Writers on Lockdown: Ellinor Kall

Ellinor Kall is an explorer of the liminal, embodying the blend between fiction and non-fiction. The popularity of her short story The DreamCube Thread in our recent anthology sparked this conversation on isolation, automatic writing, and occult influences.


Hi Ellinor, welcome to Writers on Lockdown!

Thanks, it’s my pleasure!

So how are things over in Sweden, are you feeling as ‘locked down’ as us?

From what I gather you in the UK seem to have a stricter policy than us. There are restrictions on how many can gather in one place, on visiting the older and vulnerable groups and things like that. Many work from home if possible, but many people are still out and about.

Every spring Swedes go crazy when the sun returns after a long dark winter and people HAVE to gather at the temporary outdoor seatings that pop up outside the pubs – no virus can stop this annual sun-worshipping ritual. Maybe it’s a remnant of some stupid viking mentality: if we die in battle with the virus we’ll get to sit and drink beer in the sun on plastic chairs outside Valhalla.

Haha! Do you find isolation a help or a hindrance to your creative process?

I’m a rather introverted person, and before this I was already working from home at least one day a week. And when not working, well, I’m mostly staying at home, reading, writing, listening to music, watching films and playing games. So this “isolation” is normal for me.

When I’m working on something longer I need time, preferably over several days, to get into the right mindset, get into the world, arrange all the pieces before I continue writing. Any disturbance from the outside world and I have to start over again. My mind is kinda chaotic and wants to go off and do other things all the time. So I have to spend a lot of energy keeping focus until I get into flow. But once that happens it’s hyperfocus to the point I forget to eat.

Continue reading “Writers on Lockdown: Ellinor Kall”

Recent Reading: 5 Reviews in Brief

Book Blogger Review

I haven’t written a review for a little while, because not everything I read gives me enough to say without spoilers. However there are a few books I have read recently that I feel are particularly worthy of mention, so I’ll share them with you here.


Fever Dream – Samantha Schweblin 

This book was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize. It’s a small book, and with less than 200 pages it is readable in one sitting. This also adds to its rather disorientating effect. 

It’s about a woman in hospital, telling the story of how she ended up there to a little boy at her bedside (who may or may not actually be present). The boy is adamant that she is missing a vital detail that could save other lives in the village, if not her own, and tries to guide her towards discovering it. It is a frantic story of motherly love, desperation, and the way we select or reject sound reasoning. 

Fever Dream left me feeling as though I had been given a box of puzzle pieces, that no matter how I tried I could not quite piece together. It stayed with me for a long time, and eventually the point of the book just clicked. One of the reasons I didn’t review this in full is that the pleasure of the book is in figuring out the meaning for yourself.  


Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness – Bruce Rosenblum

I was half expecting this book to be another attempt to shoe-horn quantum physics into someone’s idea of spirituality: there are too many pseudo-scientists out there who either misrepresent quantum theory, or apply it completely out of context. However I have to say I was pleasantly surprised here. 

Quantum Enigma is very readable, yet it successfully explains the roots of quantum theory, its possible applications and the gaps that still exist in our understanding of it. There were some minor annoyances: for example the authors spend far too much time repeating what they are going to show us and how it will blow our minds, but all in all this is the best explanation I have received on the topic, and will no doubt keep referring to it. 


Shark – Will Self

Similar to my feelings on J G Ballard, I have a lot of respect for Will Self, but I can’t say I’ve loved everything he has written. I am still addicted to picking up his books though, because I know they will give me an experience; they will stir something in me, be it joy or disgust.  

Shark is technically the second book in a trilogy, though I don’t believe they need to be read in a particular order. It is a stream of consciousness from multiple points of view, presented as one long paragraph, starting and ending mid-sentence. Although the style is reminiscent of Joyce, this is a whole lot more accessible and flows beautifully. I found it very difficult to put down, not only due to the struggle in finding a natural stopping point, but because I really got into the heads of the characters and their trains of thought. 

Plot-wise, Shark is about a ‘concept house’ identical to that set up by R D Laing in the 60s as an experiment in the treatment of schizophrenia. The doctors are on an accidental acid trip with their patients, which plays with their lucidity and comprehension of their personal situations. One of the patients we get to know is an ex-serviceman, traumatised by the dropping of bombs on Hiroshima and the subsequent shark attacks upon the men of the USS Indianopolis as it sunk. We also see through the eyes of Jeanie/Genie, a drug addict with an overbearing mother; and Kins, a ‘conscientious objector’ during the Second World War. All of these characters have very distinct perspectives, but are cleverly linked. I now can’t wait to read Self’s new book Phone which is the final book in the series.  


The Gift Garden – Kenny Mooney

The Gift Garden is a novelette written by indie author Kenny Mooney. At 80 pages, this is another book that is easily and best read in one sitting. It is a dark and claustrophobic look into one man’s mind: a mind which is apparently unraveling, eating itself away with gloom and distraction. 

The story is set in an apartment, which is the protagonist’s world. We watch him writhe and struggle with abstract elements: the mould in the walls, a tree growing in his garden, and an ethereal female offering fruit. I took the story to be one long metaphor for the protagonist’s mental state, mixed with smatterings of his reality. This is a concept I love, as anyone who reads my fiction will know. 

Although I didn’t quite know what to make of it at first, the fact that The Gift Garden’s mood stuck with me for so long afterwards I believe is the mark of a powerful read.


Astronauts & Other Stories – Ash N Finn

This is a collection of very short stories by fellow WordPress blogger Ash N Finn. There’s a bit of everything here: laughter, sadness, surprise, clever symbolism, and mild horror. Every character is well thought out and has a voice of their own, and every setting is described with skill, so that even in such short segments the reader is fully immersed. 

Although some stayed with me more than others, there isn’t a weak story in this collection. If you enjoy reading in short intense bursts, this book comes highly recommended.  
*****

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The Spell of the Sensuous – David Abram

As we have evolved, the way we understand the world around us has changed. Nature plays a less obvious part in our lives than it once did, and we pay far more attention to technological devices and man made structures. The Spell of the Sensuous aims to explore the reasons for this, and to demonstrate how we might improve our lives by reconnecting with the natural world. It is a book that successfully merges anthropology, philosophy and ecology, and I expect it will hold the intrigue of anyone with an interest in one or more of these disciplines.

A particular curiosity of mine concerns perception, and how it alters the way we experience, so I was delighted to see the book began with that aspect. Abram considers the feeling of connectedness we get when we truly immerse ourselves in our surroundings, becoming conscious of everything our senses are telling us as we do in the practice of mindfulness. He argues that we are in essence inseparable from the things we perceive, and are in a reciprocal dance with the earth, plants and animals. He relies heavily on the ideas of Maurice Merleau-Ponty as support; a philosopher I hadn’t studied before but found intriguing. Early on in the book we are given the most convincing explanation for a belief in animism I have come across.

Continue reading “The Spell of the Sensuous – David Abram”

The Twenty-Four Hour Mind – Rosalind D. Cartwright

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Rosalind Cartwright is a leading sleep researcher, with expertise in behaviour and neuroscience. Her work has led to her becoming known as the ‘queen of dreams’ in her field. In this book she shares some of her theories and findings from laboratory tests and experiments with sleep patients.

Dreaming is a big area of interest for me, and although I largely subscribe to Jungian analysis I am always interested to keep up to date with new research on the subject. It is an area which, according to Cartwright, it is fairly difficult to obtain funding for, due to the application of knowledge about dreams in general being unproven, and being costly in terms of time and resources. The Twenty-Four Hour Mind describes why it is so important, and how furthering our understanding could be beneficial in the treatment of mental illness, behavioural problems, and even in law.

One of the most interesting sections of the book for me was the write up of some work the author did in exploring the link between depression and dreams. Cartwright follows the theory that dreams are part of our information processing function. While we sleep, our unconscious mind takes the new impressions received during the day and tries to match them to similar experiences in our memories. It is in effect filing things away for future use to keep the conscious mind current and clean. But when we become preoccupied with something, for example when a strong emotional impression is left by an event that is new to us, we can’t match it to anything and don’t immediately know what to do with the information. Continue reading “The Twenty-Four Hour Mind – Rosalind D. Cartwright”

Rebels and Devils: The Psychology of Liberation – Christopher Hyatt et al

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Christopher Hyatt was an occultist, a doctor of psychology and founder of the Extreme Individuals Institute. He was also president of New Falcon Publications, which under his watch became well known for publishing envelope-pushing and often controversial personal development material. Rebels and Devils is a collection of essays, poems, interviews and short stories from some of the best mind explorers he knew.

Some of the writers here are well known in the field, such as Aleister Crowley, Robert Anton Wilson, Timothy Leary, and William Burroughs. Others are less well known, but have equally illuminating viewpoints to share. Different styles and backgrounds come together in a thorough analysis of the individual going against the grain of society, how their perception of reality differs from the layman, and more specifically the transformation of mindset that anyone pursuing occult practices needs to undergo.

It is written from a left hand path perspective, in the sense that all of the contributions are centred around each individual being his own god who can take control of his own spiritual development, and around removing the labels of good and evil. ‘What we do and how we feel is a function of believing in fictitious limitations which have no basis except in habits.’ Having read a fair few mediocre writings on the left hand path of late, this is a refreshing and dogma-free approach to the subject – as many claim to be, but few really are when you get beneath the surface. Continue reading “Rebels and Devils: The Psychology of Liberation – Christopher Hyatt et al”

The Elixir and the Stone – Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh

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The Elixir and the Stone is an alternative history of the intellectual world, and more specifically of the Hermetic undercurrent in the development of European culture. Hermeticism is the belief in the unity of all things: the concept that there is a macrocosm (usually described as the universe or a deity) and a microcosm (man) which are interconnected and representative of one another. ‘As above, so below’. Hermetic thought encompasses astrology, alchemy and theurgy and as such is the foundation of most of what we call ‘occult’ today.

The journey begins in Alexandria in the first century AD, describing a bustling cosmopolitan culture in pursuit of knowledge, and proceeds to describe the rise of Christianity and Islam from the perspective of those not conforming to either. We are then given a chronological overview of the way philosophy has shaped society throughout Europe and Mesopotamia ever since, with surprising insights into moments when opposing religions lived alongside one another harmoniously. Famous fictional magicians such as Merlin and Faust are used to link the sections together, showing how their stories emerged from real characters. Continue reading “The Elixir and the Stone – Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh”

Going Sane – Adam Phillips

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The subject of this book excites me. I am interested in the terms ‘sanity’ and ‘insanity’ because they always seem to be very subjective and yet they hold such importance in social status. What does it mean to be sane? Is it simply the absence of a medically defined psychosis, or is it more to do with the willingness to succumb to societal norms and rules without causing major disruption to oneself or others? Perhaps to be sane is to have the ability to think rationally: to use what we have come to understand as the left side of the brain, or at least never use the right side to the exclusion of the left. Which brings me to another aspect that interests me – how does sanity relate to creativity? There are many well known cases of ‘crazy artists’ and even ‘crazy scientists’, and these are often the ones making big breakthroughs due to having unbridled imagination. Can an entirely sane person ‘think outside the box’ enough to become one of the greats in these fields? Continue reading “Going Sane – Adam Phillips”

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