8 thoughts on “Blood Kin – Steve Rasnic Tem

  1. Chapter One

    “And he knew that despite himself, although he was tired of it, and long past resentful, he would take all her words inside and make them his own,…”

    The dark pungencies of this opening chapter are staggering. Michael and the bag of bones that he helps bath in the shape of his Grandmother Sadie, in the maze-like house near the kudzu undergrowth. The undergrowth of his family’s past, too, colours compared to colours with miscegenate, even exotic, detail. The sort of story to expect, of his grandmother’s past, via himself, I guess, all beautifully set up and presaged. Pent up, too. No way I can do justice to such an opening. A gestalt real-time review, if well-handled, can come closer than most reviews, I hope, but never close enough. Nor too close.

  2. Chapter Two

    “The thing about Daddy’s craziness was that he played with it so much you couldn’t feel too sorry for him.”

    Sadie as a twelve year old, resisting her own onset of epochal blood. Harried sexually by her Dad and by others in the community… and Crazy Hattie, laced with guilt. We delve into Sadie’s inbred and miscegenate heritage (in what I, from UK, see as a Depression era in Ohio etc, although I may have got the wrong end of the distaff, a bit Flanneryish, too, pungently so), the heritage of the Gibsons and Melungeons, like Guelphs and Ghibellines? The antipathy between her daddy and granddaddy. Imported kudzu from Ja-pan. Big dumb ugly babies.
    A brilliant writerly sweep like a film camera of the township where she visits, and where later she pilfers a grooming set from Miss Perkins. All completely believable as well as memorable, including ‘Preacher’ Jake!
    Heartfelt and gritty. Transcendent, too.
    By the way, were Jake’s ‘snake-handling meetings’ something like those depicted here (‘Let the Serpent Judge’)?

    “‘Why, child, snakes is already milking the cows. Just ask the preacher.’ He grinned and Sadie thought that was just the awfullest smile she’d ever seen. A smile like that surely’d kill a baby.”

    “She wanted to peel all that stuff away, see what was really inside. Cause if you could see it, really see it, maybe then it couldn’t hurt you. But something told her people didn’t hold that to be a proper way of seeing things.”

    I seem to have the same yearnings when gestalt real-time reviewing!

    “It happened to her all the time. Things just stopped, or slowed down considerable, and suddenly she was seeing things she ordinarily didn’t see. Or want to.”

  3. Chapter 3

    “He told people what they wanted to hear.”

    There is so much of this text wonderfully quotable, I decided to be abstemious, instead.
    This seems an intermediary chapter, between the thus slowed-down episodes of Grandma Sadie’s story to Michael and through him to us. All in palimpsest to his intimate duties with her ablutions, and memories of his own father, Sadie’s son, and memories of his own girl friend Allison’s eclectic plants he was once asked to care for in her absence. I somehow wondered for a moment which part of young Sadie’s story or of old Sadie herself he would facilitate to grow quickest longest and to outlast the rest.

  4. Chapter Four
    (So far read this chapter only up to “…and spit on her way to meet the Grans.”)

    “She wasn’t ready, and she didn’t even know what it was she wasn’t ready for.”

    I think I am really getting into this 1934 stuff of Sadie’s erstwhile twelvedom menses-break, but without yet knowing exactly WHAT I am getting into. Pretty deep, it seems. Powerful, crisp, then amorphous, then crisp again, peering through the gaps via her mouse-biting daddy of the orthogonal planks in her room. There is much miscegenate blood and mulch going on, meanwhile, of ‘nigger’ colour and other considerations of marriage-for-purity, in parallel with the sort of things going on or about to go on in Europe at the same time. And much else. And I am getting my reading nose dirty with it all, if not the brain itself. She’s off soon to the preacher’s religious snake-gig, I am guessing. Having read the Serpent story linked above, it’s a good guess, I guess! I really think this is rare stuff.

  5. Rest of Chapter Four
    Chapter Five

    “They didn’t have no books at home, not even a Bible.”

    “She never heard nobody else talk about these things.”

    The text seems strange in presenting somehow the 12 year old Sadie’s thoughts as double negatives, but it is a layer, or kudzu offshoot of metaphorical or palimpsested time, that feeds into the aged Sadie’s thoughts in telling things to her grandson Michael, or his listening to them, and perhaps they are his double negatives after all.

    “There was nothing he could do for that little girl from the thirties; there seemed to be even less he could do for her now.”

    The Grans, impossibly old, back in 1934 when Sadie is called to visit them, are figures in this organic growth of family history, its own intermixed roots and breeds and bloods, leading inevitably, at that distant moment, I am now sure, to young Sadie and the snakes. The past has its own climaxes and clinching hindsights. The present moment is not unique in having a clinching climax, and I feel I already know about such snakes, even though I have not yet read about them in this book. I may be wrong.

    “A real hard thing, Grandma.”
    “Dreamin makes it better.”
    “Yes, ma’am, dreaming makes it better.”
    “You’re a survivor, Michael. Just like me.”
    “Just like you.”
    “So now you’re ready to handle some snakes?”

  6. Chapter Six

    “She didn’t trust nobody. And if she was going to die, she wanted things right with her granddad first.”

    How can anyone do justice to this substantive subsumptive chapter of Jesus mania, other than urge you, with the threat otherwise of Hell’s punishment, to read it without fail.
    The scene with snake-handling lived up to expectations, needless to say, as Sadie would attest, fearsome ones in her case, surrounded by such well-characterised characters as fellow worshippers of dire belief. Fiction needs no greater belief.

    From Red Barn to Clinch Church to this dire Preacher’s Church as “a state of mind” itself.
    Go for it. Or stay at home in the dark without the preacher’s lantern. Or simply sweat blood.
    Shades of TED Klein, too. (My reviews of The Ceremonies and Dark Gods HERE)

    “…because she’d wanted to outrun her granddaddy’s pain.

  7. Chapter Seven

    “Then she laid a hand on Sadie’s right cheek, gentle like her momma used to when her momma still liked her.”

    Three granny women, and the darker, nearly black one, Granny Grace, the turner or hooker-out of babies in or from the womb, is the instinctive healing aftermath of Sadie’s commitment – yes, commitment – to the Preacher’s church and her state of being and body in the woods over night…
    “…or did a body lose teeth for mid-wifing them too?”
    Pre- or post-wifiing them by kin or kindle?
    Light bulbs, baby coffins, dress inside out (like those babies?), Clinch Mountain song…
    Many images, tropes, objective-correlatives, call them what I might, it seems it is the real-time slow-mo rhythm of the story that counts, notwithstanding such things.

    “The future aint here till it happens. True nuff we’re all headed in that di-recshun, but we go thar one step at a time, and lots ken happen between them steps!”

  8. Chapter Eight

    “What was he supposed to learn from all her stories?”

    And what are we, via naïve Michael?
    Back to him and his mixed feelings of intimate care for his Grandmother Sadie, and what emerges from her stories

    “He held back a shout until it became a sigh, and the snakes gently faded into shadow and folds, metal and wood. Except for the thin S-shape uncoiling from his window, extending its reach and trolling for anchor.”

    Visions of snakes from her story. Plus the more immediate concerns of the kudzu outside her home and the nearby ruined church. One of the most ‘seed and sepulchre’ insidious sinuosity of descriptions you are ever likely to find in any book common or recondite, roots and crowns of it to be excised or hawled out by workmen employed by Michael, just as I am hawling them from this tactile text itself. Text infiltrating you, just like the kudzu itself. Echoing the snake-handling of Sadie’s soon-to-be-resumed stories – and Allison’s plants? I only vaguely remember the latter, if at all! Does this book deracinate your real memories and replace them with its own? Or is that just my age playing me false ?

    “That kudzu is somebody’s evil dream. You think you can cut down something like that?”

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