M. John Harrison

From my review of THE WEIRD in 2011 –


Egnaro – M. John Harrison

“…but is it possible that the real pattern of life is not in the least apparent, but rather lurks beneath the surface of things, half hidden and only apparent in certain rare lights, and then only to the prepared eye?”

Egnaro or Aleph (or gestalt)? This story would surely be an all-time classic story in whichever book of genre it is couched.  From “Corrie” to “Crossroads”, from this book’s Peake to Merritt, herein mentioned, as is (now) the all-consuming Cowper Powys – and the “dead miners” from the Shea story – we have here the Mancunian Man – a pervasive rubbing-along philosophy of flock-wallpapered Chinese restaurants and rust-edged SF books and frontier-cultures in behind-the-counter books in bookshops that fight with and alongside the Accountant Narrator’s version of ‘quantitative easing’. But Egnaro, the elongated ‘gnole’ giving a clue as to its nature (wasn’t one of this colour earlier in the Sandkings-edifice?). A world that Leman set up earlier in this book as the Whovian nostalgia-tableau or un-sat-navved, non-GPS-ed country. But it is the Bradbury ‘crowd’ that turns up when the future finally reaches its accident with the past, its interface with nostalgia as a Proustian Egnaro. A “transparent membrane” that is not the Hell Screen but the wrapping from this book’s Francis Stevens story.  But the durable soul always remains the durable soul (and I count myself as one of those), even if it’s just ‘fast food’ or forgotten fiction as mine is. A desperately sad, yet uplifting, masterpiece. “He’s spent his life exploiting their fantasies to subsidize his own.” (22/11/11 – another 3 hours later)


The New Rays – M. John Harrison

We aren’t supposed to eat or drink for five hours before a treatment,”

A second bite of the book’s cherry for this by-line. And I am glad, because, otherwise, today’s srednidipity would not have occurred for me so meaningfully. (Agar Grove as the new Egnaro?) For me, a natural companion story for the previous Russ story. Competing ‘spiders’ of sickness and life, match and mix between.  A highly disturbing back-street dream of a clinic where the ‘healing rays’ are geared to or from saddish blue ‘pets’ (as I name them), creatures without internal organs. We are autumn-steeped again. We were once ‘summer people’, but now we are autumn ones and we need to divert from any failed or spurious cures of self or of self’s body with art or travel or love: that turn out to be, respectively, a detestable self-preservation by a painting in a gallery or a hideous train journey or a lover who does not care enough to share sickness with us.  “All you have for company is the image of yourself in the steamy mirrors…”  And injured soldiers who litter our lands with crippled memories of a forgotten war. I don’t think I shall forget today’s landmark readings from this book, even when I’m not here to remember them. (23/11/11)


Added 3 April 2017 – https://nullimmortalis2010.wordpress.com/black-feathers/#comment-741