’s own bodies. The descriptions of the fungal growths involved are wonderfully evocative. And the sense of this Interzone fiction’s eternal present moment, as a gestalt, is transcendent, serendipitously reflecting, inter alia, Stufflebeam’s lady protagonist’s sense of conflux. I read this Devlin today in difficult waiting-room circumstances (the waiting centuries passing by in a trice?); it held my attention all the way and lifted my spirits as a potential classic to remember.
  5. September 29, 2016
    DOGSBODY by Malcolm Devlin
    “They fell to silence for a moment and the argument at the pool table, violence brewing, filled the gap.”
    This novelette (the third such in this magazine) has violence brewing not only at RRM’s pool table but also in the ‘rapture’ of his visions, here now delivering unto ‘grace’. For me, these are darkroom-processed – not digital – word-photographs of the fifth anniversary of a recurrently auto-correctable werewolf plague that affects a select number of the population, a new select group like ‘gays’ used to be, out of their own closet, and begun to be accepted in a deadpan way, almost a masque or a slowly pent up dance between social groups, our hero here being part of both such dances, social and wolfish, now in a workaday painter’s bib, coincidentally (?) meeting the woman, shedding her own skin of business civility, in a were-pub, having been interviewed by her for his old professional well-suited, well-garbed advertising job he had before the initial plague. That dogsbody or blue collar masque, that method-acting, that mannered interchange of mores and moods and brewing violence (and a once wolffish transmogrification that may never happen again), that masque, that lugubrious dance of social waltzing as one gets drinks in two kinds of pubs, is a whole panoply of low-key spiritual-GPS manoeuvres between, inter alia, a barroom brawl and a flirting exchange. The whole two-pubs thing In this work and the two bars’ socially acceptable miming emotions takes up a huge mind-boring (‘bore’ in two senses) chunks of this mesmerically downbeat text. The conversational machinations are like initially Feldman-like, then speeded-up, minimalist music with complex glimpses of what monsters they might turn into – or like RRM’s thin things, I imagine. A strange work, not only weird-strange, but also attritional-strange in good and bad ways of a reading experience. Intentionally so, successfully so, and more! And dare I wonder in which direction the transmute-filter works between both public sides of the above by-line? A diffident work. A disarmingly major work.
    Pages 181 – 212
    “A past augmented by the present rather than replaced by it.”
    I will grow into this book. I have now read for the first time the first half of this novelette. It seems to latch into the different reading time-dates I happened to use above, a ratcheting of fabricated time and a real-time that now seems taken up by this new work, utilising the fiction of reality and the fiction of fiction, offered by the screen and real people being watched as if by flies on the wall during the tranches of history, towards a gestalt of backstory, hopes, loves, and cross-fertilisation of reality TV entertainment and self. My gestalt real-time reviews are always based just on my first reading of each work, however well I understand them in that first reading. As you can see, I have previously been reading Devlin piecemeal, story by story, in a varying time calibration, till the arrival of this book, and only now has my suspicion of his growing greatness of fictioneering begun to crystallise, in hindsight, and now in foresight, as I follow Tom’s life, now in internet days, and his relationship with Bobby, the Bobby Eras, his sister and mother via real-time and also via a different time calibration alongside it as provided by entertainment and a once public video-diary of a boyish dream, and now a sort of real-time diary in adulthood such as this very story itself and what it depicts. The strangely imagined bed and breakfast terraced house of a place he is using to stay in York…I am fully entranced, so far. But what else could I have expected?
    Tom will grow into this story.
    • IMG_3153
      Pages 212 – 241
      “Music with a melody, songs with a purpose. Twin tools to get themselves inside of you and remake you bone-by-bone, every time you hear it.”
      Yesterday, I honestly deleted the word ‘music’ from the previous review entry at the last moment, a word I originally used just before the word ‘self’. I was then instinctively right (but wrong about deleting it), and only today did music come through in this work properly. I started with the Sixties era this morning in this novelette serendipitously while listening to the Tony Blackburn Sounds of the Sixties Show on Radio Two, tellingly a few weeks after he took over following the death of Brian Matthew. And I also often notice in my real-time reviewing that any concurrent book reviews share a serendipitous synergy. I am currently reviewing (here) Number 11 by Jonathan Coe, where someone is making comeback as a once semi-famous pop singer and has a sudden break by being invited on a popular Reality TV programme as a last minute replacement. There are songs inadvertently singing between these two works. And today I continued to follow Tom (and his Bobby), both in the time calibration of his earlier Reality TV fame and in the music heard in the strange Aickman-like bed and breakfast place, music that seems, for me, to transcend Brexit itself. Explicitly so, I feel, but without actually mentioning that word. There are many other nuances of time calibration, fabrication, invented and real memories, attitude to nostalgia, realism, aspiration, relationships with family and with lover, a Twin Peaks-like red velvet curtain and ambiance, amid an otherwise compelling story that can be read as an enjoyable story without, I guess, the need to appreciate all such nuances. Another memorable feat of infectious imagination and sensitivity to our times.
      “The present is built on the ruins of the past,…”
    “Dominick had looked at his own hands with their square palms and stubby fingers, then folded them out of sight behind his back.
    ‘Farmer’s hands,’ his father would describe them,…”
    This book’s reenactments or reconstructions are here made into a modern tableau or play, as a meal is repeated, dish by dish, among inscrutable leading bureaucratic players in an Ex Occidente type real-imaginary East European state, I infer, whereby in the original Dinner now being reenacted a murder had occurred. I often attend social Murder Dinners myself, but I have never yet ended up the murderer….
    This is an intriguing mix of Beckett or Pinter or Poliakoff and Aickman’s Hospice meal, laid back, methodical, mannerist, involving ambition to do one’s best for one’s young family in the face of autocratically retrocausal forces that cannot be contravened.
    Hopefully Dominick will grow into the part.
    “She looked only at her hands until she was done.”
    Comparatively, a short short, about a hard-budgeted young couple taking over — lock, stock, barrel and “raft spider” (rafter?) — a widower’s house where he has left a close model, at one point in time and sentiment, of the town where the house is situated. As well as being another reconstruction story, it is an appealing Doll’s House type story (Aickman, Sarban…?) where hands on kidneys and thighs are an oblique objective-correlative that signifies more clearly in the gestalt context of this book than any openly normal semantics can possibly be interpreted to signify.
  9. September 30, 2016
    THE END OF HOPE STREET by Malcolm Devlin
    “…she planted it as close to the house as she dared. It didn’t block the view. Its scent was too subtle to mask the smell of bodies as they turned, but it was a gesture, and sometimes that was all that was possible, sometimes that was enough.”
    This novelette (the third such in this Interzone) is probably one of the most difficult works of fiction I have ever had to comment upon, not difficult however in understanding the plot, but only in commenting upon it, giving it a context within this Interzone’s fiction as well as alongside this author’s other novelette I read in the last few days as reviewed above. I tried to find the painting it mentions of a woman slightly disturbed to be found in her cluttered kitchen. I think I found it, but not sure enough to reproduce if here, a painting that seems to seal this book like the pre-Raphaelite painting did in Brian Aldiss’s Report on Probability A. This Devlin is a significant work, accretive, attritional, an insidious account of a row of detached houses that gradually become ‘unliveable’ in and the inhabitants have to move to other houses in the row. It has the darkness holes, stealth geometries and gaps of the Cluley. The scent of the bloom quoted above reminding me of the Whiteley. A pre-fabricated stage- or film-set as if housing simulants from the Tade Thompson. The extinct star to real-time world type of communication between discrete abodes, their propensity to drop off and become temporally extinct one by one towards some ultimate tontine, here the tontine prize being Christmas and Boxing Day (not the sport of Boxing, but surely a resonance there with an earlier work in this Interzone?)
    It is more method acting, another masque or mannered drama of events, reminding me also of Alan Ayckbourn theatre and Brian Aldiss’s novel ‘Report on Probability A.’ And more I can’t yet nail down. The work is undeniably something really special. A pattern perhaps of today’s alienation and housing crisis or a satire of residential committees? Another One End Street? A template for Brexit? Still accruing its effect upon me, even though I have finished reading it.
    I usually choose my reading books well, and I often declare a book a LANDMARK one, but this time I shout it from the rooftop.