Elegies & Requiems

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**My gestalt real-time review of ELEGIES & REQUIEMS by Colin Insole (continued from HERE) will appear in the comment stream below as and when I read this collection.**

14 responses to “Elegies & Requiems

  1. Flower of the Sun
    “Who are we? We are the bones and sinews of your world and we break and make mad those who defy us, those who seek the ‘flower of the sun’.”
    A compelling diarised account – by one who ends up in seeming madness – of a form of hermetic magic of which he is put in charge – along with a crude but astute assistant – to alter the course of the events of the Second World War against the German enemy. A sort of supernatural ‘Enigma Project’ via John Dee research and it reminds me constructively of ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell’ by Susanna Clarke, a genuine under-rated masterpiece.

    Colin Insole’s work also reminds me of that of Quentin S. Crisp. Both authors should benefit greatly from that mutual comparison! Both have become genuine favourite writers of mine in recent years, and with this current book, Insole has exceeded even my highest expectations after reading a few of his stunning stories beforehand.

  2. Waving At The Train
    “He must have glimpsed…”
    This is what I might call a ‘glimpse’ ghost story (see ‘the unholy weight of the glimpse’ expression I coined the other day here) and a story that would have suited this anthology of railway stories very well. It is Colin Insole at his ‘traditional’ best, but with an added barely scrutable ingredient that makes it special. A blend of glimpses, figures of people real and model, real and model trains, candle-dreaming that becomes real and then dream again, and a Dickensian Signalman type eventuality. And, oh yes, there is another blundering daddylonglegs. And it is another atmospheric Manx story.

  3. The Appassionata Variations
    “I would hear the faint strain of a gramophone — a Chopin nocturne or one of the late string quartets of Beethoven.”
    I earlier published this story in my own imprint here, so I am biased. But this story soars, as only prose of indulgent hedonism and decadence (have I used that word decadence before in this review?) can soar. And then fall with the swell of a ‘dying fall’. This has the genius loci of mid twentieth century Absalom Street and its crescent (crescendo?) Hotel Promethean with its back corridors and smells and those glimpses again, here glimpses of music, leading to the air raids and Elizabeth Bowen’s blitzed buildings where she sat writing meticulously, but with carefree abandon, her fractured prose, her gem-like sentences, as Insole does, too. But above all, none so sublime as the moments of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier et al coming off the page, those variations that weren’t meant to be heard and that possibly change the course of everything, as from Elise to Therese, and I think of Insole’s stories in the same way, reaching levels of fiction that we other writers can only create the templates for.
    But above, or below, even that, this story treats of the misalliances of heritage, who belongs to whom, whose mother, whose father, whose sibling, in the skein of characters here variating, if that’s a real word. And I shall encapsulate that with this phrase: Music as Miscegenation.

  4. The Dear Dead Days
    “Something terrible and secret…”
    Judging by this story, I sense its author may have been haunted by the ghost of Elizabeth Bowen since she died in 1973. This is as if she has come alive and added to her fiction canon, a canon that I cherish deeply. It tells of a listening great-grandmother from her room, a clock that I sense begs to be put back in its fairy story, caged birds, mischievous children, a blind piano-tuner who looks a bit like an Old Testament character such as Samson and whose personal backstory echoes some of the events in the First World War trenches from where the man of the house returns to hear the piano-tuner singing for the family…
    This story also gives me another clue as to the soul of this caged bird of a book, one that compellingly turns the pages with each click of its beak, like a clock, with one reliable classic of the moment after another: with a sense of “studied insouciance”.

  5. Apple Blossom Time
    And no sooner have I got hung up (literally) – in my review of the previous two stories – with the work of Elizabeth Bowen, than I read this story which I guess to be a tribute to her classic story ‘The Apple Tree’. As well as the curse through time, it bears the indelible mark of Insole, too, as it echoes his own previous ‘waving’ story, and the real dolls and dream dolls waving at the dream dolls and the real dolls. Real time or dream time or remembered time interchanging … as Bowen’s Inherited Clock ticks on and cruelly tangles the reader’s finger in its workings as you try to wind it…or unwind it? – if I may be allowed to extrapolate.

  6. The Bellman
    “I too observed ‘the bones of the precluded pomp’ and ‘the dark thing waiting for a soul’.”
    I normally expect an anthology or collection to end with its own musical coda, something that I’d nod at and say yes we can go now.
    Yet, this substantial story is more remarkable than any such considerations – as if we have been merely teased before in this book, and this is the real thing.
    It tells of a Museum of Lost London, out-Ackroyding Ackroyd, a story with a central tract of an account of a past pageant of jubilee, an erstwhile ‘flashmob’ as it were, done with posters. And its recurrence through history. This is major stuff. There is no way I can even give you an inkling of the power of this story, its allusions, its style of descriptions of upper and lower London, its sheer chilling implications, and I’d dub myself the Bellman of this story, nay, of this whole book if I could, but others will clamour to outdo me first. I thought, when writing my review of this story, I would lay into its ‘delights’ with gusto, lay bare for you its dreams and nightmares, its truths and its (hopefully!) fictions. But it just IS. Read it for yourself. You will never be the same again. And I’d say the same thing for the whole book, too. Oyez, Oyez, come to the dark journey through the forgotten city streets of your own mind and beyond.
    As in Apoplexy and Blackthorn, the text if written cannot be unwritten. It creates its own reality. The deed is done. It WILL affect you, come what may. Even if only by what I earlier called object-osmosis. And the style is immaculate as is the construction of the whole book. Visionary and decadent.
    And this last story also conveys what Bowen described in one of her novels and some of her stories as her own visionary version of these mobs of her Blitz, her dark crowd shapes and thus she prefigured this story with what she saw coming through the dust and clamour of war, and so does Insole: “And there were worse things we saw in the Blitz. As the city burned, we saw them mocking us from the ruins. The dead didn’t come to mourn but to rejoice.”

    end

  7. From Chapter 4 of ‘The Heat of the Day’ (1949) by Elizabeth Bowen:

    They had met one another, at first not very often, throughout that heady autumn of the first London air raids. Never had any season been more felt; one bought the poetic sense of it with the sense of death. Out of mists of morning charred by the smoke from ruins each day rose to a height of unmisty glitter; between the last of sunset and first note of the siren the darkening glassy tenseness of evening was drawn fine. From the moment of waking you tasted the sweet autumn not less because of an acridity on the tongue and nostrils; and as the singed dust settled and smoke diluted you felt more and more called upon to observe the daytime as a pure and curious holiday from fear. […]

    Most of all the dead, from mortuaries, from under cataracts of rubble, made their anonymous presence – not as today’s dead but as yesterday’s living – felt through London. Uncounted, they continued to move in shoals through the city day, pervading everything to be seen or heard or felt with their torn-off senses, drawing on this tomorrow they had expected – for death cannot be so sudden as that. […]

    The wall between the living and the living became less solid as the wall between the living and the dead thinned. In that September transparency people became transparent, only to be located by the just darker flicker of their hearts. […]

  8. These are the stories in ELEGIES & REQUIEMS (unless marked below the story is new to this book):

    The Golden Birds of Mariston
    The Apoplexy of Beezlebub (Megazanthus Press 2011)
    The Premonition (Priory Press 2010)
    A Calendar of Cherries (Ex Occidente Press 2012)
    Ancestral Rooms
    The Princess of Phoenicia (Ex Occidente Press 2011)
    Blackthorn Cottage
    The Choice Child
    The Candles of Wildondorf (Hieroglyphic Press 2011)
    The Madness of a Chalk Giant
    The Weimar Spider (Ex Occidente Press 2009)
    The Very Thought of You
    The Flower of the Sun (Supernatural Tales 2011)
    Waving at the Train
    The Appassionata Variations (Megazanthus Press 2012)
    The Dear Dead Days
    Apple Blossom Time (Pill Hill Press 2010)
    The Bellman

    There is one further previously published story by Colin Insole that I personally know about: ‘The Houses Among The Trees’ in Dadaoism (Chomu Press)

    Here are my reviews of four separate Colin Insole books:
    http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/oblivions-poppy-by-colin-insole/ (OBLIVION’S POPPY Ex Occidente Press 2010)
    http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/alcyone-colin-insole/ (ALCYONE Ex Occidente Press 2011)
    http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/the-last-gold-of-decayed-stars/ (THE LAST GOLD OF DECAYED STARS Ex Occidente Press 2013)
    http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/elegies-requiems-colin-insole/ (ELEGIES & REQUIEMS Side Real Press 2013)

    The six separate stories of Colin Insole in anthologies that I have reviewed or published:
    http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/cinnabars-gnosis/
    http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/the-master-in-cafe-morphine/
    http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/this-hermetic-legislature/
    http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/dadaoism-a-new-anthology-from-chomu-press/
    http://horroranthology.wordpress.com/editors-story-by-story-commentary/ (the Ha of Ha)
    https://classicalhorror.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/the-appassionata-variations- (TFBOCHS)

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    PS: There is another uncollected story by Colin Insole as notified here: http://www.ligotti.net/showpost.php?p=97118&postcount=4

  9. Two more uncollected stories by Colin Insole: ‘A Blue Dish of Figs’ here: http://hieroglyphicpress.co.uk/machen.html and ‘Dreams from the Apple Orchards’ here: http://hieroglyphicpress.co.uk/sacrum2.html

  10. Someone on a discussion forum asked whether the stories in ELEGIES & REQUIEMS are Weird Tales or Ghost Stories. I answered by saying they are each of these in separate stories.
    Someone else then quipped with ‘Weist Tales’.
    I then suggested ‘Weigho Tales’ 🙂

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