Editor’s post-publication commentary continued from: HERE – AND IT CONTINUES BELOW IN THIS PAGE’S COMMENT STREAM AS AND WHEN EACH STORY IS RE-READ.
From the Cure toward Life’s Stillness of Reverie.
Vent – L.R. Bonehill
Another story that is shocking – like the Morris story – with its surrogate life, an unstill life or Fankenstein birth, as it were, to create a real replacement for loss, Griffin’s tableau vivant with the vivant ‘substituted’. We follow an eventual mother – daughter of a showman ventriloquist – from a girl to this mother, and the story is perfectly pitched, perfectly chilling, yet in the context of this book, perhaps, another telling aspect of the Cure. Perfect as a separate work and perfect in its place here in the book. The Bonehill as another Pile or Scree. Another stickman made a scarecrow’s dream.
“Night after night, she’d watch in quiet awe as daddy breathed life into something chiselled and carved, something cold and inanimate…”
“A bottle of Famous Grouse sat beside a tumbler on the table where shards of ice melted and merged.”
“…bones and decay, dust and ash. Pictured her mouth full of dark earth, cold and moist, crumbling around her…”
“Yellow light from the dust covered bulb overhead gave the child a jaundiced look.”
…and so on to the yellow see-through baby…
The Yellow See-Through Baby – Michael Sidman
Following Vent’s cot death, we now have an astonishing stream of consciousness in more ways than one. A baby being potty-trained (as perhaps we are all being potty trained by this book in more ways than one, too!) and this baby has a haunting vision of another baby that almost from its colour is an embodiment of the pee stream that is required to be pointed in the right directions by the over-officious parents. There is a comic-scrawled type madness here as well as pottiness. It is a happening. It is a Still Life that is still moving. A tableau vivant in dynamic stasis. It is Vent’s Coda as well as this book’s indulgence towards itself by a gratuitous salute to our inner ‘child’ before we all grow up and eventually reach beyond any hope of revelry toward our ultimate curative revery. Or it just is. Splendidly so.
The Boarding House – Kenneth C. Wickson
It happened one night I was attempting to relax and distract myself with a tea beside me on a box of books from which I had pulled — without intent, mind you — Henry James and his ‘Turn of the Screw’.”
…just like the serendipitously chosen books in ‘The Blue Umbrella’, perhaps.
Another openable stick, stick and point, a tight-coiled word installation, a tantalising anti-novel scenario in embryo… this economical story — of a boarding house and its callers whom the narrator hears or hears about imprecisely — is all these things and more, remarkably packing a punch with a withdrawal of narrative collusion at the last minute, like that coquettish withdrawal in the Griffin story, and this creeps the reader out. Or it did me.
It is also another small step toward this book’s perfect palliative ending by still life. And degrees of close-ordered indoors imagination that contrasts with that of Steele’s outdoor clouds.
And now to some more understated callers…
The Callers – Tony Lovell
“…the cupboard (as she thinks it now) was once her huge childhood bedroom, one that more or less smelled the way it used to all those years ago.”
This is now an ostensibly tentative, but potentially big step toward the palliative still life of this book. As a separate story, it tells of Alison and her young family briefly making one of their irregular visits to her Dad who seems to be mouldering toward a confused death but still living in Alison’s childhood home, and this is narrated with a tantalising feel of Ivy Compton-Burnett, Henry Green or a domestically obsessed Harold Pinter (if such a Pinter can be imagined!)…with the promise, mistaken or real or just ghostly, of other callers to the house while Alison and her family are still there. It is superb. It is the perfect calm in a storm that seems to hint of a possible perfect storm in the calm. Mis-steps and poignantly empty farewells. Stoical, like the Scree.
Still Life – Nick Jackson
“There are no victims here;…”
For me, we reach, now, in natural progression from the previous stories, the TS Eliot Rose Garden moment of this book (my expression and contention, not necessarily the story’s) – with a finely crafted, nature-sensory reverie on permanence and impermanence. A Rabinowitz transfiguration-by-Machen as well as a Knippling ‘warm discomfort farm’. A reverie to book-end the book with the first reverie. But we have not finished. There is one more caller beyond the book-end…
You in your small corner, and I in mine – Bob Lock
This obliquely enticing story that Lock locks the book with is something that will need to speak for itself and it will speak differently to different readers, i.e. to those literally “involved” readers summoned by Howard’s first story. As just one such reader among hopefully many other readers of this book, I think of my own ‘Candle Dreaming’ in ‘The Last Balcony’. What do you think of?
The five parts of this review:
https://nemonymous123456.wordpress.com/596-2/ (this one)
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