ashlyme: (Default)
[personal profile] ashlyme
I went back to Catney to stay at my parents' house for the night. The field next door, where the Halls used to graze cattle, is all overgrown now: grass about a yard high, with rust-spots here and there where docks grow. It would have been a nightmare in the hayfever season. It was a day of soft rain, delicious to walk in; I wanted to cup my palms and drink the rain from them. At dusk, the seedheads of the grass caught the last light, the field was silver-green. Bindweed's set its trumpets in all the local hedges; woody nightshade is flowering in the verges in little purple stars.

Currently reading John Howard's new collection, Buried Shadows. It's well worth the few years' wait since his last one, full of love-notes to London and Berlin, haunted architecture (lost German railway stations, a tower at Birmingham University waiting for a new sacrifice, a church that flits through the lives of three men across sixty-odd years). Rooms might be wallpapered in hyperinflationary banknotes* or maps of the Weimar Republic. A man looks for omens for his homeland in the clouds over London; another questions identity in Thirties Portugal. It's quietly fantastic in both senses of the word.

I had to pick up a job application from Shirley today so I took an hour or two to wander around its many many charity shops. The oddest thing I found was a Turkish saz (well, three of them in fact) hanging from a wall. They looked rather like stocky lutes. I used to have a mandolin but I make a better listener than musician. Picked up a book-length study on the uncanny by Nicholas Royle (an academic rather than the Manchester-based novelist, though he does appear in a chapter on doppelgangers). The subject line is a quote from HD ([personal profile] sovay , aren't you a fan of theirs?)  used here as an epigram. Also found an Eighth Doctor novel with Alan Turing narrating (as well as Graham Greene and Joseph Heller).

*It seems apt for this particular collection that the bookmark I'm currently using is a Scottish pound note I found tied to a velvet-wrapped coconut floating in the canal.

Date: 2017-06-30 07:55 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Rotwang)
From: [personal profile] sovay
It seems apt for this particular collection that the bookmark I'm currently using is a Scottish pound note I found tied to a velvet-wrapped coconut floating in the canal.

This is not going to help your biographers, decades from now, disambiguate your actual life from "The Drowned Carnival."

The subject line is a quote from HD (sovay , aren't you a fan of theirs?) used here as an epigram.

Yes! She's wonderful. I started with Trilogy (The Walls Do Not Fall, Tribute to the Angels, The Flowering of the Rod, 1946), but I think you can pick up almost anything of hers and get an idea of her style. Her partner Bryher wrote at least one novel, Visa for Avalon (1965), that I think you would really like.

Also found an Eighth Doctor novel with Alan Turing narrating (as well as Graham Greene and Joseph Heller).

Whaaaaa. Is it good?

Date: 2017-06-30 10:00 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Rotwang)
From: [personal profile] sovay
I'll investigate both H. D. and Bryher. "Visa For Avalon" does look good.

Fair warning, it is the only one of Bryher's novels that I've read and it may be a one-off, but it amazed me. I remember thinking it felt like a direct ancestor of M. John Harrison: the otherworld of fantasy exists, but it is subject to the same banalities and bureaucracies as the fields we know, all the more painfully whenever anyone tries to get there from here. The novel takes places in Britain, in a vague near future that has come around to looking (at least from the U.S.) not so science fictional again, as an equally vague, ominously totalitarian "Movement" goes almost literally overnight from grassroots unrest to governmental coup; the plot follows a small but growing group of characters over the course of an increasingly dangerous week as they make, separately or together, the decision to emigrate not to New Zealand or America, but to the much more mysterious, much more mesmerizing Avalon. None of them have any idea what they'll find there. The stories are double-edged: "The sailors used to talk about it when I came here as a boy. There was a story that nobody who landed there ever returned." "If I were younger there are other places I might go but as it is, I had better try Avalon. They are not so fussy there about age." Geoffrey of Monmouth had Arthur take ship for Avalon to be healed, but according to Malory he died there among the apple trees. At the same time, the island employs a consulate that is just as drab, tiring, and banal as the worst of the British civil service—applying for a visa, protagonist Robinson is appalled at the forms in triplicate and the chocolate-colored linoleum on the floor. "Was even Avalon worth this squalid moment of anxiety in a despoiled and hideous room? . . . It was stupid of him, but he had expected the Avalon procedure to be different." His Avalon-born friend, Alex, who turns out to be one of the consular staff, is much more ambivalent about returning to his homeland than any of the English characters about leaving theirs. It is he who speculates bitterly, on being told that their office cannot provide visas for all who need them, that "perhaps Avalon itself is obsolete." So then what does it mean that Avalon is closing down its consulate in London? Is it ordinary diplomatic self-protection in the face of national chaos? Is the magic going out of Britain? Both? Neither? Bryher wrote the novel out of her experiences aiding mostly Jewish refugees in World War II; starting in 1933, she had used her finances, her connections, and her house in La Tour-de-Peilz to get people to safety until she had to flee the country herself in 1940. Until very recently, I can think of few other fantasies that deal so much with roadblocks and passports and checkpoints and queues, with only a single ambiguous glimpse of what might be heaven-haven or the land of the dead or—who knows, they have airstrips and filing cabinets—maybe only another country, no stranger than anywhere else on the map. One character says, "But I want to go to Avalon more than I have wanted anything in my life." It is not conventionally reassuring, but it feels metaphysically correct that we never learn what happens to him when he gets there.

For the record, I use female pronouns for Bryher because she seems to have used them herself, even though the ways in which she wrote about her sense of self and gender much more closely match what we now think of as trans, genderfluid, or genderqueer. The one collection of Bryher's poetry I've read, Arrow Music (1922), is also amazing.

I've heard good things of "The Turing Test". It features a stranded amnesiac Eighth, and I know Turing is attracted to him.

Oh, please let Turing hook up with a Time Lord, that would be awesome.

If it's any good, I'll send you the book - sound fair?

More than! Thank you. If it's not good, though, I still want to read your writeup.

Date: 2017-07-01 08:18 am (UTC)
lost_spook: (Northanger reading)
From: [personal profile] lost_spook
It seems apt for this particular collection that the bookmark I'm currently using is a Scottish pound note I found tied to a velvet-wrapped coconut floating in the canal.

I now have to ask... what dimension do you inhabit, or do you live in/near a region that co-exists with some other dimension??

Also I've read that EDA, but I can only remember that it was one of the better ones and nothing else much. I didn't know who Alan Turing was at the time. I hope you also think it one of the better ones and therefore worth the bennies.

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