RUSTBLIND AND SILVERBRIGHT:
A Slipstream Anthology of Railway Stories
Edited by David Rix (Eibonvale Press 2013)
My Real-time Review continued from HERE.
This real-time review will now continue in the comment stream below as and when I read each story.
I have recently noticed that, on the back cover of this book, there is a version of the Harry Beck style map of the London Underground, but instead of the normal station names, there are the story titles from ‘Rustblind and Silverbright’, linked, like planets that transit a full horoscope. A mandala of this book. Or absurdly, as I’d like to believe, a prediction of the patterning within my gestalt real-time review?
I have previously read and reviewed this wonderful story by Steve Rasnic Tem, as quoted from my RTR HERE:-
[[Escape on a Train
"The window tappings continue all night long, but he never sees anything. In the morning he discovers hundreds of round, slightly greasy spots on the glass."
Those tappings again leading to a scryable text? I am ever more agog at this book's resonances with itself (and with my first reading of it as my first experience of reading a fiction ebook). This basically is an enjoyably well-crafted absurdist tale (reminding me favourably of much 20th Century European literature) - involving the Theory of Relativity and the insulation of travelling on a train past life's tragedies without the ability of helping or even connecting, all mingled with this book's fragile inter-generational caring for children. Yes, absurdist but also genuinely emotional. Didactic, too, in a good way. The Ariel reaching out for the Caliban and vice versa, but because of the glass between never to connect. The glass that keeps full immersion from the electronically coded text? I feel immersed, but am I? If yes, it is probably because Tem is a rare transcending writer. "Those other people, the ones outside the train, are merely lost messages coded into the winds,..." (12 Feb 12 - two hours later)]]
My real-time reviews of Steve Rasnic Tem fiction included here: Black Static #12 — Cinnabar’s Gnosis — Null Immortalis — Black Static #19 — Ghosts (Crimewave Eleven) — The Far Side of the Lake (collection) – Interzone #239 - The Screaming Book of Horror - Onion Songs (collection)
Choice – Charles Wilkinson
“No friendship there, just the half-joy of collusion.”
It’s getting boring – me keep saying: another gem. But this is another gem. Aickman-like, almost Lewis Carrollian, but what I sense to become eventually Wilkinsonian*, this story of a man who seems to be suffering iritis (I personally have suffered iritis intermittently since 1973: a very mysterious, rare, potentially serious eye illness) and who moves to a bungalow in the flatlands away from the bright coast, but a bungalow with a slope to echo the ‘architectonics’ of the rest of this book… Beset by characters that want to play games with him (noisy like the rumbling in the Harman), games such as a model railway (very telling in this book’s context) or conkers… very weird, but with a truth that will hang around, I’m sure. Schoolboyish, nightmarish… It has, for me, the light-sensitivity of reality’s layering level crossings…
*this is another name to watch. I had the pleasure of hearing this author and other authors read from their stories at the recent launch of the book. I have earlier reviewed a story by Charles Wilkinson (‘Notes on the Bone’) HERE and he has one entitled ‘Night in the Pink House’ in my own edited anthology: ‘Horror Without Victims’.
Embankmen – Gavin Salisbury
“Don’t gabble over the rumble:”
An intriguing poem near the train rumble as well as other land architectonics of a narratal burrower as man or creature … amid the visits off the train or not of Wilkinson-like playful visitors as well as, for me, dead or injured, real or unreal train unstowaways… Intriguing, yes, and worth retreading.
Sunday Relatives – Douglas Thompson
“–That our place on the vast grain and fabric of life is sacred and privileged and necessary.”
A Doctor in a mental asylum cherishes his model railway as an escape into a therapeutic of self via memory idyllic or otherwise, and reality reflection. This is charmingly written, and combines this book’s Giganticus/Godzilla looking in through the train windows at the passengers and not only becoming a passenger inside but also interacting with the other passengers. A haunting summation of the book heretofore, perhaps. The railway that he tries to keep hidden for fear of being scorned or becoming one of those playfellows in the Wilkinson, but it is a structure for his life, a meaning, radiating into or from this story’s explicit “landscape diorama”. That ‘grain and fabric’ in layers or level crossings.
That ‘structure’ is paralleled, I have now thought, within myself like this map of real-time represented by my reviews, a dream-catcher not only of the books themselves but of the person that perhaps I am or hope to be. Why else am I mapping previous reviews of authors as part of the overall mandala? And, indeed, I have previously reviewed other Douglas Thompson work: Quasar Rise, Apoidroids, Escaladore, DogBot™…
The Engineered Soul – Jet McDonald
.“…the engine leaves Liverpool Street and rumbles through Shoreditch to the East.”
There is no way I will be able to convey the ‘drive’ of this compulsive work – The Rite of Spring that I have been listening to as I read it? – or just simply refer you to the book’s leitmotifs or locomotives now come into synchromesh with a railway soul, part Brick Lane salesman, part medium, part philosopher, with toy mice as a tangent like Hodkinson’s tube mice, the land-train rumbling within the human body to the very pineal gland, Hook’s Japanese trains, Ashley’s Giganticus of the peering Mind, Thompson’s ‘structure’ of a grappling self (like Hodkinson’s too) and, another book I’ve reviewed recently, The Adjacent by Christopher Priest, his inverted world telpherage and showmanship blending into McDonald’s Engineered Soul. Loved it. Mental and Physical and Graphological and all. And a structure like Wilkinson’s bleeding stairs… Train tracks crossing, too, overlapping, a wild gestalt.
And that Harry Beck mandala on the book’s back cover has materialised now here in the McDonald: a real rail line with which I am very familiar. You don’t have to go all the way to Lowestoft for the coast – you can get off at Colchester and take a branch line to Clacton where I live…
(later: Tom Service on the BBC iPlayer TV has just now given a geometrical representation of the Rite of Spring like a mandala that Stravinsky apparently intended!)
Didcotts – John Greenwood
“What I required for the remainder of my life was to be left in peace to satisfy certain undimmed appetites while arranging to minimise their unpleasant consequences.”
I’m not sure if the very end of this story is a friendly wink or something more unfriendly with a similar spelling. Whatever the case, in spite of the traditionally accomplished and compelling page-turning of the enjoyable story-telling in this substantive work (a mix of The Good Soldier Švejk and Kafka and the grim irony in this book’s ‘Writer’s Block’), it is also unquestionably the strangest, arguably the most fulfilling, read in the book so far. It is quite impossible to review as a consequence vis-a-vis any didactic purpose or fantasy-for-fantasy’s-sake, but it seems to be a real train journey in an imaginary East European country, a journey that this whole book so far has sort of prepared us for – there has not so far been such an extensive, empathisably actual train journey in the book and so this is it – combining Rasnic Tem’s ‘insulation’ from the foreignness outside the train window that, in this story, all too soon infitrates with a great feeling of angst and Harman’s slant on humanity via a UK salesman of ancient computers as exports abroad (a salesman like McDonald’s Engineer of the Railway Soul, just as this Greenwood salesman’s own soul is ‘collated’ or ‘calculated’ (through absurd questions) by those fighting against the Railway Soul as represented by worship of the didcotts) and much more. It is a read, whatever else can be said about it, that I am grateful for. Not Absurdist so much as Amenablist.
Didcotts? They are checkably in real life what the story says they are and it would be a shame to tell you what they are before you read the story. Nothing to do with Didcot having a railway museum, I am guessing.
Greenwood’s ‘collation’ or ‘calculation’ of the soul reminds me of my approach to gestalt real-time reviewing, a method as absurdist as it is hopefully revelatory. Having allowed the story to percolate more, it is certainly fulfilling, deceptively easy to read, and enjoyable for a variety of contradictory reasons.
The Keeper – Andrew Coulthard
“…the artist had sprayed a lengthy, stylised tag that she couldn’t quite make out, but that read something like: Baaldhubaab.”
I have suddenly remembered the film I have been trying to think of that encapsulates the compelling angst of train travel, its false impression of insulation from the foreignness outside the moving window, the stops at alien cities where you might be left behind if you get lost in the city before reboarding etc etc… It is ‘Caught on a Train’ by Stephen Poliakoff, starring Peggy Ashcroft and Michael Kitchen. Much of this book is tinged with this film’s ‘feel’, but especially the previous Greenwood story and this Coulthard one which also has, like the Greenwood, its own Kafka moments, together with an added intrinsic madness of the story’s ‘journey’ where the female protagonist, after trying to rescue a naked man from drowning in a Ligottian industrial landscape, is then somehow resuming an extremely strange journey by train in which, for me, there is a sense of some of the greatest fears of Mankind’s train journeys in the middle of the last century, trains which some of the homeless or ‘non-copers’ from the Harman story have to board in the end…This is a feeling of mine that emerges through the story’s own madness, whether a story truly mad and out of control or a story skilfully set to reveal either its Stephen King ‘Dark Tower’ Keeper of the Blaine Train or the ultimate Keeper of the gas-oven trains, a choice to be revealed later in my dreams, I’m not sure.July 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm (Edit)Just realised that Rustblind and Silverbright is an appropriate description of having the eye condition of Iritis that I mentioned in connection with the Wilkinson story….the whites going a rather rusty red and the bright light causing searing pain, and if you don’t get steroid drops quickly, you can go blind.
This real-time review concludes HERE.