My Real-Time Review of THIS HERMETIC LEGISLATURE: A Homage to Bruno Schulz continued from HERE.

My Heretical Existence – Mark Samuels
This is a subject upon which I am the sole authority, for no one else has taken any interest in it.”
This Weird classic-honed tale is paradoxically both loose-limbed and hardening into a traditional shape it can’t seem to shake off. It is ripe with a city that is capable of having parts that cannot be reached by any form of intoxicant or topographical research. Here we have this book’s ‘Adela’ (cf Aleda and Adele separately earlier in this book) about whom our protagonist suffers unrequited love … as well that aforementioned ‘Terra Incognita’ now made patent, if echoic, archaic. I will need to let this potentially haunting tale steep and fecundate, to see if I, too, am infected by something I can’t shake off. A love of this author’s writing heretofore …. and towards renewal? Or simply a love of a memory. And whether self-heresy is my own lot in the autumn of my life: an autumn beyond the reach of anyone younger than me, as their world closes in on them all with an unwelcome hardening. Each of them thinks, surely, that they’re alone or uniquely susceptible. [‘The Child is Father of the Man.’ (Wordsworth).] (20 June 2012 – 9.00 pm bst)

Having slept on it, the Samuels story (via other stories in the book) has infiltrated many of my waking dreams in the meantime, regarding the Jewish diaspora: hard (how hard?) currency: Valentine’s ‘original light’ and Clements’ stifling by windowframe (sash-weight in the wooden side frames), the wood-hardening process and Clark’s trembling ‘coffin’-pointer, the wooden oven-doors of Auschwitz where the English footballers recently visited, the inner-lit marbles (or cherries with marbles as stones making me think of Blackwood’s fruit-stoners) (cf my own earlier obsession with marbles), Ligottian mannequins, wood as over-hardened paper-maching, Lane’s ‘letters in black wood’ and Watt’s desk… (21 June 2012 – 8.30 am bst)

The Posthumous Messiah – Reggie Oliver
There was something stale about them, as if they had been cooked long ago and then simply reheated for my benefit. They brought back memories of meals I had eaten with my parents in melancholy station hotels before I was sent off to school.”
With a reference to a “chair factory” and the story concerning the state of ‘death’, perhaps recommended outside reading would be the same author’s story entitled  ‘Portrait of a Chair’ in the recent ‘Dadaoism’ anthology, where, in my review, I coin the word ‘eschairtology’.  It was certainly useful to me when reading this new story, this witty satire — theatrically couched and well-characterised in this writer’s usual wonderful style — of the Bruno Schulz homage.  (I guess I should have submitted to ‘This Hermetic Legislature’ because, from the heresy of hearsay in this story, there seems to be no bar upon writing a great Schulz-steeped story without having read any Schulz before!). It is a witty satire, as I say, this Reggification of Schulz, but also, gradually, ineluctably, the story grows more absurd, grimmer, more frightening, as if Schulz also entered (equally gradually, ineluctably) Reggie Oliver’s room while this story was being written – or dictated (if partially) by Schulz?  The main protagonist’s visit to an occult shop and the later synchronicity of the stars reminded me personally 0f when, in the 1970s, I was taught Alice A. Bailey’s book ‘Esoteric Astrology’ by Liz Greene herself in person at a college in North London.  And I had reason to mention, earlier in this real-time review, Stephen King’s appearance himself in The Dark Tower series as a character. And in this story we have: “He is now in the play. This is the extraordinary part, that a writer be in his own play, no?” And the ending of Reggie Oliver’s story is absolutely brilliant. Makes me never want to die. (21  June 2012 – 11.35 am best)

Étude – Anna Taborska
Benevolent eyes observe him from a past as distant as the stars above the jagged walls.”
Those ‘stars’ – a universe of predestiny? – visiting this story from the previous one. Taborska’s own story is a  brief, effectively touching, story, with ‘tears of ink,’ of the Ghetto – as the boy (‘the writer’), imbued with the healing waters of a legendary lake from a writing-within-the writer rather than a story-within-a-story proper, and the pain of generations. Cruelty from the nib can also expunge that cruelty. Wonderful, and it seems to have inspired the writing on the front of this book’s dustjacket with its own eternity of internalised words: “Esterka had the voice of an angel and a delicate, pale face, ringed by velvet tresses as black as night. She was like a fragile flower,...” (21 June 2012 – 12.35 pm bst – summer solstice)

The Vile Game of Gunter and Landau – Michael Cisco
“…contemplations, whether topological, anemonological, chronological or otherwise,…”
One of Insole’s ‘shadows’ blends with an explicitly described ‘charwoman’ for real (cf Dunsany) as a woman visits the Wizard’s house, inter-threaded with a group of seeming chess-players under a chess-clock – betokening, inter alia and via this story’s richly textured prose, this whole book’s ‘Time’s Arrow’ backward to the start of the book where it ended pointing towards itself beginning: ‘recreating’ time (cf a wonderful story by Alex Miles, ‘The Lotus Device’ and Stephen J. Clark’s ‘Tremblepiece’) and I am sure I need my own reviewing-recreating-wits about me as — preparing my own real-time “description” of leitmotifs-to-be-reviewed-and-neatly-gestalted so as to retrospectively allow for my passage through this book — I head towards the last story in this book (after this one) during “this day in early summer” in actual solstice fact, and now ready to be challenged by Cisco’s own beautifully written words as if he predicted this, my real-time review, ending in tears (of ink): “…all the details of the landscape seem to unravel into a chaos of fragments but for a trembling, muscular tension in exasperated, mirror-edged outlines that holds everything, even the particles making up the Wizard himself, strictly in position.” (Cf those earlier ‘atoms’ in this book). (21 June 2012 – 1.25 pm british summer time)

The Restaurant Saint Martin – R.B. Russell
“It does not get better. It does not get worse. It just changes.”
I had no idea when I made the last quote from the previous Cisco story, how strangely appropriate it would turn out to be by virtue of the ending of Russell’s story, an ending that I will not give away here.  Indeed, we are gifted Thompson’s ‘piecemeal repair’ by this story amid the regular visits of Schulz into all our reading-rooms, as we  experience this fine book. Give him a  drink, look after his needs, I say.  And this fact (and other leitmotifs of retrocausal time and hermetical, heretical existence against a reality-legislature that tries to conserve us in jam-jars) is synergised with Russell’s story of a businessman’s visits-almost-by-clockwork to a restaurant, the same table, the same drink, the same polite treatment: a story which I first thought was short-changing me with a notched currency or notched words, being ostensibly a style of fiction I don’t usually enjoy, i.e. a straightforward suspense story, full of filmic dialogue, but the ending of which made it perfect, and made the book perfect, too, with a retrocausal perspective that actually needed such a low-key coda, such a low-key but genuine, traditional plot that takes you along  breezily.  And that is an editorial masterstroke, I guess.

My only criticism (a minor one) stems from the tiny typos peppered throughout the book. But I can empathise with the problem of trapping such blighters.  Meanwhile, you will never forget this rare book if you are lucky enough to trap one. Never forget: whatever may happen to you. (21 June 2012 – 2.45 pm bst)


One response to “*

  1. Hello Des,
    A rather belated thank you for your wonderful review (which I read quite some time back) of this intriguing book. I thought I would add that my story Fugue for Black Thursday will appear in my next collection of short stories, The Tainted Earth, to be published by Egaeus Press at the end of November 2012. More details about the collection can be found on my Goodreads blog: http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/3101467-the-tainted-earth-egaeus-press-2012?utm_medium=email&utm_source=rating

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