John Travis

Gaseous Clay and Other Ambivalent Tales by John Travis — PART TWO continued from HERE.



My previous reviews of John Travis:



My previous reviews of Eibonvale Press:

When I continue to read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

14 responses to “John Travis

  1. “: yards and yards of inexhaustible nail coming out of one.”
…Lois’ gratuitous thought about her fingernails in ‘The Last September’ by Elizabeth Bowen, read in recent days — where Guy’s nails ended up?


    “I saw an entry that hit me in the gut…”

    …the journal entry of someone called Guy.
    A powerful, poignant tale of two loner schoolboys, Pete and Guy, and the nature of their teachers and the otherr bullying boys, all of them seeming neuro-diverse. And the suspenseful premonition of Pete, the narrator, having, one day in the future, the journal of Guy to read after he died, Guy with precocious moustache, a story eventually full of silver emblems.
    A story disarmingly revolving around a girl called Rachael as we find out at the end almost as an afterthought. Glimpse of an Aickmanesque hood on head as hair and, somehow, a ‘Same Dog’ acceptance of what is inevitably feral.
    Swept me away in hindsight.


    brave little


    I think this attritional merging of stories, whether dream or reality, into one story was meant to send me mad and even more unhappy than old age is ever prone to be ordinarily.
    Not a cure, then, this story, but it seems to be the cause of what cures are meant to end, cures that should rid me of regrets and existential fears, and induce hopes of fantastically becoming a king in my own kingdom, but now only to find the kingdom becoming a dark oubliette under the floorboards crammed full of the soldiers I hoped to see parade past in honour of me, soldiers that are now tantamount to maggots. Even the presumption that the proud curtain rings for the silent drawing and undrawing of drapes belong to my lifelong wife, even the spare ones strung along the rail, too. A silence of drawing and undrawing that will overcome us both, but in which order? And the Child who is Father of the Man is a step, or step-father, too far — having become me in insidious loop as a series of steps without end. And without an end how can it ever be a happy ending?
    Judging by what I have just found myself writing above, this cumulative story worked well on grounds of inducing madness at least.
    I never appreciated happy endings anyway.


    The Synchronised Shards of Random Truth & Fiction — (1) the victim literally becoming his house’s lamp and its severe self-harming to his eye-bulb, a lamp with a point of view to shine back upon itself, (2) the wife he thinks he once murdered embodied by the lamp, (3) a burglar to his house who once knew the safe lie of the land and a cupboard under the stairs as a new Maggot’s oubliette, (4) the policeman who comes to officiate, (5) an eyewitness within the shards of truth and fiction, (6) the lamp itself even more outside of being anyone else and able to reflect on the truth or fiction involved. Meanwhile, (7) God is naked in His own darkness and even He is also out of the loop that loopiness provides. Or so () I infer.


    “‘And you can’t spend your whole life being frightened, can you?’”

    A highly poignant, empathisable, plain-spoken novelette of a man’s senile dementia and guilt. With the unmitigateble repercussions to him, involving a declining town where he had lived all his life, and himself now confused by the traffic, and writing letters of complaint to the council, and his memories of sadness and tragedy conflated with dream, of his late wife and a late friend, her brother, a boy with whom he played by the railway — and his loss of orientation in this the fearful underworld of life. Nothing else much to say, no complaints, just my turning of the last page and sighing. Shoes upon the stairs, but to which past super-highway or to which future subway, and whether by deliberation or by accident, who knows?
    Time not to be frightened, whatever the case.

  5. F0C44B28-DD26-4CB2-A580-28C75F0FE662

    The empathisable fear of being pestered by a ‘nutter’, while waiting for a late night bus in a near-deserted bus station is here taken to outlandish, but strangely still believable, extremes. If I tell you more, it would spoil your ‘enjoyment’ of it. Wittily done by whoever wrote it, but I still worry for anyone who had the need and indeed skill to rustle up this scenario. Poignant, also, concerning today’s serious problems that our own bodies and minds have become heir to … and whatever else may have gone bad under the erstwhile cover of what we called lockdown…

  6. 772DE41D-70F4-47AC-9880-17DE17CE731B


    “The end of the world was making everybody crazy, Pestilence decided.”

    An astonishing romp of a surreal happening with loads of nifty visions couched in even niftier words, involving a fart as blatant as JAWS 1, a hotel with secret tunnel from room 1127 to a SPRAWL as a sort of cave system, a hotel itself a quick change Hotel into an urban prison, and a man who inherited the hotel from his Dad and manages it up front with all the guests like Basil Fawlty (but nicer), a manager whose Angel is, I infer, a bird with a pink feather who owes him a favour, and there is a Conjurors’ convention, and their magic cabinets with comings and goings, and fancy dress people, and a sinister cove who demands his POWDER that is a bit more illegal than tobacco, I guess! And a giant who unwinds from a car at the beginning. No way I can do justice to it now that I’ve read it all. Perhaps best to have not read it at all and remained who I was before reading it. But all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, even with this ‘end of the world’ partygate. So, yes, best of all, I’ll just keep my powder dry. And just take the nifty penknife with me. “Open, close. Open, close.”

    ‘Pangloss’ tweet issued about an hour ago, by chance…


    ”Maybe it did all mean something.”

    In telling counterpoint to the Hank Williams’ song, here Kaw-Liga (‘mestizo’) becomes tantamount to a “lawman” sheriff by feeding the latter’s ligaments with his own BLEED. Till Kaw and Law become separate again. A place named by Kaw as BLEED after a massacre — and he helps ghosts of the dead, some ghosts passing through their own bodies, and he seeks rough or rogue retribution, as well as lawful retribution, upon the gang who had almost relished these massacres (one massacre close to Kaw’s familial heart), relished them for massacre’s own sake not necessarily from what this gang could rob. Some very strong horror and ghostly writing here, a story unmissable for those interested in such fiction genres and interested, too, in a creatively oblique poignancy for its own sake rather than from what you can exploit for yourself. The New Didacticism that we would do well to follow in current difficult times, where, also, Nature itself bleeds as well as bleeds us. To bleed, a verb both transitive and intransitive, to give and to take. Between each co-vivid dream, that even Kaw, as a mixed blood, suffered while also using such dreaming for eventual good.


    “‘Lovely, isn’t she?’ a voice said at my elbow…”

    An eventually very haunting novelette, a work about a failing marriage that becomes, in its adeptly plain-spoken style, a different marriage through death of the wife, and the male protagonist’s new wife (an old flame from his past), the suspensefully disarming plot of which you should read for yourself and not depend on me to summarise it.
    It’s its lingering smell of clay or guilty window-putty that haunts me, but even more haunting are the ugly gnomes shifting in the garden, and, even more haunting than them is the owl sitting on an outlandishly tall telegraph pole seen from the doubly marital home.
    Haunting, big time.
    Bird-watching, even also the Angel with a pink feather from the tobacconist’s concession, haunting through again, now accompanied by a gurning Quasimodo…And, just as with the passing confusion with Cassius / Gaseous, other words somehow frighteningly shrill through my heart with pitiful bones inside: Papillon, Pellet, Phiiilllliiiipppp …

    “Incredible how things change.”

    “…you can’t outrun life’s problems — they’ll always be closer than you’d like them.”

    Yet I look again at what our guardian angel’s numerology said somewhere above…. And this important book is surely due to become the ultimate obstacle remover, whatever its unmitigateable oubliettes.


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