Wednesday, 9 January 2019
Girls in surfboards,
Twistin' round the fire,
Bakin' in the sun."
..In the bleak mid winter I thought we could use a reminder of what
sunny days look like.
Thank you mister Herge and The B-52s.
Off course nowhere on the cover of this collection did I see these words but I fear they are now indelibly inscribed on my mind, the bumpier parts of it anyway. Its a weird tale to be sure, this gateway to a Machenesque world of elder gods magics and dangerous folklore. Through him we read things we are not meant to read which in turn makes us see things we are surely not meant to see. Stories delivered in a wordy poetic prose style that those with shorter attention spans may find trying but which lends itself beautifully to a more traditional aural form of storytelling, as in fireside tales of terror. Although Arthur Machen was Welsh he shares much in common with Irish storytellers, whose powers of storytelling were developed in a golden age of magic words, before the power of the storyteller was forever diminished by the arrival of the printed word, one of the great steps forward in the enlightenment and the age of reason. For sure the good endowed far outweighs that which was lost but things were lost for sure, such as the special powers which came with an aural tradition.
The best place to encounter these stories is most definately the hearthside, with hungry flame and crackling wood shifting as it sparkily releases its locked in energies. I read it on a train, on Christmas Eve, traveling on the Enterprise Train between Belfast and Dublin. some one further down the nearly empty carriage was listening to folk music on some portable device and was forlornly singing along to it. I glimpsed a grey haired dark eyed face observing me impassively from across the aisle. It was my own reflection mirrored against the dark countryside which sped by barely glimpsed. Was I watching myself to observe my own reactions to what I was reading and having seen none lost interest?
Just how reliable are our own reflections anymore?
The other stories in this dover Thrift collection were The White People, The Inmost Light and The Shining Pyramid. Great stories birthed in the mystical bracken of more ancient times that feel more real to me than any of the desert religions and faiths which ursurped their position in the lives of the misty past we are rooted in. from a time before magic went to sleep bedded down in mossy imaginings in the true grey havens of our shared subconscious.
Elegant and yet suitably scary. Rather
defines an era.
It is true that readers and collectors of Sherlock Holmes and all things consulting detective-like love the notion of puzzles and their solutions. Just such a compulsion also exists at the very heart of the Cennobite mythos. Although in their case their solutions bring nothing but disaster upon the solver. Given this perhaps such an unusual cross over is not as unlikely as it sounds...
Nope.. actually it is. I am perhaps overcompensating because I enjoyed the book so much. Especially the first two thirds of the book before it escalates, or should I say degenerates to a War In Hell ( I use the word degenerate in a repulsively playful manner, by virtue of where it ends up things have to get oh so much worse before they get..even more worse.) The scale of the book becomes quite epic in scope, so much more epic than say the scale of the Holmes short stories. It has to be pointed out though the gory quality of some of the events does not always sit comfortably with the Holmes and Watson we know. Imagine Holmes and Watson waking up aboard the Nostromo and finding themselves being pursued by a Xenomorph through maintenance ducts or using flame throwers, it just feels so off at times. Yet perversely, in every sense of the word, it is this very aspect which so appeals to Clive Barker readers. in a strange way the novel mirrors the progress of the Hellraiser movies and their reinvention of Cennobite lore as they went along. There was also the notion of the very real sexual repression of the Victorian era and the growth of the Decadence movement towards the end of that period. Human sexuality is wont to blossom in myriad forms when under the pressure of a heartless thumb or boot. Fetishism and decadence bloom by the light of strange moons, so to speak. There were societies and special clubs that catered to all manner of tastes, then and now. one merely required the material wealth and an invitation to partake. In the instance of The Cennobites it was the puzzle box which served as the invitation to the court of the hell priests,The Order Of The Gash, although as Pin Head himself once gothically intoned it is all about the player not the game.
To have Holmes and Watson as prime movers in a War In Hell may seem to some a bit like having Ms Marple leading armies of men and elves in Middle Earth but to a large degree Paul Kane pulls it off. Mostly down to his umbrella knowledge of both franchises. From events in Holmes movies such as Young Sherlock right through to the Indiana Holmes advs (The Robert Downey Jnr Holmes movies.) to the various lurid chapters in the Hellraiser saga. In the end the whole novel involves a descent into hell which no one escapes without scars.
War is hell with war in Hell being the very worst.