by Thomas STRØMSHOLT
Les Éditions de L’Oubli
Publisher’s description: http://www.exoccidente.com/altitudo.html that I will not read until I have completed the review using the book that I purchased from the publisher and received in the last few days
In Search of the Hidden City
“The last days of February saw Elene walking the worn paving stones…”
This exquisitely languaged story tells of her peregrinations in a city seeking Lubb who taught her of its subterranean canals, balustrades &c. &c. Urban decay, yet upon the brink of something far more mysteriously derelict, older than the past that once housed it. A cartographical maze in a style worthy of Thomas Ligotti; indeed it is uniquely not Ligotti, but it is Ligotti, too, and I indeed wonder if this is Ligotti himself writing with another name, although I know deep down that it is not Ligotti, but who knows? I do know deep down that nobody is no more or no less someone than anyone else is, as equally as I know that this city has more and less to it than Elene can ever discover.
Who or what created the other? The City or its myths? The canals or the tunnels that housed them? The author or his words? The author or the one who reads him? The balcony or the one who stood there? (27 February 2013)
THIS REVIEW CONTINUES IN THE COMMENTS TO THIS POST BELOW
The Auwisnat Transfigurations
“…nothing more. The unknown remained unknown.”
…or so we are gratuitously led into this story to believe, as the reluctant-to-admit-he-is-a-writer takes over the cottage-bungalow from another (more open) writer, not located in erstwhile Elene’s urban city decay above, but — effective by such contrast-as-well-as-similarity between the first two stories — in a countryside-dereliction or forest entropy-toward-evil: a sense of ‘terror loci’, as the story has it, rather than ‘genius loci’. At first, then, we do believe that this is a traditional ghost story of ceremonial occult and growing separate senses of creepiness in various forest-spots, together with the ‘wicker-man’ type nuances of the look in the locals. Yet by diverging from the single Ligotti shape haunting this book’s earlier text, we readers now have a double oak to ‘conceive’, a Ligotti become entwined with an Algernon Blackwood, trunks ineluctably growing together as an eventual singular tree toward some Sexcraft (implied), or Lovecraft… This writer is certainly spreading further wings within my reading-mind.
From The Go-Between by L.P.Hartley: ‘I kept craning my neck to try to fix the point, the exact point, at which the summit of the spire pierced the sky. O Altitudo!’ (quote not yet verified)
The Émígré Emperor
“The Vienna which unfolded its petals from the old man’s lips bloomed with the radiance of dream, rose-tinted, yearning, and interwoven with melancholy:”
This is crucial, I feel, to this book’s own ‘O Altítudo’ soul, as perhaps tempered like gold by the ‘Terror Loci’, the earlier city decay, the earlier but separate counytryside decay and, in this story, resplendent Mittel European empires of decay come the time of the Great War…
And, here, this exile ‘Emperor’ builds ghosts – via the implicit doctor-narrator’s StrØmsholt-distilled sumptuous-language skill of a fabrication of a fabrication: paradoxically making a double truth like that earlier double oak from textually nuanced references and aesthetic book handling that this book possesses like its own now hardened ghost, including reference to the classical Kaiserhymne…
Not stemming from particular named authors now but from a gestalt of many nemonymous authors by semi-occult means? The stroke through my own mis-inferred Ø of ‘O Altítudo’ clinically removed but the i shown as í (as it is shown on the book’s title page, if not always thus elsewhere) to give further reach for the reader’s (i’s, my) own reaching upward…
Fiction as spiritual Go-Between?
As an aside…
from FACIAL JUSTICE (1960) by L.P. Hartley:-
“…the western tower of Ely Cathedral still survived. The rest of the church was flat, its ruins scarcely distinguishable in the mud that heaved around it, but the tower still stood, a gigantic and awe-inspiring landmark. Indeed its effect was so overwhelming that beholders had been known to faint at the sight of it, and even the least sensitive were moved with tumultuous feelings for which they couldn’t account. Those few who remembered the great building in its glory would sometimes try to describe it but they got no encouragement to do this,… [...] The tower of Ely Cathedral, piercing the heavens, spoke another language.”
My take on this book: HERE
The Furnished Room
“Even the volumes on the bookcase seemed somehow to have gained their past splendour.”
But, first, the story’s “melancholic genius loci” is imbued with this whole book’s ‘decay’, significantly now half town, half countryside or moor, in decay. The young woman short story writer (another writer seeking an abode), finds herself in this downtrodden area with a remarkably described downtrodden landlady, and one thus wonders whence or how the Ø ALTITUDO will earn its Í and shed its Ø with such a culminating story. Indeed, that Ø has a stroke or cross as if through our world (or gaia) itself – like the Ø ironically within the author’s actual name (for which this book is his intended (or subconscious) penance?), a symbol of this story’s palimpsest of all-knowing household objects as innocently retributive forces, the Dorian Gray symbiosis between the protagonist woman writer and the landlady (who is akin to Maupassant’s Horla (or Hawler as I personally call it these days)), an Arthur Machen ‘Fragment of Life’ world of moor-edged streets where there is some mystical light to which one can a-spire as one reaches upward, leaving the downtrodden reality below. Here, in this story, the nemonymous authors are finally named. Or at least a few of them are named. All with their obvious or more subtle crosses to bear, including this author.
This is a great book that has had a major mystical effect on me.
Just two further asides:
When reading about halfway down page 85 I kept seeing a large word emerge (or flash) from the actual normal-sized text further towards the bottom of this page, but as I tried to focus on it, it vanished. This happened several times. I still do not know what that word was or is. On the next page, I came across this: “wild vagaries of the fancy or deceptions of the optic nerves”.
There is mention on page 86 of a book entitled “Let The Dead Bear Witness: A Study of Ghosts and Hauntings”. While reading ‘O Altítudo’, in the last day or so, I have been coincidentally real-time reviewing another book, where today, earlier, before reading this last story about ‘The Furnished Room’, I read and publicly reviewed one entitled “The Game of Bear”. Let the ‘Dead Bear’ witness, indeed.
This review dedicated to Wimsatt’s ‘Intentional Fallacy’ with which I have been imbued since the late 1960s.
PS: I don’t seem to have a copy of THE GO BETWEEN by LP Hartley, so I would be grateful if anyone could seek out the above ‘O Altitudo’ quotation (which I found in an unverifiable single instance on the Internet) and then quote below a longer context of it as written by LPH.
Someone has just kindly sent me via Facebook the context of that LP Hartley quote about ‘O Altitudo’ from THE GO BETWEEN; https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-YFNg7Uw3pHM/UTDaqC9W_4I/AAAAAAAAFL0/R-eoi3qQFGY/s728/books.jpg
Amazingly, AMAZINGLY, this refers to Sir Thomas Browne (who I studied at University in the 1960s) – and that fictional(?) book in the Thomas Stromsholt book is LET THE DEAD BEAR WITNESS by Dr Samuel Browne!
http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/complete-list-of-zagava-ex-occidente-press-books/ for my complete list of Zagava – Ex Occidente Press books.
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