As part of a series of reflections upon my own six novellas continued from HERE, I shall now be concentrating on the novella below.…
The InkerMen Press 2013
RHYS HUGHES from his review of the whole LAST BALCONY here: http://mantoucan.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/the-last-balcony-real-time-review.html
“In fact, ‘The Apocryphan’ (subtitled ‘The Epifany of the Augusthog’) is Des Lewis’s best work so far, i.e. the best work of his that I have encountered. It goes without saying that this is purely my own opinion. I consider the piece immensely refreshing, bracing even, for here at last, Des has opened out his prose. I won’t go so far as to say that ‘The Apocryphan’ is light reading, no, but it’s perfectly viable rhythmic modern English literature with plenty of momentum. It is extremely well written. More importantly, in terms of literary definition, it is non-horror, non-fantasy, non-weird weird, or rather it is weird writing that seems to be approaching the weird from the mainstream, rather than the other way around, in the same way that a jazz band like the Mahavishu Orechestra approached rock from jazz, rather than approaching jazz from rock, as did The Soft Machine. But enough early ’70s jazz fusion music analogues!
“I regard ‘The Apocryphan’ as closer in tone and style and achievement to Ian McEwan, Patrick McGrath or even Will Self than to the standard horror writers one images a modern horror writer would wish to emulate. Set in the rain-drenched seaside town of Bonnyville, the story meanders pleasingly but troublingly through a series of vignettes, little scenes graded in oddity. The background menace, which is always there, never feels contrived or even unavoidable; and the atmosphere is deeply nostalgic instead of horrific. Sadness and dread are there aplenty but muted and made bearable by the solid and therefore ambiguously comforting feel of real life as it is lived all around. There are acute observations galore: I enjoyed the pitch perfect analysis of a barmaid’s task at acting the flirt in such a way that she appears not to be acting to you alone, a sort of play within a play. But that is just one minor example among many. For a relatively short novella it manages to pack a heck of a lot of incident and half-incident into its pages.
Back in the mid ’90s, Des published a story entitled ‘A Brief Return to Bonnyville’ in a now-transformed magazine called The Third Alternative, and I remember at the time being impressed with the superior pacing of that story and the wider spaces that opened out within it as a result; but that piece was still claustrophobic and controlled, whereas in ‘The Apocryphan’, Bonnyville seems like a place one could genuinely stroll around, dig behind, poke around in; there’s an authentic sense of place. And the characters that inhabit this novella are three-dimensional too. The fact that the story is told in many interrelated brief sections, rather than as a single clump, also helps to open out the piece still further and lighten it more; or perhaps the structure was necessitated by the spry content (the tone is spry, but it is dark sprightliness.) And yes, the mode is melancholy despite the briskness; and the briskness is luxurious, not hectic; and this peculiar mix of rates of flow and density of detail is handled with supreme skill.”
My own hindsight views on it appear in the comment stream below…