Transactions of the Flesh

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15/12/13 2.00 PM GMT

My gestalt real-time review of TRANSACTIONS OF THE FLESH (Zagava & Ex Occidente Press 2013) continued from HERE:

An Expiatory Pessimism by Eugene Thacker
“There is just the body withering away, almost yearning to become a corpse, the corpse yearning to become dust. And this is, for Huysmans, the ambivalent, religious horror of hagiography -“
…which seems serendipitously a natural continuation of the previous story’s running to seed of the diary-writer’s body — and this ‘story’ is a fiction that it is fiction at all: assuming these indeed are facts. It is a theme and variations in titled sections: about civil servant Huysmans’ stages of his life and of his literary subject matter … a symphony of leitmotifs, amid an engaging but, for some, disturbing treatment of matters stemming from the legend of Saint Lydwine of Schiedam, broaching the philosophy of suffering and pessimism, followed by religious conversion to Catholicism …. resonating with John’s Monstrance story earlier in this book and with others. This ‘story’ comes appropriately for me as, in the last few days, including today, I have been engaged on-line in an interesting, sometimes bitter, debate about such topics, including the movement of Anti-Natalism as, covered, inter alios, by Thomas Ligotti in his book ‘The Conspiracy Against The Human Race’.

This review continues in the comment stream below as and when I read each of the remaining stories.

15 responses to “Transactions of the Flesh

  1. The Red Seed by Louis Marvick
    “The Church would have it that evil is a ‘falling away’ from good, a deprivation, a refusal of grace; in short, a lack. That is a neat theological solution.”
    This is a highly sophisticated, mind-bogglingly plotted (as well as with beautiful Henry Jamesian clause structure) investigation – by use of devising Dickensian characters – into documents and objects … an extrapolation upon the Cartesian view of the pineal gland as the seat of what each of us is … a panoply of mind-stretching concepts ranging from Gnosticism to the ‘chakras’ — and, via Huysmans as documentary intermediary, we effectively have the book’s spy-hole again, here in the grand daughter’s head, the seat of the rarified thing that will ignite a kill or cure, and the story’s disturbing ending that involves the stone or rock with which so far this book has been petrified. And by Angel Head or Real Presence, I sense I will never shake off this book’s exquisition.

  2. Indescribable by M.O.N.
    “…an untellable tale of infinitely intertwining thoughts and images, a tapestry of terrifyingly successive concepts and visions,…”
    Nothing is indescribable. A Molly’s MONologue from ‘Ulysses’ now third person singular inside Gemma’s auto-erotic imaginarium, starting with a hole, could be the spy-hole in the front cover where we can see her in her exquisition. Then other ‘endlessly opening holes’ to fill. This is a wild prose free-flowing explosion that reminds me of the earlier work of James Havoc in Creation Press and the bukkake of Mike Philbin / Hertzan Chimera. It also echoes the tethering tapestry of memories in this book’s Golaski, but here we no longer care (explicitly) and we find ourselves breathing just for the sake of breathing in a place safely back where we were but have forgotten we were before starting to read these sinuosities of MONstrance.
    Indescribabble.

  3. This morning! I realise even more that I am here reading a book of extreme contrasts, and one of seeds to fructify in its holes or lacunae…

    The Key to Jerusalem by Mark Valentine
    Here pomegranate seeds, to follow the earlier Cartesian red seed – and this is not Indescribabble, but an engaging temperate word-perfect Valentine-visitation into documents quoted here from those ‘important’ and less ‘important’ soldiers who were concerned with the taking of Jerusalem in 1917, and with the area’s past crusaders and their heraldry … and ‘counter-heraldry’…. A stone vault, a dead monument to once ancient hope. And to whom a certain ‘keynote’ was passed, but with some relief, as reader, I found a ‘dying fall’ keynote chaconne of further mystery with just three dots. A lacuna or an ellipsis, I ask myself.

  4. Endgame Aesthete by Jeremy Reed
    “It’s the accumulative hurt / the inconsolable pain / that brims up like rubies / from a Paris drain”
    Or red seeds? This is a set of five Eliotian poems by the author who wrote my publicly stated favourite novel of 2011.
    A filled lacuna as intermission, a lacuna with its own lacunae, as poems often have, lacunae by physical space or by missing holes of meaning that somehow give more meaning than the missing meaning itself. Complete with entrancing refrain lines in places. And echoes that I will take to the rest of the stories.

  5. The Sulphur Remedy by Oliver Smith
    “The dried dead heads nodded in mute agreement and shed a few more seeds into the icy wind proceeding with their slow undoing of civilization. Lucien picked up a few and planted them in the brickwork to hurry the decline.”
    And a flea in a bowler hat and with a violin plumped in a claret glass, as its own seed, I guess… This is another froth on a daydream like that of John Howard (whose own seeds were endless zeros, in hindsight). There is more than one way to skin a cat or get rid of De Rais from being your lodger (who leaves stale underwear around the place) or of a rich ant, sorry, aunt, while rowing the Channel… Like the chicken and the egg, what comes first, Art or Use? All I can think of is my own verse I wrote in the mid-1960s that I find myself often quoting since then for no apparent reason. People get fed up with it. I can give this story no greater claim to acclaim by quoting that verse yet again:

    The crowd was silent
    Reading the poems of Baudelaire.
    Suddenly, completely unpremeditated,
    They lurch forward, in unison,
    And sing the National Anthem.

  6. For the first time, I can announce it’s the poems’ lurching forward rather than the members of the crowd!

  7. Salammbô and the Zaïmph of Tanit by Colin Insole
    “But there was a sulky irritation as she inspected the dishes of cherry stones, pomegranate skins, and sniffed the empty plates of shellfish.”
    Can any one Work of Art be equally suet-pudding decadent and soaringly celestial? Yes, not only equally, though, but also with both those respective elements ‘in extremis’. Don’t believe me? Well, read this story. Another gem from Insole. This fiction has the explicitly Villon-ended Holman story’s withering of woman and matched by the fiction evolving from another fiction like ladders of light as that woman’s husband builds upon the eponymous novel by Flaubert with another woman who literally UNwithers before our eyes from the words used to create her by such evolving. But that’s not how it ends.
    I’m now going to read the Grimms’ Cat-Skin.

  8. Again, the Granite, or A 21st Century Secret Experiment in Devastating Ennui by Charles Schneider
    “She waded into the night torrent of water. Rain water which leeched off of the dreadful things buried in the rocks and sandy banks. Some of these were ancient things that had been waiting for flesh to help it transform, and be reborn.”
    …which latest transaction of the flesh relates tellingly to the book’s earlier petrifications.
    This densely textured character study of a girl called Aurora shows someone of several contrasts and, for me, ultimately, she is Gaia personified as a 1920s ‘bright young thing’, another pocket of ennui as well as sporadic over-excitement, transmogrified and then beset by all the temptations to which animal, vegetable and mineral are heir. Gorgeously written and worthy of several readings to reveal its various layers.
    Des essences, Des esseintes.

  9. A Hive of Pain by D.P. Watt
    “…in the attic of a boarding-house in Colchester.”
    I wonder if the author knows that there was a boarding-house attic in a recent Doctor Who episode, a boarding-house that was explicitly situated in an Aickman Road in Colchester. I live on the coast very near to Colchester (my elderly mother still lives there but, like me, I am sure she has never found Aickman Road – yet) and I was brought up in Colchester, having lived the first seven years of my life in Walton-on-the-Naze, near where I live now for the last twenty years in Clacton past which place Thames barges ply their furrows near my bungalow house. And I know Mersea island very well and Bateman’s Tower, and the River Colne and the atmosphere of the sea etc (see my many photos on my blog)… Why am I telling you all this? Well, here is where this story is. And that may explain why I love it so much? But trying to look objectively, this symphonic piecemeal portrait – of its people and places, smells and scenes, its susceptibility, I guess, to the recent Advent Surge and St Jude’s Storm, and much more you will never credit without reading it – is a reading experience of a lifetime. It is so perfectly pitched, exquisite prose, and the ending – with its reference to a bigger picture that I won’t give away here – is almost unbearable. And the oysters in the story at least – with mention of one oyster that is speculated about as having its own pearl (its own seed?) – bring this discrete masterpiece in tune with the whole book.

  10. Martyr’s Fuligin by Adam S. Cantwell
    “…the tribulations of saints and martyrs, offering, at many removes, testimony that the world, the body, and the realm of the soul were linked by pain;…”
    Just like the commas in two story titles earlier in this book, the ostensible Oxford Comma in that quote is also significant. Partitions in our reality of self and of what is exterior to self are either tenuous or accidental, I think to myself as I read this richly accomplished Proustian reprise of her life, by an old whore who is gradually leaving New York by car as she remembers her life there. Schneider’s Gaia and MON’s Gemma, Holman’s withering woman by Proustian diary and Insole’s unwithering woman by Flaubertian fiction, all related, all partitioned. Derek John’s Real Presence and Cantwell’s final word in this story: ‘oblivion’: the ultimate partition. DOWN THERE at last. Blacker than black itself. Each story a seed within all the other stories, partitioned or not.

  11. Pierrot the Sceptic (1881) by Léon Hennique & J.-K. Huysmans (translated by Fred Dalmasso & Roger Baines)
    “Surrounded, Pierrot steps back, the flux ends up pinning him against the wall.”
    …and, aptly, the God of Flux is where we began with this book. This coda is like an Alfred Jarry play with stage directions for something in the spirit of Oliver Smith’s Lucien and his flea scenario, mixing water pistols with a funeral. It also seems like a retelling of the Colin Insole story of the two women…
    “…wreaths of pearls with joined up hands of plaster in the middle.”

    Satisfied, I lurch forward and sing the National Anthem.
    end

  12. Pingback: ObliviOnanisM | gnOme

  13. Pingback: ObliviOnanism I: Dissolving | philosophynowncad

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