Purposely with Ghosts

Tom Bradley, Rev. of Apparitional Experience, 3:AM Magazine 6 March 2013

Fiddleblack Annual #1: Apparitional Experience, Fiddleblack Press 2013

This is a collection of ghost stories “purposely without ghosts”. The epigraph, from On the Road, serves to announce the emphatic Americanness of the contents. Like Kerouac with his continuous roll of typing paper, most of the authors herein have opted for the unadorned style, which has its roots in that country’s Puritan past. The collection satisfies eminently one’s appetite for such work. There are few or no ghosts of the literary sort haunting the first hundred or so pages of this book.

And then, all of a sudden, in the last story, up springs a manifestation that couldn’t be more unAmerican, in the best of all the good senses of that near-universally approbative adjective. It’s Andrew Gallix, and he is purposely with ghosts.

His story, “Fifty Shades of Grey Matter”, displays all the anti-Puritannical virtuosity, erudition, urbanity and sensory luxuriousness that have been established as his trademarks in such works as “Dr Martens’ Bouncing Souls“, “Celesteville’s Burning“, “Half-Hearted Confessions of a Gelignite Dolly-Bird” and “Forty Tiddly Winks“. Andrew Gallix stands out, not only in this book, but on the literary scene at large, as a major exponent of literary sophistication, both syntactical and philosophical.

When he goes On the Road (in his case, that would be the rue Victor Cousin, on his way to teach at one of the world’s oldest universities), Andrew Gallix treads in the astral traces of such unabashed eschewers of the unadorned style as Aquinas, Erasmus, Saint Francis Xavier, Balzac, Saisset, Victor Hugo, de Beauvoir, Teilhard de Chardin, Barthes, Deleuze, Ricoeur, et al. It stands to reason that he’s not obsessed with counting and banishing modifiers and flagellating subordinate clauses down to the bare declarative bones. He knows nothing of the retentive rules of deportment laid down by creative writing programs in the country that invented those institutions.

“Joycean” has been whored out as an adjective for so long, especially by Americans, that it lost meaning two generations ago. But if the term could be resurrected and shriven, it would apply to “Fifty Shades of Grey Matter” better than any fiction I’ve read in years. Andrew Gallix has done precisely what the stream of consciousness demands — and I don’t mean the long-hackneyed literary device, but the complex phenomenological proposition. Every sentence, every phrase, depicts and serves the multiple functions of human awareness, all at once, without discontinuity. The lush descriptions are delivered in a voice that delineates its own quirky persona and those around it, while moving the plot along, expanding upon thematic material, and being hilarious in the bargain.

This complexity can only be achieved by a writer who has at his fingertips all the resources of a longstanding culture, the full vocabulary of two languages, and none of the self-conscious laconicism of those perpetual Puritans who pout, unhaunted, across the Atlantic.

All the Latest

Darran Anderson briefly mentions “Dr Martens’ Bouncing Souls” in his review of the New Cross-Fucked Musings on a Manic Reality anthology (edited by Tom Bradley). He describes the story as “a bruising but graceful play on language, violence and cocksmanship,” which just about sums it up. (The review appeared in 3:AM Magazine on 27 October 2011.)

The Enigmatic Polygeneration

One of my stories — “Dr Martens’ Bouncing Souls” — features in a new anthology entitled New Cross-Fucked Musings on a Manic Reality (Dog Horn Publishing, December 2010). Here is an extract from Tom Bradley‘s introduction:

In a universe ruled by karma and rebirth, “generation” is a bad word denoting as it does the stifling of spirits in coats of crass skin, the greatest disservice that can be done. Nevertheless, Hugh Fox got to christen the Invisible Generation, Andrew Gallix the Offbeats. So I’ll invent a name to embrace these people. I’ll make it doubly apt, as they produce electricity as well as useful heat: the Enigmatic Polygeneration.


This appears on the back cover:

This volume is ripe with prime produce sprung from minds that span five decades, but comprise a single literary generation. And who are the Enigmatic Polygeneration? They were christened by Tom Bradley in chapter four of Put It Down in a Book, as follows:

Digital connectivity has rendered physical locality irrelevant and made polyversality the new thing . . . Once space has been erased by the miracle of email, so has time, in terms of its effects on the human frame . . . In a creation where particles can spookily act upon each other at a distance of quadrillions of light years, the Seven Ages of Man are as days in the week, and a generation can span an open-ended number of decades . . . I’ll invent a name that’s doubly apt, as these writers produce electricity as well as useful heat.

In this vast anthology, among other delights, you will meet a pornographic ventriloquist and a man who has spent a lifetime getting laid only because he looks like certain famous people. You’ll be taken deep into the heads of such gentry as Charles Manson, Jack the Ripper (who, we learn, was actually Bram Stoker), and Kerry Thornley, author of a book about Lee Harvey Oswald published before the Kennedy assassination.

Andrew Gallix will give you a crash course in transgression, and underground press legend Hugh Fox will bring you to understand what it means to be the small Jewish boy who would one day become Charles Bukowski’s first biographer. Meanwhile, mighty Dave Migman teaches us how to live and die. Fabulous Adam Lowe reveals his adventures in cross-genre, multimedia literature. And lovely Deb Hoag . . . well, as usual, she’s got a surprise!

Dr Martens’ Bouncing Souls


Dr Martens’ Bouncing Souls

It didn’t hit me at first. Not straight away it didn’t. For a few long seconds there, the world was freeze-framed. I half expected to see tumbleweed blow by. All around, people emitted muffled sounds as if sporting ball-gags under water. Possibly swathed in cotton wool, they spoke in slow motion, their syllables hideously elongated like limbs on the rack. I distinctly recall being put in mind of an unravelling audio cassette, or one of those avant-garde sound poems that were all the rage back in the day. And then it hit me.
Really hard.

To describe the pain as excruciating just wouldn’t do it justice. It was unspeakable, unsputterable; not even stutterable — utterly unutterable. What I can attempt to convey, however — to a certain degree, at least, though not, alas, to the third — is the unrelenting nature of the whole episode. I was stunned. Dumbfounded. Gobsmacked. At a loss for words. Mouth agog, screaming on mute. Bent triple, pissing bleeding blood. Pummelled into that liminal zone beyond which no representation is possible. With the benefit of hindsight, I see it as a crash course in transgression, no less. Nothing would ever be the same again. Not quite. Not for me. Uh-uh. Blown was my mind. Rocked were my foundations. Shaken was my core. Topsy-turvy was my world. Over tit was my arse. And then it hit me again.
Really hard.
Really, really hard.

I blame it on Effie. Effing Effie and her fucking iffy frock. A brown flower-print number, the kind usually modelled by ladies of a certain age. Ladies who have long ceased to turn heads. Ladies who are fading away inexorably. Ladies who are almost invisible already. Ladies who, even as we speak, are being cut out of the equation with tiny toenail scissors. Slowly. Surely. Snip, snip — snip. But draped around Effie’s nubility it became impossibly erotic, as if the breath of life had suddenly been pumped into a long deflated blow-up doll. As if all the old biddies in their flower-print dresses were in bloom again, having magically recovered their pertness of yore. As if our very planet were a tight pair of bouncy buttocks and the whole wide universe had a massive hard-on.
Really hard.
Rock on.

Blowing mellow bellows from below, a bracing breeze sported with the hem. Effie even had to hold it down on occasion, which lent her an air of charming vulnerability. Despite this precaution, and after a great deal of hemming and hawing, the flimsy material finally resolved to flare up, possibly in answer to the prayers of all those who had slowed down to admire the young lady’s graceful sway. Time almost came to a standstill as the dress made its giddy ascent in the manner of a Big Dipper inching up the steepest of Battersea slopes. I half expected to see tumbleweed blow by. Then suddenly — amid a cacophony of catcalls, wolf whistles and screeching tyres — the world went into overdrive frock’n’roll-style. Effie gasped in surprise, looking back instinctively to see how many oglers would be going home with a spring in their proverbial and diaphanous black lace on their minds. As she did so, I couldn’t help but notice the imaginary ejaculates from a hundred passers-by glistening in her hair like so many constellations of icicles. It was hard not to really.
Really hard.
Really, really hard.

The heat was well and truly on. You could almost feel the sap rising as Effie walked by. Men for miles around seemed to be picking up illicit frequencies, pricking up their ears at the mere sound of her killer heels in the distance. I tried to throw them off the scent by accelerating or crossing the road at regular intervals, but to no avail. I knew I would bump into him eventually, or rather he would bump into me. He was out there somewhere — everywhere — whoever he may be. It was just a matter of time now, and now was the time. He loomed up, he loomed large, hurtling towards me with all the inevitability of tragedy. There was no way I could avoid him. In fact, he veered slightly to the right to ensure that we were on a collision course. It was fight or flight. It was lose face and face loss. It was too fucking late.

Effie didn’t notice anything at first. She pursued her monologue looking straight ahead as he rammed into me, only pulling up when I remonstrated with my assailant. This, of course, was the cue he had been waiting for. I was playing right into his big lumberjack hands, which he balled into mighty fists before felling me like a sapling. Effie screamed while I attempted to regain verticality by means of the wall. Paying no heed to the abuse that was being hurled his way, he slowly removed his jacket and folded it rather fastidiously. By the time he had finished rolling up his shirtsleeves, Effie had run out of expletives or patience. I noticed how she rolled her eyes in desperation as I finally staggered to my feet, still puffing and panting, only to hear that I was going to be taught a bloody good lesson in front of my wife. And then he hit me again. Hard. Really hard. Repeatedly. He decked me, then he floored me, then he pulled me up again and decked me some more. At first I was under the cosh, but I soon became conversant with the sentence that was being executed with such surgical precision; I could even distinguish the nuances of each blow. It was like learning a new language.

Taking on the demeanour of an impartial spectator at a boxing match, Effie stepped back to embrace the whole scene. She was more open-minded now, wanted to hear him out. She was hedging her bets: let the best man win, like. At one point — a couple of cheeky jabs followed by a cracking right cross — she even started seeing his, which he put across so eloquently, so forcefully. After all, he was only being fair. Firm but fair. So fair and so firm. Hard, really hard. With her arms folded across her ample bosom, she looked down upon me, sighing and shaking her head, as if she thought, on reflection, that a good lesson would indeed do me the world of good. She was bowing to the inevitable, submitting to a superior force and was silently urging me to do likewise, to let go. All resistance was futile: I had this coming all along and now it had come, and that was that. It was in the order of things to put things in order. It felt right; it even felt good, so good. Hard, so hard. The wicked gleam in her eye proved that she was now baying for blood. Baying, obeying some primitive urge. Harder, really harder.

After an uppercut and a left hook had left me on my knees again, begging for mercy, he slipped his jacket back on and bitch-slapped me to the ground. Blinking through the streaming blood, I caught a glimpse of my wife’s expensive black panties as she stepped over me to join him. They walked off hand in hand into the sunset.

[This story appeared in Everyday Genius on 28 October 2009. It was commissioned by Lee Rourke (who curated the site throughout October 09). The final version (above) features in New Cross-Fucked Musings on a Manic Reality (Dog Horn Press), an anthology edited by Tom Bradley and published in December 2010.]