Allen has a new e-book available in PDF format. And, since I rather enjoyed Lucius the Club, I was intirgued and asked the author to tell us more about his latest project:
Mr Fenman’s Farewell to His Readers is in two parts. The principal part of this short book (84 pages in printed form) is a brief memoir, written in 1836 by the long-forgotten English writer Thomas Fenman. This is preceded by my own introduction to the memoir, which sets it in context. And it is a rather mysterious work. Fenman himself assures us that every word of it is true, to the best of his recollection. And yet he himself admits that, if the world is ordered as we think it is, his account cannot be true. Fenman offers us various explanations of this state of affairs: that he is lying about certain details, perhaps; or that the story is complete fiction from start to finish; or that he is becoming senile; and so forth. But for the modern reader that is not, perhaps, the principal puzzle.
The most interesting question raised by Mr Fenman is this: who was the mysterious Madame de Mentou? She was, we know, the mature and sophisticated woman with whom the young Fenman became totally besotted — or says that he did. But, whether she was real or a figment of Fenman’s imagination, who was she? Happily, you can read the book and form your own conclusion. And, insofar as there is any pleasure to be had in it, therein lies the reader’s interest and satisfaction. But, having read the book, and having resolved the mysteries in your own mind, you may wish to turn to an authoritative and erudite critic for a complete explanation.
The page on the Kingsfield Publication Web site dedicated to Allen’s new book clarifies things further:
Who was the mysterious Madame de Mentou? And how did she become such an expert teacher in many different art forms? These are the questions which the writer Thomas Fenman addresses in a brief memoir which was written a few months before his death. Fenman’s puzzling memoir is now published for the first time; Michael Allen provides a scholarly introduction.
Please be aware that a fascinating new interpretation of Mr Fenman’s memoir has recently been published in a review article by Professor R. Gowan Haverges. This review appears in Underneath the Bunker, “Europe’s premier cultural journal.” Professor Haverges offers a fascinating hypothesis which explains many of the more puzzling aspects of Fenman’s work. It is suggested, however, that readers should delay reading Haverges’s elucidation until after they have read the memoir, in order to form their own opinions first.
You can see more from Allen himself at the Grumpy Old Bookman blog.