The Ephemera - by Neil Williamson
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Author:  Jim Steel [ Mon Mar 23, 2009 10:30 pm ]
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Ha! 'Stoor' is Scots for dust, and a steamie was a sort of communal laundrette with minimal technology. It was an outbuilding that would be found behind tenements.

Author:  des2 [ Tue Mar 24, 2009 1:46 pm ]
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Thanks, Jim. I'll be scunnered! It's like a foreign language you talk up there. ;)

The Bennie and The Bonobo
Here we have another post-era of the Great War, but one with its own skein-relation of different futures and commodities as inventions.
A delightfully wrought SF vision .... including the muff that hides the long-fingered hands of a 'lady' .... another choice seeking (as in testing the futures themselves) of the 'mot juste' or euonym to name the 'lady' .... the dream "worn down to a hard nugget" ..... the noise like "rice grains being dropped onto a skillet" .... the 'apparatus' of the 'lady' vaguely akin to the art process described in the story "Softly Under Glass."
Only connect.
I somehow sense that the author has set up an effective scenario here that says, OK, one spends a whole lifetime making the best of the worst, but on the rare occasions when it is available one must never forget to make the best of the best. The Optimum rather that the Pessimum. That's not my philosophy, but I felt my heart lift again upon reading this story even against my own will to let it lift!
[Personally, I also imagined Linke the Tuner inspecting the timbre-integrity of the Bennie railtrack lines with his long hammer.]

Author:  des2 [ Tue Mar 24, 2009 2:26 pm ]
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A Horse In Drifting Light
An effective glimpse of life beyond the modern trench of time.
Life is too convenient, too insulated against ill-health or danger, too mobile-communicative, too ordered by fridge ... plus a friend called Des from Seattle who talks of the freedom of the road...
... then during a rare un-sat-nav'd excursion, the heavy rain comes upon the protagonist from a suddenly perceived 3-dimensional sky...
and then the proximity of a real horse: "the sky mirrored in its flanks, the sun dazzling from chinks in the clouds which passed across its hide like time."
A lighthorse?

Later Edit: for typos

Author:  des2 [ Tue Mar 24, 2009 3:39 pm ]
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Sins of the Father
a collaboration with Mark Roberts
A sort of hybrid of Indiana Jones and the 'Lost' TV series and Conrad''s 'Heart of Darkness' and a Rider Haggard novel, this is a father's quest to find his lost environmentalist son in the jungle, a son who stole a stone torus or woggle from the father's collection or inferred 'mosaic' of valuable artefacts.......leading eventually to a drug induced vision of a "dark-lit tower" in the jungle (a lighthouse?)......maybe the 'phare' I was somehow expecting! There were also some references to recent Eastern European history....!
The story started with a 'bottle of rain' as a clue to the son's whereabouts, 'with a tint of amber'.
There were a few infelicities of prose and I did not understand everything that was going on but it didn't seem to matter. An inscrutable ending: "Somewhere, I heard rain falling."

Author:  des2 [ Tue Mar 24, 2009 6:45 pm ]
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Hard To Do
I sense this is the core story of the book (but I haven't read the last story yet - so who knows?).
This story is in symbiotic relationship with the first one in the book. Also it tells of another woman/woman poignancy of separation (I think it makes this clear but I would need to re-read it to make sure). Meticulously built up like a mosaic. In fact it tells of two rituals of meticulousness (as I sense many other of the other stories do, in hindsight, eg. about rituals of art processes and other activities and feelings). Here the precise rituals concern tea-making and tea-drinking (and what colour is tea, I ask you!) and smoking cigarettes. "The colour orange is a miracle."
Also "cold water flooding" linked by tuning into the frequency of the waterfall in "Sins of the Father", the many instances of heavy rain in other stories and, above all, the ghosts-of-seawater in "Harrowfield".
This story mentions Gorecki, but it reminds me more of a Prelude by Debussy (or maybe his "The Girl with the Flaxen Hair"!) or a John Field Nocturne.
"I can't remember your name. My own was never important, but losing yours is tragic."

Author:  des2 [ Tue Mar 24, 2009 8:19 pm ]
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I choose books to review in my own personal way from my own collection - and the books I choose are ones which I have a good instinct about... and my instinct was right about this book.
In many ways the symphony that is this book ends with 'Hard To Do' - representing an organic whole of 'ephemera' (or movements if this were music which I sometimes believe it to be) ... blending and shifting even as I now try to recall them. These 'ephemera' need to be read in bookprint as otherwise they would fly off. Only the pages keep the words in their cages. Bravo! Encore!

The Codsman and His Willing Shag
So this last story is a sort of encore at the end of the concert. Or a palate-cleansing coda. And it is indeed magnifico - a hilarious, touching and visionary young man's rite-of-passage (literally a passage at one point) in Robin Hood's Bay (near Whitby) - a smuggler's town (and I am sure a lighthouse is situated nearby based on my own visit there a number of years ago!)
There is 'a fistful of rain'. And here also we discover the real amber liquid that appeals to pub-goers!
And there is a shanty-singing group called Smuggler's Knot (cf the monkeys in 'Sins of the Father' and the bonobo elsewhere) - and activities concerning this group lead to our young protagonist melding an astonishing vision on the moonlit beach beyond the secret passage (a vision perhaps ignited by Wilson's and Jericho's fluttering phoenixes)....
This vision, too, like the passage, must remain a secret. It is is extremely memorable and meticulous. It needs a book to read it in. Read it other than in a book and the vision will fly off and never come back, never be remembered.
I shall take a gulp of euonymistic 'scouridge' and now sign off.

All things were connected in a framework above and beyond and behind our normal perception.
--from 'Sins of the Father'

Author:  benedictjjones [ Wed Mar 25, 2009 10:13 am ]
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des, regarding the 'naming of things', have you read Paul Auster's 'New York Triliogy' one of the three stories in it deals with that very thing and is rather excellent.

Author:  des2 [ Wed Mar 25, 2009 10:48 am ]
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Thanks, Benedict. Yes, I'm a great fan of Paul Auster.

Author:  NeilW [ Wed Mar 25, 2009 11:02 am ]
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Des - just wanted to thank you publicly for this review. I found the accumulation of your impressions as you progressed through the book really fascinating.

Real-time reviewing rocks!


Author:  des2 [ Wed Mar 25, 2009 11:18 am ]
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Thanks, Neil. As I hope you can tell - I very much enjoyed reviewing the book as well as reading the book itself. It is a sort of book (with its cover and all) that has to be among anyone's favourite once they've experienced as well as read it. It's got my pencil marks all over it now. It is lived-in!
Like some people used to carry around 'Catcher In The Rye'.

I have already started my next real-time review here: ... pic=1897.0

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