by Colin Insole
Publisher’s description here: http://www.exoccidente.com/stars.html
On final page of this book: “‘The Last Gold of Decayed Stars’ has been limited to 158 numbered copies for sale, plus extra copies, which are reserved for private distribution. This is copy number” 24 (in red ink)
64 pages – with hedonistic cover, partly spine-overlapped decadent shivery hardish velvet to the touch in black (and I have been told by a third party that this is some weird animal hide). Luxury stiff paper pages. Stitched to your reading-skin.
EXPOSITION INTERNATIONALE – Bucharest – MMXIII
A Secret in Illyria
“Anna hid her irritation at the woman’s glib and facile remark, but on her way home, her anger and self-reproach grew.”
Anita Brookner has been one of my favourite writers for many years, but sadly I have not seen a new novel from her recently. This book — that I already (perhaps too early) infer to be a quilted novella of episodes imbued by vicarious Proustian memory — seems to have Brookner’s ‘soul’. Now, having read this the first ‘story’ and riffled through the rest without yet reading them, this is Anna’s answer to what she sees as the tawdry seaside world (where I live): her threaded threnody with the musical sensibilities of, say, the Delius ’Song of Summer’ deliciously prose-mingled with the Peter Warlock ‘Curlew’ - an idyllic revery in confrontation with modernity, reliving the past of foreigh climes with their even more foreign ‘mores’ where her grandmother once ‘inhabited’. Of course I may be completely wrong. We shall see… An exquisite start, though
THE ABOVE NEW-STYLE REAL-TIME REVIEW WILL CONTINUE BELOW IN THE COMMENTS TO THIS POST.
Le Ballet Des Fuyardes
“Chastity and depravity touched and smiled at each other.”
I was too early, perhaps. Not so much a vicarious Proustian Memory stemming from the bequeathal of Anna’s grandmother’s Journal but more her travelling to the source of those memories of dance balls and ancient brushstrokes or cosmetics in Enchalium cast forward into or foiled by a new tawdriness of today’s place, its converted hotel and motorways… But the past is perhaps strengthened back into reality by an unwelcome present? The presence in that present of this book’s writer with the luxuriant strength of his prose to bolster that process implied by my question. Much earlier, I described the two books I am reviewing this cold February (this one and that one) as ‘achingly delicious’. And indeed they are, but in quite different ways, other than both writers’ similar luxuriant strength of prose conveying that difference. Perhaps each is counter-imbued with the other by some magical means awakened by these two discrete opulently-handleable books.
“…their features sagging, like the flopped faces drawn on children’s balloons.”
February 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm
The Haven of the Golden Head
‘Shapes formed in the weave -’
We are introduced to Francesca the Chambermaid and he with whom she is implicit vis-a-vis a skein or web or quilt that is woven with its own ‘Strangers and Intruders’ (sounds as if that phrase should be the title of Anita Brookner’s final novel if she lives long enough to write it) – a single passage in the ‘story’ that impels me to post (above) another section from my wife’s own massive quilt (other sections of which are posted elsewhere on the web) … and a cross-section of this urban area that I infer is modern Enchalium where Anna is meantime visiting in tune with her grandmother’s ghost, an area that has graffiti artists or pavement artists, but which design is art and which non-art (an eternal question of Aesthetics for me when I roam Tate Modern) [or which is beef and which horsemeat, both tasting as good as each other]? A wonderful ‘story’ this with many ramifications of radiated style and patchwork progression of the reading soul.
February 13, 2013 at 1:33 pm
As you can possibly see above, this ‘Last Thinkers’ edition seems even more prehensile or strokeable like a pet cat than any of the others.
The Street of Banished Time
“And the sickly white of the buildings, seethed and bubbled, as of sepulchres, about to crack and seep their filth into the dry streets.”
And as you can also possibly see, this book has its own version of ‘dehiscence’, by both direct plot and indirect figurativeness subtly colluded. And now Francesca (the chambermaid at Anna’s hotel) and Anna herself now collude almost involuntarily in the shadow of the grandmaternal journal’s palimpsest of time and mores, of modernity and pastness, and of that earlier depravity and chastity – a quilted thread of ‘only connect’ that goes beyond EM Forster. Anna as another form of Francesca’s ‘found art’? And there is a missing river. [Cf my own recent 'The River Without Banks'.]
February 13, 2013 at 2:53 pm
All My Sweet Sad Dancers
“For the trees and bushes are moulded by the art of the topiarist. His peacocks, elephants and jungle cats are not clipped and static like dead stuffed things but creatures of blood and sinew. The branches and foliage ripple with their motion. “
Like this pelted book itself, which, within this particular story, has also a pull-out image like a page turning into a folded river. Francesca we discover is even more than she has already seemed. Not ‘found artist’ so much as the Palimp’s zest itself (my expression not the book’s), a co-creator with past souls like, say, Anna’s grandmother, and with her Keeper father, of this ‘genius loci’ with what I see as a literary ley-line mapping humanity’s woes and wonders as well as the lost river the course of which it traces or helps burrow?
I must stress again the author’s prose style. Here in this story it reaches superwriterly overdrive. Unless stories yet unread in this book prove that they have higher gears still.
This image by Tony Lovell.
February 13, 2013 at 7:38 pm
The Guttering of the Lamps
“But she was struck down by a motorbus, bringing sightseers.”
I am not so sure Francesca is the Palimp’s Zest after all; she is more than that. She is pershap the Zest’s foe, grappling with those forces that doctor postcards of olden times with false modernity. This is a striking story that pitches tranche of time against tranche of time, together with mention of ‘The Temple of Anahita’ – a blend of Anna and Anita (Brookner) that in no way I could have predicted till now. History fights history, narrative fights narrative, with allusions to Krakow (cf ‘Dehiscence’), the figuring of a Proustian Duchess, the river of narration trying to uphold its riparian rights against the onset of narrative forces not channeling it between the correct banks set for it by the author? Or upholding its riparian rights against my forces as real-time reader whereby I compete with the text’s own interpretations about itself, my readerly forces bending the text without actually altering it (how could I alter it, since it’s set in stone, as it were on the stiff paper, i.e. it’s not flexibly electronic?) …. and, by competing with the text, I hopefully create something even more than the narrative ever would have done without me?
Above image by Tony Lovell
February 14, 2013 at 7:37 am
[Cf: another of my short pieces: 'The Song of the River']
February 14, 2013 at 8:19 am
The Ecstasies of the Mannequins
“I rub the essence into the pillows of couples in the hotel”
…which means, astonishingly in this scheme of pre-unplanned real-time reviewing, that this day today, Valentines’ own, Francesca leaves her gift for modern lovers in the once grand hotel, now tawdry in a town as depicted in this ‘story’ frightful as a Ligottian nightmare, a gift of “perfumes matured by river, worm and rat.”The prose goes into astoundingly further overdrive as the retrocausally injured palmpsest — via Anna’s grandmother’s journal’s duchesses and mores — is being resisted by paradoxical means of actually bringing out the worst in the modern world that is being resisted (brought out by Insole’s even more wonderful increasingly powerful prose from the best of the Horror Genre of fiction). There is even a vision of me, having “hunched over a laptop” to write this, then later with Francesca sketching and ‘the colourist’ filling me in…
February 14, 2013 at 6:45 pm
The Chapel of the Saints’ Tears
“Whilst Mother laid out the picnic , he fashioned a horse, like the ones he tended in France, that pulled the guns, out of moss, grass and brushwood. Its head nodded and its tail swished.”
Between page and eye, we meet the horse, possibly the horse of ‘The Captain’ (now a new character whom I inadvertently touched upon here a few weeks ago before I had even received this book) – and now we readers are in interface not only with a lost river but also with a lost chapel in the Battle of the Palimpsest (my expression, not the book’s). The Captain, not to make too fine a point, seems inimical to Anna’s or Francesca’s interests in this ‘battle’? And the text is becoming so rarefied, I wonder if even I (admittedly, at my age, soon to become a ‘decayed star’ myself) can summon enough understanding to rejoin the semantic-syntactic-graphological-phoneti
“I have seen moths settle on her tears,…”
February 15, 2013 at 7:45 am
I don’t know if figuratively or poetically (or even literally) an asteroid can be described as a ‘decayed star’, but one is due to make a “near miss” with the Earth at 7.30 pm gmt tonight. If it indeed hit Earth, it has the potential of destroying a city the size of London. Scientists however have been stating that it will definitely not hit the Earth.
February 15, 2013 at 8:18 am
The Temple of Anahita
“Their voices are in the tide and their faces in the seaweed and the patterns of the red rock,…”
We learn some truths about Franscesca’s motive power and about Anna’s grandmother as the world war and her journal evolved amid this story’s gorgeousness of the temple’s island via the exquisite prose that creates it for us. Meanwhile, the Captain is perhaps the “electronics” of my review’s medium as I handle the teased covering of the book itself, fearing modernity’s symbolic infiltration corrupting mechanically the soul of this book, awaiting nature’s last cudgel…?
“…her auburn wigs are made from the combed fur of street curs and alley cats.”
February 15, 2013 at 8:32 am
It has just dawned on me that the words on a single page at the beginning of the book are;
“symbols and stars
softly go down in the
and on another leading page:
“At Night I found myself upon a heath,
Thick with garbage and the dust of stars.”
February 15, 2013 at 9:20 am
Sea-Nymphs Hourly Ring Her Knell
“You great cities. You dying peoples.”
I am again astonished by this book and, now, by how its ending here matches the atonal ‘tunes’ I have already played above, astonished not only by the still unbelievably crescendo surge of sumptuously evocative prose, luxuriantly, aesthetically word-engorged but paradoxically still sharp or spare enough to dig deep into your readerly veins, and, hereby, I seek to return the favour to the Keeper (the author himself?), hoping my reading of his book (privately as well as publicly) actually is the missing ingredient in the book’s own battle against the Captain, thus leading towards where we shall eventually find ourelves, not necessarily, as it says in this last ‘story’, “casting aside the tawdry wig” or the false palimpsest, but rediscovering ourselves beyond any “empty howl of rage, impotent and self-pitying,…”