Continuation of my GRTR from HERE: ‘The Transfiguration of Mister Punch’ – Egaeus Press
This continuation will be shown in the comment stream below as and when I read this book:
THIS FOOLISH & HARMFUL DELIGHT by CATE GARDNER
Part One: Those With Secret Names
Pages 163 – 172
“Everyone needed someone to hate.”
This start, for me, is a stunning apocalyptically gory vision of inverse-monsterism Frankenstein-style as a prelude to being born from a Blakean Hell, from among all the other body parts needed to make you and others in the chimney-top opening that is our world: consciousnesses called Punch and Judy and another called Frankie – but are these their real names or nemonymous ones? An intriguing start and, although I don’t yet know where this novella is going (a good thing!), I anticipate it becoming a strikingly original realisation of the Punch and Judy Show tradition from within a traditional literary form. Contrastively, the previous two novellas (if novellas they were) arguably represented traditional realisations of the Punch and Judy show tradition from within strikingly original literary forms.
Pages 173 – 179
“A-ha, it lives,”
Stijn’s Puppets in the Theatre of Foolish & Harmful Delight – whatever more I tell you about this may be spoilers, the one danger of real-time reviewing! So apologies if I do. And this is indeed a remarkable original vision of Punch and Judy (so far a reading experience that is astonishing me) as I earlier suggested within an apparently traditional novella form, in contrast to the two previous works which are more but not entirely the other way about, but Gardner’s Joan is an interesting existential counterpart to Watt’s Stephie character, each illuminating the other. With the ever-threatening ripping away of the theatrical ground to be tipped back into Hell, there takes place the difficult birth (including the birth of Stijn by Stijn himself) of these people or puppets with variegated body parts and variegated names (including Mr Punch himself) and deliberate spite in the ‘making’ of them by Stijn to persecute himself (this book’s ‘self-harm’ again?) as well as to persecute each other. An atmosphere like an opera by Alban Berg. Or Watt’s Jarry by Jarry.
Pages 181 – 194
“A fiction constructed to make the intolerable tolerable and to convince the fortunate that fortune would continue and that it wouldn’t end with soil and worms.”
…much like Watt’s vertical liftman of an audit trail rather than the straight path between birth and death, but born from Hell and to die back in Hell? Come-uppance and Come-downance. Or hawling? A mixed message. An incredibly provocative vision by Gardner, where you probably need eyes in the back of your head to be able to read it. Joan’s struggle continues and I have no idea where she is taking me, a story that pulls no punches. But I promise, when I read more of this novella, that I may pull some of my own punches by not revealing any spoilers as to the struggle’s outcome. In fact I may tell lies about the plot’s outcome just to throw you off the scent … by metaphorically removing your own hooked nose! But I sincerely promise you that I will not tell lies about this novella’s worth as a work of literature in itself and, so far, Gardner’s work is, for me, enthralling, enticing, engaging, entrancing as well as constructively entropic in both directions.
“Crying is never done.”
Tony Lovell’s sculpture for the ‘Yesterfang’ novella in THE LAST BALCONY book.
REVIEWER’S DROOP (or intermission)
Hawl + Hell ?
Selected separate quotations from “Nemonymous Night” (Chomu Press, 2011) about hawling:-
“The clues as to what a hawler really is sometimes come together piecemeal, often obliquely – rarely in great moments of clarity.” #
“Only hawlers knew of the various layers through which anything or anyone could travel.”
“As a hawler, he could see things more clearly than the others, since he had travelled further underground in his consciousness and established fixtures and bases from which all else could be interpreted and evaluated: thus neutralising their ability to terrorize. Terror did not breed more terror, but less.”
“A hawler, he knew or at least he hoped he knew, was a filter that worked in both directions of flow. But he only knew or at least he hoped he knew for a while till he even forgot he was a hawler.”
“He realised he was a hawler – always realised this perhaps – but now he knew it wasn’t because he had previously been a hawler, but because he was about to become one. Self-identification by an as yet unproved anticipation was a dream-fixing he needed to address. …”
# Gardner’s and Watt’s works in this book are fortuitously helping in this process. And, thinking about it some more, Schneider’s, too!
Pages 195 – 209
“Each finds their own name, Mr Punch. Mostly.”
This novella seems to be seeking a gestalt from the leitmotifs of self (as I have sought them in books when real-time reviewing since 2008), as well as, in the Gardner work, from the actual variegating monstrous body-parts and names of self: for me, a hawling process supreme (cf Mr Hawling in the Watt novella) … and here tellingly – in a visit to the Stijn’s Theatre of Foolish & Harmful Delight – Judy is becoming closer to fulfilling this quest for self. And, come to think of it, for Punch himself. No more plot giveaways in this review heretoforward.
Part Two: The Tiniest Cell in Town
Pages 211 – 237
“A patchwork quilt hung from their balcony.”
I should not give the impression that this novella is only a psychological quest, but it is also a gorily piecemeal quest, with bits of bodies, human and monstrous, each bit with its own mind – one of the characters being hung on a physical hawling-chain as well as on a mental one … a Demon Barber’s symphony of puppets explicitly on magical Styx (sticks)…
And deliberate destruction of one’s own art as in the Watt work … But I sense Schneider’s God at work, or God within Man within Puppet within God within Man within Puppet – ad infinitum, ad absurdum.
Can you tell that I am not only being made to enjoy this work, bit by bit, but also to be greatly inspired by it?
Part Three: A Twisted Sort of Love
Pages 239 – 255
And on that note of the book’s gestalt – God within Man within Puppet within God within …. ad infinitum, ad absurdum (but, in the Gardner, perhaps replace God with Devil?), I now draw the veil over the book’s puppet-sized proscenium arch – entirely satisfied as a reader.
If I tell you about the poignant ending of the Gardner work, you will wish I hadn’t because you won’t then have received the full charge of re-attending your own childhood’s performance of Punch and Judy, as I have just done. Suffice to say, her work is honest, raw-edged, sometimes over-excitable, often traditional in its aspects of telling, but carrying an original visionary punch that will likely transfigure you. Especially in the context of the whole of this wonderfully produced book, words and pictures alike.
“Can’t be doing with brains that think for themselves.”
A new Trinity: God and Man and Puppet – three as well as one?
As a coda to this GRTR: a brief Punch-relevant piece by me that was originally published in the mid-1990s and transcribed here in 2008: http://www.ligotti.net/showthread.php?t=1738
Judith Beheading Holofernes (1620)
Someone has mentioned to me the three novellas’ order : “Punch rises – is risen – is imprisoned in wood again’
Indeed, and I think this parallels my:
God (the Schneider), Man (the Watt), Puppet (the Gardner), each within the other – forever…
A Trinity rather than a Trilogy or Triptych.
A relevant short short written by me today: HOOK-NOSED MEN WITH PATCHWORK DREAMS: http://weirdmonger.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/hook-nosed-men-with-patchwork-dreams.html
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