The Far Side of the Lake – Steve Rasnic Tem
Real-Time Review continued from HERE
[There is much cutlery in Elizabeth Bowen fiction.] As with ‘The Little Dead Girl’, I am unsure how this story fits into the book’s gestalt. There it was a gender issue, here a racial one. The ‘gay’ references in ‘Underground’, on the other hand, seemed readily to fit it. That’s not to say this story isn’t another striking example of Temrest (either a pause in life’s music that is more significant than the music itself or an implement to help reach across literature’s snooker-table towards meaning or the place where we all go during temporality’s endless bereavement process of Self). An oblique meaning that is often stronger than a linear one. It’s just the cutlery here provides a new version of the book’s ‘rear-view mirror’. And the beef in the freezer just another facet of the Ice House’s translucent stone and the visible ‘passing on’ or ‘lost’ creatures to be carved from within it. Or it is the text within the screen conveying interactions of book-matter, body-matter, meat-suits, climbing-trees … stories to entertain you or philosophy to tantalise you. Escapist Eschatology. (15 Feb 12 – another two and half hours)
“…and dozens of variously designed lightning rods covering the rooftop like a city of fairyland towers.”
…or ice palaces? Lightning-rods as a probably unnecessary precaution against Temrest turning to Tempest? This story is tantamount to a twinning with ‘Aquarium’, which at the time of me reading it a few days ago had an Elizabeth-Bowenesque feel with its sense of furniture and room and place, and here in this new story even more so. Also, I should make it clear – before I forget – that the last few stories in this book concern a well-characterised Ghost Hunter / Collector / Archaeologist of sorts called Charlie Goode: who is possibly the soul of this book. Not the author. Nor various independent internal narrators or protagonistic voices. But some future ghost made solid by its own past. His relationship with his grandson takes inter-generationality nearer to the thought that genes often miss a generation (as my grandmother Alice once told me). And, here, Charlie’s conscientiousness of resuming acquaintance with Jane, his first sweetheart (now grown old and who preceded a subsequent sweetheart who happened to become his wife now deceased with all the resonances that this situation entails by dint of this book’s preceding power). Meanwhile, this story mainly concerns the inverse of the de-cluttering of books and knick-knacks seen in ‘The Snow People’, i.e. now become, here, a re-cluttering by a whole past, by a whole family-hinterland: the retrieving of their knick-knacks, sculptures, statues etc as if what is being retrieved is a collection of the souls of so-called objects to be re-made as one soul. This resonates so sublimely with this book’s actual gestalt (as well as with the tentative gestalt I have personally given it concerning ebooks and traditional books) that I don’t think I will force it by taking these patterns too far (as I may have done already). The book works: with or without me. Perhaps the act of book-reviewing itself needs only a light touch to achieve. But I shall never learn. (15 Feb 12 – another 90 minutes later)
[Elizabeth Bowen often wrote fulsomely about Christmas Eve in her many stories and novels – and about Christmas decorations – and the fractured soul beyond. Only rare books get reviewed on my cherished Elizabeth Bowen site. This is one such rare book, the first one that ends its review here.] This story has a the concept of archaeology made easier through snow than through earth, whatever the ‘hawling’-processes used, I infer. Here, Charlie is staying overnight in his childhood home of a family farm (probably driven himself there with some anxiety?), a place now become that ‘ice house’: hit, without warning, by a sudden blanketing snow storm (the Tempest having seemingly dislodged the Temrest after all) – and the snowman is no longer relaxed, I sense. The objects of memory or of family beneath their own shapelessness. The crux of the inter-generationality – amid this book’s meticulous caring actions as rhapsodic enumeration of Christmas decorations – is perhaps made clearer as backdrop to the ‘fairy tale’, as an epiphany that has been reached across the green baize by the foregoing book’s intrinsic Temrest? Krampas, Santa’s wicked little helper, who makes Charlie literally wish that genes had missed one generation, I guess. You will know what I mean should you read this whole book to this end point. An epiphany, true, but also a catharsis, a purging? You will have to see for yourself. Perhaps, the author will need to do so, too. The Intentional Fallacy absolves me, I hope. All I will say is that the “sharp green boughs” had explicit blood oozing from them. And Krampas is an anagram, nay, palindrome of ‘sapmark’. “…it had been passed down the generations,...”. Or had been passed on down them? Or lost by them? Hopefully, here rediscovered at the tail-end of eternity. My endless Autumn. (I shall now hope to place this simply great book on my bookshelf with all the others).
I shall now read the non-fiction parts of this book for the first time but, as is customary with my real-time reviews over the last three years or so, I shall not be back here to review them. But I am sure they will give me further valuable food for thought. (15 Feb 12 – another 2 hours later)