Praise and Criticism for M. Rekling's The Bottle
The bottle is perhaps Retyelnen's strangest haunting, and certainly its most speculated upon. In her academic debut, M. Rekling examines its history in detail—its Riverside appearances in the hand of one of the drunken destitutes so common in the area, who would be found dead the following morning; its occasional sightings in the hands of a wealthier man or woman at home, who would collapse at the strike of midnight of apparent heart failure; its even rarer glimpses in the Copper District. Here the depth of her research is apparent. For the student or enthusiast who wishes a full account of the bottle's haunting, this book is the new authority.
Where the book fails, however, is in its explanation of the bottle's origins. Rekling's dedication to her work took her to the streets to gather evidence from those who had seen the bottle's victims in the short time between holding the bottle and passing into the grave. Such evidence, coming often from fellow drunks only a step or two further from crossing the river, is flimsy at best, yet Rekling takes it as fact, and from it draws what she sees as a common link between many of the deaths: the hearing, by those soon to die, of a "quite distinctive" singing. "Like wind passing through pipes, but womanly too" were the words of a more eloquent Riverside denizen, passed on by a friend, and Rekling draws a comparison between this description and the similar words often used in reviews of the opera singer Melanie R. Her conclusion that the bottle belonged to Melanie R., being based on such unreliable evidence, does not quite satisfy.
Nonetheless, an interesting work and one that I recommend to anyone with an interest in the subject—with the caveat that some parts must be taken with a pinch (or fistful) of salt.
—Jonn Suskerel for The Ink-stained Sheets
[An excerpt from The Retyelnen Daily was found amongst the reviews. All of the words were blacked out except for those reprinted here. -Ed.]
. . . Melanie R. . . . body . . . empty drawer . . . neither thief nor body has been found . . .
. . . apprentice in a Riverside bar claimed to have seen a woman fitting Melanie R.'s description walking beside the river, talking to drunks . . .
. . . Her twin brother, an elusive young man who made the newspapers once or twice, but never at the same occasion as his sister, has been incarcerated due to failing mental health. . . .
. . . Rekling's focus on the singing gives this study a fresh feel compared to other texts concerned with the bottle lore . . . And if the conclusion feels a touch mundane, one must remember that it is based on more substantial evidence than the many wild fantasies concocted in bars and beauty salons . . . [The Bottle] is a fascinating and well-written history. Highly recommended.
On the surface, The Bottle is an excellent history of Retyelnen's most unusual haunting, and I don't doubt that many readers will appreciate it for this quality alone. Yet under that weighty skin of academic discovery, there lies the story of a brother who never learned to let go.
M. Rekling—M for Matthew—witnessed his sister, the famous opera singer Melanie R., scent herself with perfume from a previously unopened bottle before a performance. It was on that same evening that, as her distinctive voice climbed the aria's final crescendo, she collapsed and died. A bottle matching the description given by Matthew was never found in her dressing room or apartment.
The academic dedication Matthew possessed in tracking down friends or relatives of everyone who died after being seen holding the bottle is at the same time a brother's unending drive to find out what happened to his sister. His conclusion is a tragic one. He can explain the deaths of all the bottle's victims except the death that he cares about the most.
—Nina Tatu, author of Melanie R.: A Voice Cut Short
The Bottle is a competent history in most respects . . .
However, Rekling's fascination with the singing has caused him (her?) to overlook another key aspect of the bottle's haunting, one unique to the Copper District. Was it from the chemicals flowing like sewage run-off down our brick-paved streets? Or is it a hitherto unknown property of the copper that covers our buildings like a second skin? No one is sure, though theories abound, and conclusive evidence is yet to come to light from the ongoing studies at The Old Chapel. The reason for it is unclear, but the fact of it is common knowledge here: those who saw the bottle's victims in their last breaths, who locked eyes with them and heard the operatic song, were affected in their own way. Grief alone cannot explain the strange calls they made under the moon's light, or the vast gaps, confusions and contradictions in their memories. . . .
—Copper District Review
. . . Hiding behind the anonymous 'M.', the author has composed a thorough history of the infamous 'bottle ghost' . . . The text's biggest weakness is its assumption that the bottle is anything more than an alcohol- and opium-induced fantasy of the gutter. One wonders whether Rekling would surface from his/her unknown library to claim authorship of the book had it not quite so ridiculous a subject. . . . more satisfying as a pleasing fiction than as serious history.
—Ebediah Tirrel [assistant to Minister Rulbunn.-Ed.]
The singing is with me still. Wind through pipes. Voice lifting to touch notes as high as the ceiling of the opera house. And it is in these pages, captured in typewriter-script like semiquavers and halves on the music sheets I only needed to glance at once. In the innocent shapes of 'The' and 'Bottle' I hear it. In 'Conclusion' I hear it stop, cut off like a life in front of a train, only to begin anew a short time later. The ring of my pearls as they struck the stage and shattered around me like snow. I hear that too, and the loud silence of the audience, and the first scream. My scream, I think. I don't know. I have read this book, and I still don't know. Its words are pretty, but they are empty, so empty, like my brown eyes staring wide and dead—not dead, only shock, mirror-reflected—from a face that not long before poured out song. I don't know.
—Matthew Rekling, incarcerated in The Old Chapel
Alex Dally MacFarlane recently graduated from King's College London with a BA in War Studies and History. Now she works just outside London, proof-reading military specifications. Her short fiction has sold to magazines including Electric Velocipede, Shimmer and Sybil's Garage, and her poetry has appeared in The Pedestal Magazine and Goblin Fruit. She recently guest-edited the Five Senses issue of Behind the Wainscot. For more information, visit alankria.livejournal.com.
copyright © 2008, Alex Dally MacFarlane
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