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Shuddering, thrilling, soul-biting - Review of 'Bardskull' by Martin Shaw
I don't know what to do with this. I blew through all on a summer's morn… or over a couple of days. And it electrified me. Stumped me.
Which is probably as it should be. I feel like I've been gifted a wine-soaked breath from an old shaman, giddy and dark and harsh and bright with something real, so real, tearing me from my carefully riveted tent that is my identity and life.
These stories, falling like a constant cascade of arrows and rain and nutfall from holy trees, bring insights and memories, glimpses of the soul of the Shaw.
I now wonder what mine are. Strangely, I'm caught up by the same ghosts, in love with the same yearning, drenched in my own childhood readings of all the same myths. But like a true teacher, Shaw doesn't proselitize from a passive pulpit. He crawls out through the blood and bone of a sacrifical horse in a thunderstorm, bleeding his own libations, and become a flickering icon of the passage of gods through his person.
I wish more teachers could be fired, all those stiff and propriety-minded professors who keep ideas carefully trimmed and their philosophies manicured and manacled, so that students can warm but not burn themselves.
Shaw leaps into the fire, and calls us in. We need more shamans, not teachers. We need wild men who are broken and drunk with reality like this, calling us because they truly see us.
Even though this odyssey of standing still lasts a hundred days, the book never stops moving. It races, like the planet blazing past Shaw as he sits on a tump, opening himself. Time bleeds into itself, and becomes kairos again. Time fades and meaning reasserts itself. We can unhook ourselves from all the fakery and vagaries and vagueries of being 'mature' and responsible, and shiver with him in the dark Christmas morning.
This is a modern day sequel to a Christmas Tale, where a young Scrooge is replaced with a young Jim Hawkins, a young prophet who's ear wakes in the night to a canticle of owls and angels, and the ghosts and gods from out of time.
This has been one of the best things I've ever read, and I don't know where it goes in my mind's museum of happy things. I just need to leave it in the middle of the floor.
Right there, where it falls, and walk around it. Over and over again. It's a key. Something is unlocking.
Bardskull by Martin Shaw https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/80923924-bardskull
And then this haunting song lands, and I cant shake it.