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Flowers of the Sea
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Monthly Reads > February 2014 Monthly Read

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Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments I'm going to discuss this a story at a time. Please feel free to jump in at any time and please mark spoilers.


Ronald (rpdwyer) | 551 comments 1. I read the introduction by Michael Dirda. Michael Dirda has been a book critic for The Washington Post for years and has long championed speculative fiction.

2. The story "A Child's Problem" is shaping up to be a Gothic tale.


message 3: by Randolph (last edited Feb 02, 2014 12:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments Ronald wrote: "1. I read the introduction by Michael Dirda. Michael Dirda has been a book critic for The Washington Post for years and has long championed speculative fiction.

2. The story "A Child's Proble..."



*******RIDDLED WITH SPOILERS**************************


I finished the first tale. I read this somewhere else before. It is quite a funny story actually and even though he's not really that sympathetic a character we end up cheering for the precocious George when he finally realizes he is on to something. He one-ups the creepy uncle and Hargreaves at every turn and ends up quite fearless.

There are echoes of mythology (or the Wizard of Oz?) here as George is given the seemingly impossible tasks that he completes only to be chastised for his impudence and given yet another seemingly impossible task that slowly spells his uncle's doom.

The chess analogy nicely parallels the real life action.

I forgot to mention the framing story of the painting as well.


Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments Sorry if this offends anyone but I always thought the paramilitary Boy Scouts were kind of creepy.


Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments Hand to Mouth (view spoiler) What else did anyone see in this?


Ronald (rpdwyer) | 551 comments 3. "A Child's Problem" is a well crafted Gothic tale. Also, I like the chess references in the story--which Reggie Oliver got right--for I am a chess aficionado.

SPOILER

4. In some of Reggie Oliver's stories, such as this one, justice is done to the main characters in the story.


message 7: by Randolph (last edited Feb 06, 2014 06:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments Lord of the Fleas had a Charles Dexter Ward vibe for me and anything with Dr. Johnson in it gets my attention. (view spoiler)


Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments Is anybody else reading this? Tell me what the hell Charm was about. Freaky as all, but I can't really put my finger on it.


Ronald (rpdwyer) | 551 comments I haven't gotton that far yet. I read the first three stories, going on the fourth.

I'm enjoying the book. What do others think?


Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments The Posthumous Messiah seems to imbibe of the Kafka/Schulz type of story even after the narrator disparages this sort of writing. The story become so bizarre, the so-called "third act" becomes almost forgotten until the last two paragraphs wittily put it firmly away. It reminded me of Michael Cisco.


message 11: by Neil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neil B (neil77) The Posthumous Messiah was originally printed in Ex Occidente's Bruno Schulz homage, so you are completely right about the vibe there!

Charm was an interesting story, Oliver is very astute at finding darker side and desparation to the party loving socialite.

Have you read the title story Flowers of the Sea yet? For me it might be one of Reggie Olivers most effective stories, and that's saying something. I was blown away by it.

I'd be interested to hear opinions on Süssmayr's Requiem too. For me the more ambiguous and enigmatic stories in this collection worked best.


message 12: by Canavan (last edited Feb 09, 2014 12:53PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Canavan “The Posthumous Messiah”

Randolph wrote:

The Posthumous Messiah seems to imbibe of the Kafka/Schulz type of story even after the narrator disparages this sort of writing. The story become so bizarre, the so-called "third act" becomes almost forgotten until the last two paragraphs wittily put it firmly away. It reminded me of Michael Cisco.

I had a mixed reaction to this story. I should first admit to not being quite up on my Schulz, although I did re-read last year “Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass” (1937). Oliver's story has some of the surreal flavor of that novella, but falls short for reasons I find hard to articulate. (view spoiler)

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Canavan Neil77 wrote (in part):

Have you read the title story Flowers of the Sea yet? For me it might be one of Reggie Olivers most effective stories, and that's saying something. I was blown away by it.

I’m only at the half-way point in the collection. Which is kind of embarrassing to admit, given that I started reading it back in November. On the other hand, that’s how I typically approach story collections — a bit at a time. But I would agree with your assessment — thus far, the title story is the most powerful entry. (view spoiler)

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Canavan "Didman’s Corner"

Oliver, in the endnotes for this story, describes it as having somewhat the flavor of an Aickman tale. I can sorta see that. (view spoiler)

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Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments Canavan wrote: "Neil77 wrote (in part):


Have you read the title story Flowers of the Sea yet? For me it might be one of Reggie Olivers most effective stories, and that's saying something. I was blown away by i..."


It is the most beautiful and affecting story so far. Touching and eerie without a reliance on the supernatural even though it certainly manifests itself, at least allegorically.


Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments Canavan wrote: "“The Posthumous Messiah”

Randolph wrote:


The Posthumous Messiah seems to imbibe of the Kafka/Schulz type of story even after the narrator disparages this sort of writing. The story become so b..."


I think you are spot on; a great idea that fell apart in the execution. Still a bad Oliver story is more interesting than almost any other story. The humorous ending partly saved it for me.


Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments By an odd coincidence Flowers of the Sea has just come back into print as a second edition paperback published by Tartarus Press. The first 250 of this new edition will be signed and numbered but the edition itself will not be limited. Publication date is February 17.

http://www.tartaruspress.com/flowerso...


Jordan West | 17 comments I recently became aware of this as well and must say, it's a lucky break for me, since my small press limited edition budget isn't what it used to be, and a new Oliver collection is always cause for celebration. Now, here's hoping Virtue in Danger gets an affordable reprint. . .


Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments I finished this last night and I must say (Ed Grimley!) I need to chew over it for a few days and reread some of the stories before I put down more comments.

I had read Come Into My Parlour in Dark World before and can say I liked it better this second time. A good old fashioned childhood spook story. When you are a kid all grown-ups and especially elderly relatives are creepy especially when you can find a photograph of them from decades earlier where they seem to be another person, one that the present person in-front of you, seems to have absorbed and deformed.


Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments Almost forgot, well I actually did forget, what does everyone think of Oliver's engravings for each story? He typically does this for his books and in my opinion they lend a real classic feel to a book like this. Tartarus has auctioned some of his original artwork for charity I believe.

If I were a kid, back when I was a kid (oh so long ago), and someone handed me this book and I just thumbed through the stories and frontispiece illustrations, I would be simply enthralled by the classic look and feel of the book.


Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments Jordan wrote: "I recently became aware of this as well and must say, it's a lucky break for me, since my small press limited edition budget isn't what it used to be, and a new Oliver collection is always cause fo..."

Bother Oliver and Chomu Press about Virtue in Danger. Chomu seems to pick up some Ex Occidente op titles for reprinting. I'll ask Ray Russell at Tartarus about a second edition. Really I've found these small press publishers to be very eager to listen to their customers. They may be artists but they do want to stay in business as well. They just don't want to be associated with crap and especially poorly produced crap.


Canavan Randolph wrote (in part):

Almost forgot, well I actually did forget, what does everyone think of Oliver's engravings for each story? He typically does this for his books and in my opinion they lend a real classic feel to a book like this. Tartarus has auctioned some of his original artwork for charity I believe.

I generally find them to be an entertaining and enjoyable accompaniment to the stories. I recall reading somewhere that Oliver prefers to think of them as "illuminations" rather than "illustrations" in the sense that are primarily meant to convey a sense of mood rather than highlight a particular scene from a story.


Canavan Randolph wrote (in part):

Still a bad Oliver story is more interesting than almost any other story.

Yes, it is the rare Oliver story that I cannot award at least a qualified thumbs up.


Canavan Discussion of "Charm".

(view spoiler)

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Canavan Discussion of "Between Four Yews".

I'll forego saying much about this story given that I read it over 3 months ago and the details are kind of fuzzy. It originally appeared in Rosemary Pardoe's anthology, The Ghosts & Scholars Book of Shadows (2012). The included tales were meant to be sequels or prequels to stories previously written by M. R. James; Oliver's story was both a sequel and prequel to "A School Story" (1911). In spite of its intriguing premise, I was a bit disappointed with Pardoe's book. I thought Oliver's story was really was one of the few solid entries.

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Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments Canavan wrote: "Discussion of "Between Four Yews".

I'll forego saying much about this story given that I read it over 3 months ago and the details are kind of fuzzy. It originally appeared in [author:Rosemary Par..."


Themed anthologies in general can be problematic for authors. Think about it, how more confining can one be than to specify that a story has to be a prequel or sequel to another story? How many authors could come up with a four or five star offering? It's bad enough to say: this is a vampire anthology.

Collecting together tales already published that fit a category is somewhat more promising but then you have a dearth of new material.

The Yews story deserves an extra star for being anything interesting at all given the requirements. The fact that it is very good is amazing. After all, how many bad stories have you read "in the Jamesian style?"


Canavan Discussion of "Spooks of Shellborough".

(view spoiler)

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Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments I'll get back to reviewing/discussing these stories specifically in a few days (it's tax time here in the US so Shylock gets his pound of flesh, or I get a few ounces back).

One observation I've made is there are two stories that deal with senile dementia/Alzheimer's Disease. I wonder what Oliver's personal experience has been with this malady. Does he have intimate knowledge or is it just his actor's talent coming through on a current important issue the muse took him to? Anyway, the two stories beautifully blend the supernatural with the very real horror of reality (redundant, eh?). They both stick in my memory better because of this synthesis. I think they horrify more profoundly because they touch on our reality. (view spoiler) Waving to the Boats

This story also has a superb illustration.


Canavan Randolph wrote (in part):

One observation I've made is there are two stories that deal with senile dementia/Alzheimer's Disease. I wonder what Oliver's personal experience has been with this malady. Does he have intimate knowledge or is it just his actor's talent coming through on a current important issue the muse took him to?

You may have missed it, Randolph, but in Message 13 I noted an interview in which Oliver talks briefly about the fact that his wife, the artist and actress Joanna Dunham, suffers from dementia.


Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments Canavan wrote: "Randolph wrote (in part):


One observation I've made is there are two stories that deal with senile dementia/Alzheimer's Disease. I wonder what Oliver's personal experience has been with this ma..."


Thanks, I did miss that. Somehow that makes it even creepier. I'm glad I have the rest of you around to backup my faulty memory.


message 31: by Canavan (last edited Feb 18, 2014 11:02AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Canavan Randolph wrote (in part):

Somehow that makes it even creepier.

Creepy, yes, but also poignant. I thinks it speaks to the power of Oliver's writing that we shared a similar reaction — it forced us to ponder the possible extent to which the illness affected the author’s life.


Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments What were your thoughts on SÜSSMAYR’S REQUIEM? (view spoiler) There are obvious parallels between Elliott's and Sussmayr's life but there seems to be some important differences.

Although somewhat enigmatic this seems to be one of Oliver's more straightforward "ghost" stories.


Canavan Discussion of "Süssmayr's Requiem".

(view spoiler)

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message 34: by James (last edited Feb 23, 2014 02:04AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

James (jim-bobs) | 5 comments Loved the first novella (A Child's Problem), but struggled with Lord of the Fleas. I think it would have been much better without the fleas and it almost felt the only reason he'd constructed it that way was so as to get a 'pun-ny' title.
I loved the description of the vampire's inner sanctum in 'Hand To Mouth'. The writing here is totally decadent and really pulled me in, especialy the descriptions of the ivory and glass inlaid cupboard, embellished with carvings of Neptune and Triton. I'm reading Huysman's 'La Bas' concurrently, and the alchemical descriptions resonate in exactly the same way for me, with their bottles of liquid stamped with an inverted green lion and contents 'a swirling mix of black and red'. Some standout stories here that are really worth savouring.


Randolph (us227381) | 39 comments James wrote: "Loved the first novella (A Child's Problem), but struggled with Lord of the Fleas. I think it would have been much better without the fleas and it almost felt the only reason he'd constructed it th..."

Oliver is a great fan of decadent writing. I didn't see this angle until you mentioned it.


Canavan Discussion of "Come into My Parlour".

I first read this last year in the Tartarus Press anthology Dark World . (view spoiler)

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Ronald (rpdwyer) | 551 comments I like both "A Child's Problem" and "Lord of the Fleas."
I found "Lord of the Fleas" a highly entertaining story.


message 38: by Canavan (last edited Feb 25, 2014 02:42PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Canavan Discussion of "Lightning".

(view spoiler)

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Canavan Discussion of "Waving to the Boats".

(view spoiler)

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Ronald (rpdwyer) | 551 comments This is a good book. I plan to put up a 4 star review in a few days.


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