56 thoughts on “The Harvest Child and Other Fantasies – Steve Rasnic Tem

  1. THE HARVEST CHILD

    “; I can still remember the lopsided corners and the way the boards met off-angle in places, as if the wind had thrown them there and by some natural process they’d just grown together.”

    And later the wind (fake tornado or not) took the eponymous harvest girl away. I remember I wrote a poem in the 1960s called ‘A Dust Bowl Romance’, a now long lost poem, come home to roost at last, not that it was really anything like this captivating story of a legend in those early to mid-century dust bowl days in Kansas. Of the arrival by the eponymous girl, and of two brothers, one (the narrator who again yearns for the fruits of such a legend in his later life working in Somalia) to whom she became a friend or sister, and the other brother, Jack, to whom she became a potential sweetheart, amid the generational suspicions, fears and, yes, hopes of the prevailing kinship between those Kansas people, a kinship deepened by a family nucleus such as the one surrounding these two brothers. The advent — almost religious, certainly magical — of the eponymous girl betokened, it was said, things getting worse before they got better. That is a telling emblem for most of our lives, I somehow paradoxically manage to hope as well as fear. The story helps.
    And, oh yes, the family’s father named the eponymous girl after his own sister who had died of croup. Yes, croup, not crop.

  2. THE ARTIST AND HIS MOTHER

    “He was constantly changing the formulae of his paints in an attempt to come up with the mixtures which would develop or deteriorate at a rate reminiscent of his models.”

    A story about change that IS change. Like the painter with his paints, this author has geared his words — about the painter himself, his paints and parents, and much more that it would spoil you to divulge — geared them to the utterly beauteous ever-changing of the story itself. Nowhere else will you find such a Zeno’s Paradox of a Literary Alchemy. You won’t know for sure till you read its ‘found ingredients’….

    “You never know someone until you drink tea with them!”

  3. ANCIENT GRASS

    “If Annie had written a story about herself, that’s the way she would have begun it.”

    One of the most moving accounts of life and death I think I might ever have read – through the eyes, for me, of another sort of harvest child as she watches old people somehow harvest their own lives, like putting their things back into the ground, folding up their cherished belongings, as well as actually replanting themselves…

  4. THE BROLLACHAN

    “Ye stay away from strangers—ye never know if they be hiding a brollachan inside!”

    Like its title, a strangely ‘broken’ story, without gaps between the breaks in the version I have just read, to warn the reader of a change in viewpoint or in timeline. A story of a mother and her daughter, and that mother’s own mother, and the legends of what was told by one of them about the outside inimical forces that came into you, or that went out of you. The story sort of sits within me now, or is that just my imagination? Or the story’s?

  5. THE CARL PARADOX

    The timeline machinations of someone meeting older versions of himself, and their capability for changing things determining the ability to do this at all without breaking any Whovian rules. A telling glance at life, with marriage likened to a hardening washcloth and existence itself just a choice of condiments for food. My personal concern about all this is the possibility of losing the television set, while still in possession of its remote control… and one may need to go back a longer period than erstwhile, to discover whether this story ever deserved to became a seminal work about Time Philosophy, and thus multi-anthologised and taught in schools. Five years is not long enough. Transcending the harvest child in all of us.

  6. EDDIE THE GREAT

    “And certainly the famous were possessed of a kind of divinity. Eddie did not pretend to understand the machinery of that divinity, but he had faith it could be learned, and that anything, including chance, could be manipulated toward that end.”

    Following that Carl Paradox, this is an appropriate hilarious satire. Or is it? Hilarious, yes, appropriate, yes, but a satire? A man who wants to be famous even with the name Eddie. Abandoning his family of wife and kids, and gradually ignoring his day job, for the blue-sky thinking of making a mark on the world that, paradoxically, in his mind, is for the sake of that very family as well as himself. I, too, was in insurance, before going through exactly this process. But who had ever heard of an icon with the name Des!

    “The world had had its Napoleon, its Einstein, and its Madonna. He intended to deliver its Eddie.”

    And then one day, nearly two decades ago, I published a blank story. Which led to this my plan of a plan, a requirement rather than a goal, a drive for personal gestalt…

    And, oh, Eddie, how do I achieve your muscles?

    “…peeking at the individual files randomly, and then with furious thoroughness, as file after file appeared to be blank, or full of gibberish, or consisted of apparently random words and images copied from various internet sites,…”

    Yesterday…

  7. ROBIN IN THE MISTS

    Be still was the message he sent, not to the hart but to his own blood,…”

    Robin Hood faces the moral ambiguity of his life in the shape of this elusive halfhart he hunts, as the forest and his ‘merry’ men suffer one of the worst winters in memory, his Greenwood become Blackwood, as he faces this deer Centaur? Pan’s Garden now The Wood of the Dead? Eventually the Listener to Silence?

  8. CORNWOMAN

    “‘He sometimes has the Crows help him,’ Cornwoman said. ‘There are so many of the tribe of Human Beings in the world now, he cannot manage the deaths of all.’”

    Maybe it is significant that, when you take Crow out of Cornwoman, you get NO MAN. This seems to be a massively envisioned anthropomorphic legend of a battle between primal forces for a (corn)harvest child, most of which went over my head, including the Raven.

  9. DUNE SHACK

    “The sand traced the shape of the wind. And the wind was full with memory.”

    Probably the most remarkable story (or two stories as diptych) I have ever read written by Tem, perhaps, in the passion of this reading moment, the most remarkable of any story written by anybody. A descriptive mind-mounding threnody on death, accretively transparent death, flayed and flensed death, as experienced by a woman working in a care home. Mass hysteria and body disposement. And a story, too, of a buffalo herder whose flaying and flensing of their carcasses actually make mountains across the plains, in telling contrast to those gradual transparencies. A man who is constituted of guilt, yet living off such guilt. Some massive images, some lasting thoughts. As we ourselves, I infer, eventually see through our own bodies to what mounds we are really resting on. The limited space for endless death… A vision as created by a cross between Bosch and Tem, a counterpoint of the primal amorphous horror of death to our meticulous personal contract with death.

    “In God’s mad winds, a man can lose his life as the sands of memory accumulate like bone to bury him in his own shadow.”

    “Earth ain’t got no more room in its bowels for all the dead!”

  10. EMBRACE OF CLAY, EMBRACE OF STRAW

    “; she wasn’t aware of all the possible connections.”

    A rather run of the mill story about voodoo revenge between lovers, and shops that sell Wiccan and other occult things, and white versus black magic. But it did reveal, then explain and thus help bolster my talent at Gestalt Real-Time Book Reviews!

    “It worked on the theory that there was a secret sympathy between things that resemble each other, or have been in contact. What happened to one affected the other.”

  11. GARBAGE

    “Sometimes when he was cleaning his ears, digging at the deep places, he’d hear a pop and he was sure he’d broken through—he could feel stray bits of song and old conversation slipping out, along with a few names, always a few names in the leakage.”

    This is undoubtedly the most brilliant example of a description of dementia, this one a tragicomic portrait of an ageing married couple, from the POV of the husband, as it accumulates in forgetfulness and the good intentions gone crazy as engendered by the patchy longevity of a relationship, accumulating towards ludicrous levels of garbage in and out of the mind. I of all people simply know that this description is brilliant, because my wife and I have already started on this path (speak for yourself, she says!)
    Meanwhile, my own POV points to my review above of the previous story, and, yes, maybe this one, too — and, indeed, the growing Gestalt of all my reviewing over the last ten years or so — seeming to form an intrinsic part of such a process. No irony felt. My lifelong interest in the Intentional Fallacy, notwithstanding. Or any harvest child still surviving within me.

  12. Pingback: DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS

  13. HIDEOUT

    “He suddenly realized how much power Bobby possessed. He had complete control over his small world. A control which would limit his life, McMahon knew how that would be, but which also allowed him to create fantasy solutions, tragi-comic companions when things got rough.”

    A story of a boy’s undergrowth of psyche created as a den with vegetative tunnels. Explored by his later self – as well as, arguably, a harvest child’s psychic lair explored by his later self as a social worker or psychiatrist, who has had to enter the undergrowth for real and sees the child’s hangups as real animal cartoons, or crippled abstractions in the shape of living things. The garb of age as a crippled perspective. See this other review – just done previous to this one – of ‘Come, Holy Ghost’ : https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/02/15/the-portswick-imp-michael-w-thomas/#comment-14888

  14. DAYTIMER

    A few short notes of a single Joycean day’s timed activities in an otherwise empty appointments book, as a father records his return to the park, after twenty years, where a hanging rock picnic once took place, his wife and daughter vanished. Or did he vanish? Or were they taken by dogs? Or was he taken by heart attack? Or prison absence? Or something I have not thought of. The park benches with the names of the dead, where they once sat? Shadows themselves do change, as well as everything is changed that they are cast upon? This book’s earlier garb of age again? My own notes here might soon threaten to exceed those he kept that day.

    “Many times I hear the dogs barking. Large packs of them sweep down from the north, taking what food they can from garbage cans.”

  15. Shadows themselves do change, as well as everything is changed that they are cast upon?

    THE ORCHARD

    “; the bureaucratic difficulties with Earth slowed the influx of new colonists to a trickle this past year, and soon new colonists will be impossible anyway.
    There …. there! Along Wilson’s Wall, a small creature climbing down …what is it?”

    Not just a squirrel, I say, as I am dragged into this utterly captivating story about gradually onward-tiered human colonisations in asteroided space following ‘pollution’ on Earth, the child in me trying to harvest something beyond the angst, unhealthy pareidolia and solipsism that tending Earth-“orphaned” and “decorative” plantings In the orchard and environs have caused in me, assuming I can try to be objective, beyond the solipsism. A bit like Gestalt real-time Reviewing!

    “Everything changes here;”

    “; I can see shadows that weren’t there moments before.”

  16. THE DOORS OF HYPERTEXT

    “Other people were doors he could not open.”

    I hope I will be forgiven for quoting now an extended definition from this work of its version of hypertext: “a knowledge system, text interconnected by a network of nodes, links, and cross-references. Certain words became “doors”: open them up and they’d tell you their secrets. You’d find definitions and explanations, but more significantly, more “doors.” Sometimes you’d open door after door and it would be as if you were in this endless dream house of ideas, a big old ramshackle palace of a place with ancient and modern sections blending surrealistically together because of all the remodeling that had been done, so that you were completely lost, you couldn’t get out, and much of the time you didn’t even want to get out.”

    Much of this book ALREADY seems to be forming a raison d’être for the process of Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing that I invented ten years ago as a means to critique the books I love. Extended by this story towards a confirmation of my literary pareidolia or apophenia in a congeries of cross-references, conceits, coincidences as to chance plot event, synchronicity, serendipity, word-structure, phonetics and semantics. Doors within doors within doors, even if with large amounts of confirmation-bias. Here neatly connected with regard to this work is the story of Cole, one with psychological problems from childhood, a loner with such an aptitude of hypertext given the chance by his successful brother to road-test new software for that brother’s computer business. It is fascinating the hypertext process Cole then creates to delve into his own family connections and how they affected his own hang-ups, including the discovery of the true nature of his brother in this context, but, for me, that story of Cole is almost secondary to the increased illumination that this story has given me with regard to my own development, not Cole’s!

  17. IN ALL THINGS MODERATION

    “Rebecca drew the network into herself with a sudden inhalation of all her senses. Quickly she pinpointed her mind on a vast grid within her imagination, allowing all her attention to focus on that point, allowing herself to be both grid and point.”

    I see this story was first published in 1981. Of Network and Cloud. Using it as black magic to excess, potentially sending Rebecca half-mad or liable for burning as a witch. Upsetting all the other witches, with Rebecca having used up too much of the Network’s spells or hypertext?
    I now feel this in myself as I expand my own big-head network towards the Gestalt reviews, similarly. Creating flowers of literature. The pretentious harvest child within me. Suspected by others in my field with more than just suspicion.

    “I declare we must remove the cloud which protects the sisterhood until such time as Rebecca be discovered.”

  18. JANAEL

    “I would pay such a price,” Janael said solemnly, “if it meant not to dream. If it meant I could know what is real again, that the shadows would not change as I watched them.”
    “You are ill, child. Believe me. And courage does not come easily with such illness. But we are all ill in this world, not just you, and not just the grim sisters.”
    “Everything changes so quickly …”
    “Yes, child. The rules are changing in this world.“

    Despite such flashpoints of wisdom, this story of ‘grim sisters’ went right over my head. I might not have been in the mood for it.

  19. FILMMAKER

    “The whiteness wrinkles, winks.”

    A theme and variations upon the style of evocations as embodied in Virginia Woolf’s ‘The Waves’ (how can I give it a greater compliment?) – extrapolated further as a man films his objects of childhood in their original abandoned home as setting, now clean not dusty, with scintillant, mis-angular and crepitating lens-shifts together with recurring images in view-shift beyond the lens. Extrapolated even further with editorial choices of what to film or not and a possible changing of history with deliberately added extraneous extras, a Proustian recollection morphed and mutated towards violent events…

    “But the closet floor is covered with shredded paper. No—cut paper. Perfect one-inch squares of clean, crisp paper.”

    A strange thing happened, as this story, in the electronic published version I am reading, seemed to segue into an even more extreme extrapolation, one about a Lost Cherokee, until I eventually realised it was the next story trying to force itself into this one in the guise of the fimmaker’s grandfather once telling it to him… At first, it somehow seemed to work in this context! I am afraid LOST CHEROKEE lost its own plot for me. One of those mis-readings that is my fault.

    • Just realised, after the above revelation of a false segue, that DUNE SHACK further above is not a diptych but inadvertently, perhaps, one story followed by another called THE DYING!
      I still think that it was a perfect diptych as gestalt.
      I wonder if I have been misled into other false segues while reading this book?

  20. MARKERS

    “Willy didn’t believe they ever really buried anyone. That was just a lie. The adults kept all the bodies hidden away someplace, probably in a giant building far away, where the kids couldn’t see them or talk to them.”

    A truly remarkable story that I am surprised has not been bruited about more significantly in the canons of the literary and the weird. The story of a naive connection with the existence of death, the creative naivety indeed of a boy called Willy who is in seeming denial about his mother being dead, dead and buried beneath her headstone. He also converses with various headstones and angels and those dead, Willy who is in a state of what I can only call stonily and bonily physical pareidolia / apophenia in a system of eschatological codes. Big-headedily and bodily. A moving, emotional experience of story that you need to search out now that you know it exists, I say.

    “And it’s like you’re all head. With no body at all.”

    “Willy suddenly realized that his mother was hiding inside his own head, somewhere under the hardening bones of his skull.”

    Willy, the ultimate harvest child.

  21. TALL SKIES

    “The old man hadn’t seemed to mind too much. All that fixing, all that changing. Like he expected things to age and crumble and get shored up again until some day it all fell apart on you and became just another Colorado ruin. Just like him.”

    Another story that seemed to become a deceptive segue into more stories, although here I think it was consciously deliberate, without the quirks of electronic printing to overlay the seams. A mythic story of Colorado, I infer, inferred by me as an Englishman, so evidently some of it at least is beyond me. Above my head. About an old Indian man and his stories, someone I hope is like me. The thing that inspired me most here, the retelling of already told stories into a preternatural gestalt. And it also has the trope I noticed in the previous story MARKERS, a headstone as the boy’s head and the stones themselves, creating this work’s essential Colorado. Tall skies in the big-headed people like him?

    “Sometimes animals would turn to stone. Sometimes people. And sometimes the stones themselves would become animals or people.”

    “And the lost child in front of him was no longer a human child, but a stone child who would never say his father’s name again.”

    “The village called him the ugly boy because of his head. No one knew why he had such a head—those who remembered remembered a normal head when the ugly boy was born.”

    “Then one day the storyteller also disappeared into the underground that was everywhere, but his stories continued, telling themselves.”

  22. THE SOUND OF HAWKWINGS DISSOLVING

    “Neither Ellen nor my son was strong enough to manage the transition without help. But I only had energy enough to bring one of them across.”

    This 1981 published story preternaturally synchronises, if not inadvertently segues, with a new story I read earlier today by Nina Shepardson here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/02/15/twice-told-a-collection-of-doubles/#comment-14971 although the stories are quite different. The Tem one is of a ghost of Mark, a shortened version of Marker, with his objective-correlative hawk instead of riverboat, as he returns to regather his own son born to a heroin addicted lover called Ellen, a lover who had thus made the son addicted by default. Some esoteric flourishes of soulflight and paranormality as he the ghost follows Ellen, and renews their relationship across the margins of death. “She still had a piece of me.” Vivaldi violin, Chagall, Dylan, as memory teasers…and memories as colours, too: “Although ghosts don’t really breathe, we do have a sensation as of inhalation/ exhalation. Memories of our past lives make themselves known this way. That is… the closest thing I can think of is colors. Our memories manifest themselves as colors.” And there are incredible rhapsodies of style and imagination in this work, as the rite of passage resolves. Even returning us to that Colorado core as an old man… “I remembered an old man I had watched die a few months before, in Colorado. He had bent over, hacked, coughed blood. No one else around, but me, the specter, the phantom, the ghostly observer.” And much more than I can tell you about here.
    I am sure that at least some of these stories exhumed or harvested by this book will become not only significant ones to the Tem enthusiast, but also highly valued works to the general literary world — in which works, I suggest, Tem himself will now discover dreams and prophecies that even he cannot remember being put there in the first place. And I haven’t even nearly finished the book yet!

  23. RIVERBANKS

    “In fact, as he gazed off to left and right, vast areas of the river were hidden by the riverbank, as if the riverbank extended much farther into the horizons than the water did.
    But that was illusion. All he could count on was the endlessness of the wound of river.”

    INCREDIBLY (for once fully deserving of upper case ejaculation), this möbius section of a story, just this minute read, bears out my feeling for Shepardson’s river in the doppelgänger book of doubles called TWICE-TOLD, a book that I am concurrently reviewing as linked above – and now we have a concomitant river, with Tem reaching across its morphing banks to self – as double? Tem now meT, you might say. River wound, river winding.

  24. TEDDY BEAR WINTER

    “The boy sometimes thought each adult chose to wear the fur of the very animal he or she feared most.”

    A most hypnotic Biblical rhythm to describe the boy’s cold world of harvested fur, a world after “the old disaster”, and to describe the “one dream”….amid the seasonal rhythms of catharsis-through-gestalt and singled-out nights with manufactured bears as token dummies of fur, I infer. For warmth or petting as well as spiritual comforters.

    “Sometimes he talked to the bear, when he had nothing to say to the people. And he would feel his own echo turn into a small growl within his throat.”

    “…when no one thing could be feared more than any other thing, since all were part of every other.”

    Beautiful.

  25. TIME AND THE EXILE

    “Where everybody knew he hadn’t gone to Canada because of some noble principle, or because of fear of what might happen to him.
    He had gone to Canada because of fear of what he might do, because of what he knew he had the power to become.”

    A mad story about a man fleeing USA for Canada, where they often speak French. Like a foreign country. VietNamese men in black pyjamas. And yellow cancers. His own family here rather than there? Is he a draft dodger or the travelling salesmen he says he is? Mistaken identities in this story first published in 1994. Mad, in the sense I feel he is fleeing a premonition of fleeing an even madder president than the future held! It’s between every line.

  26. UMBRELLAS

    “On either side the tall buildings were so black as to be featureless, sheer cliffs to wall in the rising tide of umbrellas. And widows.”

    A short poetic vision of blind widows left behind under black umbrella-blooms as seen through the watching eyes of a conversation between a couple of lovers, where he, too, is about to go off to war. Bloom, Blume. A brollachan, again?
    Another cornwoman, become crowblack? Another woman with no man?

  27. MORNING TALK

    An eventually shocking teaser of a short short, as Michael eavesdrops on his father often complaining about him, his son, to his wife, Michael’s mother. But can’t hear his mother’s replies, nor some of his father’s further comments tailing off into whispers about him, his son. And certain elements of frayed personal dress or body sense as well as endearing nightgowns are mentioned. As the poet almost said, the Harvest Child is Father of the Man…and “will not be Wordsworth’s doppelgänger.” — Thomas de Quincey

  28. Actually I rather missed out on the great section of RE: VISION (the preceding story), of the self-destructing paper the story was printed on. I evidently failed to review it in time.

    WANDERLUST

    “What he had never been, he finally decided after the consideration of a multitude of such lifetimes, was a great father. He had concluded, reluctantly, that great fathers could not, would not outlive their own children. Perhaps once or twice, by accident. But not so consistently, so stubbornly.”

    And my comment above about RE: VISION has some bearing on this genuinely moving masterpiece WANDERLUST, that also obliquely echoes the child is father of the man syndrome in the preceding story to the preceding story. A series of preceding stories, egg within egg, now a quandary between a series of reincarnations or an immortal life of the narrator, as he reviews his own life or lives (it is one life, I guess, but endless): with many intriguing observations on philosophy and religion, reviewing, too, his multitudinous children he had abandoned, and their names he had forgotten, and his own deficiencies, until one of his children (now in mature age) finally finds him…

    “He doubted seriously he would ever turn to fiction again. Having lived so many fictional lives, he found the idea of fiction often banal, and sometimes even painful to contemplate.”

  29. WAR ON THE DOWNSIDE

    “No one but soldiers ever goes to Downside.”

    A story first published in 1982, fully in tune, I feel, with what we have since learnt about the after effects of war on soldiers. Yet, here, something even more, through a series of what I called above “false segues”, seemingly false, to a different space opera story, here powerfully effective. Indeed, yet another story in this book amounting to what I deem arguably to be a long lost classic story of this author, a story presumably now rediscovered. The segues here take us from the mid-trauma and post-trauma nightmares of soldiers, particularly in the protagonist officer feeling responsible for his men, their sinking into this miraculously described concept of the Downside that borders on space opera as well as a Gestalt infection upon the rest of the population (now fully panning out in 2019?). An infection that turns his own mind…

    “we are risking a worldwide mental catastrophe. Perhaps Downside is a part of every human”

  30. (Sorry for any spoilers.)

    WELCOME TO RODEOMART

    “The crowd breathed as one creature, releasing a long ragged sigh.”

    “Approximately half-way along each aisle a red line had been painted on the floor.”

    “He really didn’t know what else he wanted, but knew he would recognize it when he saw it.”

    A hilarious and telling vision of a sale at a store where the milling manic would-be buyers often dress as cowboys with lassoes and lariats, a story that seems to me on the cusp of our modern world when it was published in 2008, red lines later imported where I live for things like Brexit , Gestalt greed, surrogate scavengers or harvesters (now fuly transferred on-line) and a climactic vengeful AI.

  31. THE WORLD THROUGH THE TREE

    “No longer elven-folk as he was no longer elven-folk. But in different ways. He had always been closer to the human side of elven nature than the animal side. Another side of the bridge.”

    A moving account of the morphing of that bridge between him (Ain) and his elven family. Ain – a shorthand blend of ANimal and I? The ‘mal’ notwithstanding.

    My own Yieldingtree pictured here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2018/01/30/the-yieldingtree-today/ that people tell me is indeed a willow.

  32. TEN THINGS I KNOW ABOUT THE WIZARD

    “You can’t destroy a wizard until you first find the hiding place of his soul, actually.”

    Ten numbered things as described by Clarence, a fruit salesman, of the Wizard, Amanda’s acknowledged father, Amanda who is an erstwhile capricious fruit thief, takes him Clarence to meet the Wizard as preliminary to their marriage. The Gestalt of the ten things IS the story, full of things like shape-shifting, some of them nasty shapesters as in a newly translated story I read by Jean Ray yesterday here, and other fantastical features of the Wizard and his home, loose intentions and precarious relationships once seen as truths. Nicely pointless vision. as gratuitous as stealing fruit. Or is it a 1983 shape-shifting prophecy of Trump and Trump’s daughter?

  33. PUNISHMENT

    “She was distracted, thinking about something, and it made me very nervous because I could never figure what she really thought about anything.”

    “Raising children, trying to help them become civilized human beings, was the most frightening thing in the world. It was a horror.”

    At first this strikingly disturbing 1984-published portrait of parents bringing up a daughter made me think the daughter in the story was an earlier form of Theresa May, the way the daughter is described and how many see May today. Yet this story eventually exceeds even my own frissons at May. In 1984, my own daughter was 10 years old, and although she was and is not anything like this story’s daughter, my experience has allowed me to empathise with the father in the story. His view of her once babyhood (“…but do babies listen? I think they do—I really think they do. The baby stares at you, and it makes you so uncomfortable you want to leave the room. But you can’t leave the room.”) and, whether intended by the story or not, I also saw this ‘baby’ as a dying person with whom you are sitting in their last days, wondering if they can see you, hear you….a sense of paranoia and guilt. I can also even empathise with the father’s agonising over how to frame suitable punishments for his daughter, and the eventual deadpan absences that she enacts and hauntings even of his nightly bathroom habits…in those days when there were TV rooms and not personal screens in all our hands. Another long-lost Tem classic story wakes?

  34. WRITING IN THE DARK

    “Finally one evening he began taking the slips of paper out of the box one at a time, entering them into his computer, and creating the necessary missing connections. These connections, he quickly realized, were the most important part of the entire project. Connections were what he had been missing in his life all along. Connections occurred everywhere in the darkness, but seldom were seen beneath the sun.”

    Excuse me for quoting so much from this beautiful treatment about a man writing his autobiography. No further comment, as this needs otherwise to be read as I just read it – figuratively in the dark (even though it happened by chance to be during daylight hours that I read it.)

  35. NIGHT MARKET Co-written with Melanie Tem

    “But dogs and other animals could still show sadness, and give their eyes that desperate shape, and stare at you, even when you moved all around the room trying to escape them, the eyes following, like a final sad dance. Then it was done.
    The dog had gone limp. The owner had cried. The vet had spoken gently.”

    Can you really cry your eyes out? as it is asked in this story. Can you ‘total’ a car as this story describes it? Can you equally total a Cara? Accompanied by a Lie (Eli)?

    “Did dogs have that kind of anxiety? She didn’t think so. It seemed to her they expected death eventually but they didn’t know whether they’d be just sick or if they’d die at some particular moment. For sure they didn’t cry over it.”

    This is not a story essentially about the human view of dying in pets, but, along with the shiny buttons (as tears?) threading the visions throughout the text, such thoughts are objective-correlatives for our own deaths. A most moving story; even more so, perhaps, in the context of its by-line. As Cara is taken by Eli to the Night Market, a series of box trucks (or CARAvans?), each with its own performances inside (one highly concupiscent) or happenings / art installations, objective-correlatives to Cara’s own previous near death experiences. Cara as the ultimate harvest girl? The inside of each box truck, when described, you will never forget, I suggest, and the story’s gestalt will surely total each of its readers. You will never forget this story, full stop.

    “But she also knew the world wasn’t the same in the dark…” – a thought posed in the previous story.

    My review of The Collected Stories of Melanie Tem: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/singularity-and-other-stories-melanie-tem/

  36. THE FINAL APPRENTICE

    “Oh … well, he appears to resemble the former president.”

    A hilarious ‘last Wizard’ story and his final apprentice on the “horns of befuddlement”. As that apprentice talked to the elves called Red Caps with multi-cigarettes, like the British, on the cusp of science (presumably as it was known when this story was published in 1993) subsuming magic, the enlightened (?) Wizard in the vanguard. Full of wordy gems and names and variegated inferred creatures to die for, this is a rollercoaster of a read, until my computer was doused by someone’s dirty mop water and failed to show the rest of this story’s text in the ebook I am using, leaving me on the horns of not only befuddlement but also dilemma.

    “Hard as a Poltersprite.”

    “It was a new world out there. There was no place for a fairy kingdom anymore. They had lost their ecological niche.”

  37. DYING ON THE ELEPHANT ROAD

    “Sometimes a moment’s mistake tells the whole story.”

    The perfect absurd coda to this book, a madcap romp, if not madhat! Hyper-Rhys Hughes type stuff, ingenious, often child-like, rarely childISH, so hyper- here from Tem I would not have previously predicted you could get so hyper-! A tale of Abraham squashed by elephants on the elephant road when distracted by a woman he fancied. He is later repaired by a Wizard (“There are always bits left over when you put something together, have you noticed?”) and then effectively but ludicrously ‘married’ to the erstwhile woman, as a Gestalt cowl in search of a hat. Ah, there is so much more, but don’t go there! Suffice to say I found fond resonance with my own now recently disrepaired elephant here and here and here and many places elsewhere on-line — and some of my wife’s red hats.

    “….but he dared not scratch for fear of de-quilting himself.”

    ===================================

    I hope you can tell I am enormously impressed by this book and the chance it has given me to harvest many Tem classics that have escaped my grinning scythe till now. The Child is the Parent of Humanity.
    I intend, in due course, to investigate reading another collection: EVERYTHING IS FINE NOW.

    201796B2-4379-4115-8835-77862854F686

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