Swan River Press MMXIII
Purchased by me from the publisher and received today.
My review of all stories will be written in the comments below this post, one by one, as and when I read them.
My other real-time reviews so far in 2013 are shown HERE.
2 Responses to The Sea Change & Other Stories
- nullimmortalis says:
“Very deliberately I grasped the latch and began to open the window.”
These days, I’m not often scared by the literature I read. But this story managed to do so in broad daylight. A small girl’s waking dreams and her mother’s protective lullaby, and what is at the window, then repeated over a generation… This is wonderful stuff. A classic ghost story that has truly affected me. I should have read this author before, I guess!
- nullimmortalis says:
“He looked grey again;”
And two divers diving together I can imagine visiting each other’s windowed face…?
This is another classic story that I should have read before! It reads perfectly, smoothly, believably – building up the tension and mystery as a diver nicknamed Daffy becomes increasingly the loner with the obsession of a particular diving-site ‘wreck’, filtered through an easy style that seamlessly incorporates colloquials like ‘gormless’ and ‘barmy’. Each of the three main characters are skilfully adumbrated, including the involved narrator’s character and the ‘fuh’ baseball capped boatman, as well as Daffy himself. Frighteningly insidious. Lovecraftian without being blatantly so… as the skin runnels like deep ones.
- This is a truly lovely and sturdy book as a physical object, a delight to handle although I accidentally did drop it from a height when taking the first photograph above (!) – and the book in general is described by the publisher HERE.
I particularly like the aesthetic publisher’s watermark on the title page which encircles ’23/100′ in handwriting. Books should have more such watermarks. Proves it’s not an ebook. Real book reading is about handling, absorbing, doing various things with the books themselves as well as reading the text. John Howard is a good writer about watermarks in his fiction.
March 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm (Edit)
The Game of Bear
“‘Where shall I begin?’ said Mr. A. / ‘Why,’ said Mr. B, ‘I’ll tell you exactly how little I know, and then you can judge.’”
That seems significant, with the children’s game of Bear. The stalker or the screamer as the new Grauer Hans?
“…in the clearing stood a mansion of yellow stone with a portico, upon which, as it chanced, the sun was shining very brilliantly,…”
As it chanced. The parasitic symbiosis of two cousins in, for me, an MR-Jamesian scenario, of story told, story feared, dreams distinguished from other dreams with the purpose of establishing non-dream, and then story shocked, finally story still being unfolded even while it ends as a truth not a story because it has people in it telling itself to other people.
Another scary story, genuinely so – with great scary descriptions of what is scary. Little withheld, most imparted, or so we hope to assume..
March 1, 2013 at 3:19 pm (Edit)
As an aside:
There is mention — on page 86 of another book I am coincidentally real-time reviewing today — of yet another book, one that is entitled “Let The Dead Bear Witness: A Study of Ghosts and Hauntings”.
Let the ‘Dead Bear’ witness, indeed.
“…but I am quite an avid reader of what they call ‘genre’ fiction, in my spare time.”
Not only did my trio of sad typo-hunters discover a textual typo on page 62, but also this brief story, for me, I’m afraid, has nothing to redeem itself. I can appreciate humour in horror, but this tale of a geek office worker who is ‘dared’ to take a real holiday and ends up providing his own ghost, together with a modicum of revenge on his fellow office worker, is simply nothing much at all. Not successful grand guignol or satire, simply a gruesome fill-in.
March 2, 2013 at 8:59 am (Edit)
A marvellously chilling serpent’s tale of a climb upon a forbidding crag in telling contradistinction with this book’s earlier diving ethos, abided by or broken. It is told as if in a believably relived monologue in a pub by one of the two participant climbers to some listeners, but by the end, it is even more chilling to realise perhaps that one of these listeners has blended with the breath of the story himself just as much as during the earlier event on hanging rock. The later War, too, turned out to be no ‘picnic’…
Alberic de Mauléon
For me, I’m afraid, no more than a workmanlike MR-Jamesian tale of 17th century brothers, one pious and artistic and the other worldly and hedonistic at the interface of life’s intertwining palimpsests of self and other. While reading it I listened to Sorabji’s piano music: St. Bertrand de Comminges: ‘He was laughing in the tower.’
2 Mar 2013, 9.30pm
The Calvary at Banská Bystrica
"Are you sure it was 123?"
Without that number seeming so significant for no obvious reason, I, too, may not have speculated at first on the two brothers in this story and compared them to the two brothers in the previous story. One we're made to believe is a relatively fine man, the other, with such strange (unwarranted?) force, described as producing "obscenely pretentious" books with other personal negativities. Should I immediately begin to like this latter unlikeable brother, apparently missing in Slovakia? I think I should! The first brother tells the narrator - in a monologue not as natural sounding as the earlier climber's pub monologue but couched like a contrived, if well-written, story within a story that actually becomes the story - about his search for his brother in Slovakia. Despite some of these narrative shortcomings, the search itself involves an unsettling climb to a church, a Calvary, its insides even more unsettling, and some visions and thoughts so utterly disturbing, I can forgive anything, even believing that the story's inferred moral (that art-pretentiousness needs to be punished) can be forgiven, too! It out-Aickmans Aickman while remaining, I guess, uniquely HelenGrantian, and I can give these latter pages no greater praise than that. The climber, the window- or bear-stalker, the diver, the serpent crag, even the literal 'self' catering, can all be found in the last story's Calvary or Golgotha gestalt. Pretentious or not, I shall hunt such game forever.
This book as a whole is remarkable, any passing weaknesses forgotten for the ever-lasting memories, I am sure, of its many strengths.
(As is common with all my real-time reviews, I shall now read for the first time any extraneous material such as an afterword etc, but I will not be back here to review such material.)