My Real-Time Review of DELICATE TOXINS (as continued from HERE) takes place in the comment stream below as and when I read each story.
The Naked Goddess by Daniel Mills
“…her doubled darkness: the eyes that hid the world from her and the black lenses that concealed her from the world.”
A delightfully old-fashioned, page-turning narrative in limpid plain-spokenness, akin to the earlier matter-of-factness of the Russell story which gave me similar thoughts of a tabula rasa etc as when reading this next story. The narrator – a 19th century young man of Classical inspiration by its literature and gods who is sent on a backstory-mission to Vermont – becomes lost in a wild, sparsely villaged area and reaches a spiritual / theosophical and bashfully admitted sexual epiphany-in-hindsight connected, inter alios, inter alia, with St Paul and Tiresias. I was intrigued by the narrator’s hindsight eventually, over his lifetime, being subsumed by a reservoir…
The told matter-of-factness of the epiphany: a delicate toxin indeed.
I have read the next story by Reggie Oliver very recently and reviewed it here as below:
[[ Singing Blood
“Did you know that blood makes a noise when it spurts from the body? It is like a squeak with a slight hiss,…”
Or a gurgle? This story is a real gem, with an echo of the discursive ‘philosophers’ from that book I mentioned earlier, Mann’s Magic Mountain, a ‘palaver’ indulged by such minds about life’s meanings, echoing, too, this book’s earlier religious angst in competition with discussions of humanity and animality, nature and nurture, spirituality and science, good and evil – leading to a chilling description of an ‘evil’ man, a mass murderer, a man whom one of these ‘philosophers’ had met and shared playing together this book’s aforementioned detached game of chess.
This story is Germanic, taking place in bombed Berlin during the Second World War… and leads to the concept of ‘the two rivers of life and death’, a concept that will no doubt stay with you. A slavery to the body’s needs rather than the spirit’s…
But is not God the biggest mass murderer of all, harking back, as the reader might, to this book’s first story and its spiritual inner conflicts that are handled there …. which brings me in turn to the Eschatology, the Grief Ocean, the Botany of… ]]
The Grief Ocean as Daniel Mills’ subsuming reservoir? The ultimate ewer. Or sewer?
The Devil In The Box by Orrin Grey
“No matter how rational and atheistic Andre might’ve been, he still believed, at heart, in magic, even it was only the magic spark of inspiration.”
…which somehow sums me up, I guess.
This haunting story is of a boxin not a toxin, one that remains delicate, on that hairtrigger equipoise of revelation from within like a Jack in the Box, if the reader decides to open it and extrapolate from this story of a painter that obsesses a man called Andre with visions of children who endure abysses and monsters under their beds, a man who in turn obsesses his wife, she being the narrator of all this for us, propounding the delicately balanced thought that keys are for unlocking things only so that you can lock those things up again, so why take the risk? This sidereal pandora-book is that box container, a cuboid ‘pitcher’ painted by a painter called Mitterhaus.
The Rites of Pentecost by Peter Bell
“And so you see his art, you cannot tell between the demon lover and the Virgin mother… You will know, of course, ‘The Scream’.”
That held head has always been for me the ultimate containing bell or ewer or pitcher.
This exquisitely descried ‘Last Year at Marienbad’ house scenario crossed with a sort of Madeleine-type missing girl child abroad … Well, it is literally dripping with decadence in every pore of the paper it’s printed on, and even the sound of classical Mozart exudes such absinthe-doctored emotions. A list of book titles similar to that often listed in Lovecraft. And the smaller hell lovecraft here entails Fine Art works as the very essence of the horror…
From the beginning, we all know what utterly dreadful outcome this increasingly erotic story will eventually reach but that does not diminish the dread or the ultimate shock of it.
Endor by Michael Chislett
“But, what I have found is this, that the returned dead do not come back with reassuring messages from the afterlife. Oh no, for they hate us, the living, implacably.”
Some interesting ideas, within a wartime New Germany setting, of mediumship in communication with the dead by channels twice removed, then, once removed, including physical possession by a dead man, within a living woman, desperately wanting, with that woman’s sexual feelings, the story’s living male protagonist for sexual congress. This is a tale of a search for knowledge at all costs as the protagonist invites such implacable dead to our world. It is a workmanlike story, merely, which is a shame as it is the longest in the book. And it has an inordinate number of typos, unlike the rest of the book so far. It is as if it is itself some crudely forged, implacably forceful, vessel-seeking, ‘simian, line of Cain’ possessor-story within this book.
“Keep this vessel by you…”
MASKS: Three Vignettes Inspired by Hanns Heinz Ewers by Mark Samuels
(1) The Advent of the Strangers
“So when the strangers began to arrive, there was naturally a sense of suspicion accompanying them.”
And so it came to pass.
(There is something lexicographically Mark Samuels about the word Masks.)
(2) The New Man
“Moreover, with the realisation of death, there comes the knowledge that it may strike at any given moment of one’s existence.”
And duly the tumescent drip-feed stutters dry.
(3) A Process of Improvement
“…the state had secretly planned to initiate a series of rolling, compulsory redundancies…”
There is something inefficient about a vessel that is used vertical rather than horizontal.
Unless you are lying face down in it.
A Ligottian / Kafkaesque trivery. Too early to be a coda, too late to be an intermission.
White Roses, Bloody Silk by Thana Niveau
“At last she finished smoothing down the heavy brocade gown and turned to face them, her crinoline swinging round her like a bell.”
It started with a broken vase and ended with all manner of skewerings by thorns, needles et al. This proved to be a hilarious mixture of high society people, snooty and right wing, with a male guest from a Germany ‘where they do things differently’. The atmosphere and clothes and behaviour are all exquisitely done, including the brilliant portrait, among many others, of the German guest’s maid rather like a stoical stooge, but that’s not half of it. She needs to do everything for her master to the extent of acting as go-between between him and the house’s usual servants, rather in tune with the second-remove possession by the dead in the Chislett story…. I can’t do justice to this Tarot-triggered Theatre of Cruelty. Not so much Sickman’s The Hospice as Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, or vice versa.
The Filature by Adam S. Cantwell
It seems meaningful that this story follows one with ‘Bloody Silk’ in its title…
With the vessels, vats and cocoons of a silkworm farm in China, this story is, for me, with only one other story in the book yet to read, the most memorable vision so far and the one that, I suspect, conveys the soul of our Ewers with most force. This is managed by giving us the chance of reading, with carefully, believably increasing horror, the discovered diary of a German man visiting China as a representative of a firm supplying filature equipment… Despite misgivings, the German repeats sexual relationship indiscretions (here with a feisty filature-working Chinese girl) that seems to have caused his German firm abandoning him here in China in the first place. The Christian converted Chinese man in charge of the filature takes his revenge for this and the diarist’s other misdemeanours… I can’t repeat the intricacies of the denouement here, but it is a remarkable interwoven metaphor of Christianity as transfigured, in (partheno)genesis, by that very interweaving. I don’t know if this story won a literary award for 2011, but if it didn’t, it deserved to do so for its own seemingly autonomous transfiguration from a traditional-seeming horror-pulpish plot as if written in the mid-twentieth century (exciting and enthralling as a plot in itself) to a newly inspiring archetype or myth for our times. From vat to silk.
“…though they often resisted it, all men stood to benefit from change –“
Holzwege by D.P. Watt
“She works away at the warp and weft as though at a harp; delicate wrinkled fingers darting in and out with different coloured fibres and silks,…”
Not so much the book’s coda (although it is that, too), but more its catharsis. The silk-weaving image of the previous story and the three women weavers enthral three men – Hitler’s men, I wonder? – and it is almost as if we are being given these scenes dreamily from within a box like Orrin Grey’s box, ourselves the things or beings that Pandora should not release from it. A painter with his pitcher.
Yes, a story that is a ‘dying fall’ coda as well as a horrifically haunting catharsis, despite those delicate fingers. Or Heidegger’s delicate toxins in the chinking bottles whence the three men drink?
“…for venom is such that I shall take all myth and make it my own.”
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