Keeping It Gweel

Gweel & Other Alterities, Simon Whitechapel (Ideophasis Press, 2011)

This review is a useless waste of time. I can tell you very little about Gweel. It’s a book, if that helps. It’s made of paper. It has pages. Lots of little words on the pages.

What I can’t do is classify Gweel into a genre, not because none of them fit, but because the concept of a genre doesn’t seem to apply to Gweel. It stands alone, without classification. Calling Gweel “experimental” or “avant garde” would be like stamping a barcode on a moon rock.

It may have been written for an audience of one: author Simon Whitechapel. If we make the very reasonable assumption that he owns a copy of his own book, he may have attained 100% market saturation. However, there could be a valuable peripheral market: people who want to read a book that is very different from anything they’ve read before.

It is a collection of short pieces of writing, similar in tone but not in form, exploring “dread, death, and doom.” “Kopfwurmkundalini” and “Beating the Meat” resemble horror stories, and manage to be frightening yet strangely fantastic. The first one is about a man – paralysed in a motorbike accident, able to communicate only by eye-blinks – and his induction into a strange new reality. It contains a rather thrilling story-within-a-story called “MS Found in a Steel Bottle”, about two men journeying to the bottom of the ocean in a bathysphere. “Kopfwurmkundalini”’s final pages are written in a made-up language, but the author has encluded a glossary so that you can finish the story.

Those two/three stories make up about half of Gweel’s length. The remainder mostly consists of shorter work that seems to be more about creating an atmosphere or evoking an emotion. “Night Shift” is about a prison for planets (Venus, we learn, is serving a 10^3.2 year sentence for sex-trafficking), and a theme of prisons and planets runs through a fair few of the other stories here, although usually in a less surreal context. “Acariasis” is a vignette about a convict who sees a dust-mite crawling on his cell wall, and imagines it’s a grain of sand from Mars. The image is vivid and the piece has a powerful effect. “Primessence” is The Shawshank Redemption on peyote (and math). A prisoner believes that because his cell is a prime number, he will soon be snatched from it by some mathematical daemon (the story ends with the prisoner’s fate unknown). “The Whisper” is a ghost story of sorts, short and achingly sad.

No doubt my impression of Gweel differs from the one the author intended. But maybe his intention was that I have that different impression than him. Maybe Gweel reveals different secrets to each reader.

I can’t analyse it much, but Gweel struck me as an experience like Fellini’s Amarcord… lots of little story-threads, none of them terribly meaningful on their own. Experienced together, however, those threads will weave themselves into a tapestry in the hall of your mind, a tapestry that’s entirely unique… and your own.

Original review


Jesús say: I… S….. R… U… B… B… I… S…. H…. B… O… O… K…. | W… H… A…. N… K… C…. H… A… P… L…. E…. I… S…. H… I… J… O…. D… E…. P… U…. T… A…..

Previously pre-posted:

It’s The Gweel Thing…

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “Keeping It Gweel

      • Yeah, getting people to read long pieces of writing is hard, never mind getting them to read long pieces of writing that refer to other long pieces of writing. It’s a shame, really, because some books benefit from and deserve the longer analysis.

        I am now reading a book called The Slaughter King. Based on the lessons learned from this blog, I will write a review that interrogates key issues AND uses well-constructed metaphors.

        “The author’s spigot of vileness plays second fiddle only to his wellspring of licentiousness, proving that in terms of literary transgressivity, Simon Whitechapel is the top shelf on the totem pole.” <– I think this one's a keeper.

      • Ach, a blastoma from the pastoma. I’ve not read it for at least a decade and am happy to carry on not-reading-it. Like John Entwistle and heavy metal, I used to like “transgression” only when I did it. Now I don’t like it when I do it either. It’s so limited and so Guardianista.

        The author’s spigot of vileness plays second fiddle only to his wellspring of licentiousness, proving that in terms of literary transgressivity, Simon Whitechapel is the top shelf on the totem pole.”

        Is good, but I’d suggest “the toxic nadir on the totem pole”. And work “abyss” into it somewhere.

      • Hey, don’t knock the book, it’s pretty fun.

        Fun is ok a few times, but I don’t want to stay 15 for ever. If you haven’t already, try its inspiration: Huysmans’ À Rebours / Against Nature. That is a grown-up book.

        I’d suggest “the toxic nadir on the totem pole”.

        I’m slipping. I should’ve said: “the toxic nadir on the totem pole of meta-ferality”.

  1. Interesting, although my own theory is that plants do sums through the night because it’s boring being a plant.

    It’s incredible that we have concepts that take years of schooling to explicitly understand (a negative parabola), yet evolution has designed primitive creatures that utilize these concepts (a cat controlling its muscles to leap in a negative parabola) without even knowing what they’re doing. It gives me the feeling that our ability to think of abstract is actually inefficient and clumsy, and that a cat’s fine-tuned instincts represent “real” intelligence.

    I searched http://bensheffield.wordpress.com for “in terms of”, didn’t find any, and breathed again.

    • It gives me the feeling that our ability to think of abstract is actually inefficient and clumsy, and that a cat’s fine-tuned instincts represent “real” intelligence.

      This is related to consciousness and what it’s good for. Without, nowt, but this is Nietzsche siding with cats:

      “Critique: All perfect acts are unconscious and no longer subject to will; consciousness is an expression of an imperfect and often morbid state in a person. […] A degree of consciousness makes perfection impossible.” — The Will to Power #218, Book Two, Critique of Highest Values, trans. Walter Kaufman.

      I searched http://bensheffield.wordpress.com for “in terms of”, didn’t find any, and breathed again.

      I can remember using it in university essays, but gradually turned against it. Barry Humphries had spotted it by the 1970s, I think.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s