Here With The Shadows by Steve Rasnic Tem


Here With The Shadows by Steve Rasnic Tem
The Swan River Press  (2014) — My previous real-time reviews of this publisher’s books linked from HERE.

My previous real-time reviews of work by Steve Rasnic Tem HERE.

My issue numbered 38/100 within a publisher’s watermark plus an author-signed card in a luxury envelope.


10 thoughts on “Here With The Shadows by Steve Rasnic Tem

  1. Just as an initial thought, this is a scrumptiously handleable hardback book with around 170 pages and a dust jacket. The front cover image, meanwhile, does not seem to me as if it vaguely bears a large head or face when looking at the actual book in my hand but it does seem to do so when viewed in the above photograph!
    I noticed, a year or so ago, a similar effect with a vague unknown face possibly viewable in the reflective glass of a framed picture that accompanied a text about a rain-dripping window! You can see that text and picture here:

  2. Here with the Shadows
    “Window panes rattled as if tapped.”
    A man not much older than me, I guess, in lonely widowerhood’s retrospect of the old family home and now moving along to a new home, memento emotions filtered by two points of view: seeing his grown-up daughter and then by her seeing him, as if one day I may see my own daughter seeing me not only for real but also as a backstory. The tone was sensitive enough to bring tears to my eyes, as I re-imagined — along with this man’s own delicately powerful version of what figures he felt he saw emerging around him — of my own transmuted version of Elizabeth Bowen’s shoals of the dead in a fictionalised Blitzed or Buried London. Grey dead monuments to once ancient hopes.
    “It’s like sometimes you don’t expect to see someone in a place, but then there they are.”

  3. image
    A House by the Ocean
    “The rolling waves revealed dark pockets which appeared to have something in them, creatures or spirits or passage to somewhere else…”
    The description of the sea in this story is, in hindsight, exactly how I have seen the sea (near where I live), bringing home to me, as all great fiction should, feelings that I have never really articulated for myself. Indeed, only now and again, one is privileged to read a new story that readily radiates the potential of becoming a classic and this is one of those stories, without a doubt. A dark radiating, that is, very dark but paradoxically shining with some sort of deep beauty, telling a story where two antagonistically estranged but, we sense, at heart, loving sisters meet up after many years, the older visiting the younger one following the latter’s distressed request, visiting her where she lives at a desolate part of the coastline. The suspenseful nature of the older sister’s journey to this area, the eventual nature she discovers of the house by the ocean, the surprise that the younger sister has a seven year old daughter…well, all this (and more) is done with beautifully effective touches and the climax is both subtle and wildly devastating. And after the story is finished, the implications only slowly dawn on you, while making you feel uplifted by such a perfectly told story yet remaining devastated by those implications. No mean feat.

  4. The Cabinet Child
    She thought at first that somehow he had hurt his face, and then realised what she had taken for a wound was simply a strained and unaccustomed smile.”
    I don’t want to go over the top here, but I am forced to declare that this is another gem of potential classic proportions: a blend of a fable by Brothers Grimm, an Aickman or Sarban dollhouse work and a special permeating Tem touch, about a childless couple, a tale deeply poignant, yet twitching with pragmatic irony. It is as different from the previous two stories as they are from each other, but it echoes the first story’s sort of backstory-reincarnation for which one yearns, the promise of which state of being the future existence of one’s own children seems to provide – as well as echoing, most powerfully, the second story’s end vision of the child in diaphanous dissemination by what had helped give it birth…

  5. The Still, Cold Air
    Snow that “tumbled out of the sky like rapidly disintegrating hospital linen” is a remarkable image, but it is not out of place in this darkly musical word-texture of a story dealing with more family estrangement by depicting a man, previously sleeping rough in his car, who has surprisingly been left his late parents’ badly repaired house in a quickly snow-filling urban cul de sac…
    The eventual weight of snow on the ramshackle roof under which he is at first pleased to shelter effectively gave me a frightening sense of suffocation, but also a feeling that nothing can now be trusted, encased as one always hoped to be even if against a world that is still gaining ground upon you with an interminable subsuming of once safe memory by future anxiety. It is as if you begin to ease a claustrophobic, if otherwise secure, swaddling with entrance points of your own defiant making – but what or whom does that expose you to? A thought-pricklingly static chill.

  6. tem3
    G is for Ghost
    “The architect had engaged Lewis to gut a house…”
    And that is what I often feel like when conducting gestalt real-time reviews upon books. But there is something more… And with this book so far, the Tem works continue to go from strength to strength (this surely cannot last at such a level) and, without yet having positively dissected or negatively demolished the rest of the book’s stories by reading beyond this point, I have a sense that the first five stories of this book, whether intentionally or unintentionally, do form a wonderful gestalt just in themselves. This story, too, tells of childhood homes, swaddling, by narrative removes, revealing things rather than giving protection, a house as a sort of sea- or snow-threatened encasement or dollhouse or vulnerable cabinet of diaphanous disseminations, the cold (as here) trying to enter the house by a gap in its framing, and an estrangement or reunion with a family member, whether ghost or not.
    A poignantly comforting as well as chilling experience.
    “…curious dreamers, curious dramas…” James Joyce (Finnegans Wake)

  7. Breaking the Rules
    “Wind-blown shadows filled the door window as if mocking.”
    I was not inspired by it but I did enjoy this black comedy, featuring a man with some form of paranoiac, superstitious, OCD-like Feng-Shui – as he invites a lady friend from work to dinner in his (cf the rest of this book so far) ‘vulnerable’ house, with his mother, we’re reliably informed, upstairs. Interesting concept, too, about the Pascal’s Wager sort of approach to the rules of the universe.

  8. The Slow Fall of Dust in a Quiet Place
    “So many of us have better relationships with our things than with the people in our lives.”
    Exquisite story that will echo on and on for me. I now realise that the previous story – enjoyable in itself – was, whether intentionally or unintentionally, a necessary linking movement in this book’s symphony so far, pre-shadowing, as it now turns out to do, the almost OCD-like behaviour of this narrator and his love of routine and also pre-shadowing the vulnerable house syndrome that already has threaded the whole book. A vulnerable man, too – believably and sympathetically adumbrated – one who really loves his daughter, but finds it difficult to shake off his own civilised needs of peace and quiet and order to be able to show his love. Further echoes of the father and daughter in the first story, and the daughter in ‘The House by the Ocean’ whose apparent loss I fortuitously compared later with the diaphanous dissemination evoked by ‘The Cabinet Child’. Here, remarkably, nay, miraculously, that very phenomenon is conveyed by the narrator’s OCD fear of dust (compare the snow in an earlier story), a relentlessly settling dust that, explicitly as well as implicitly, makes frightening shapes by such diaphanous dissemination or desiccation.

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