Out of the Dark – Steve Rasnic Tem

76FDE365-ACDC-490B-924F-E6B9D0F57DD0.
A STORYBOOK OF HORRORS

Crossroad Press 2018 (Centipede Press 2016)

My previous reviews of Steve Rasnic Tem: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/steve-rasnic-tem/

My previous review of a Centipede Press book, Singularity and Other Stories by Melanie Tem: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/singularity-and-other-stories-melanie-tem/

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

95 thoughts on “Out of the Dark – Steve Rasnic Tem

  1. The little essay – OPENING THE STORYBOOK – by the author at the beginning of this book is a perfect expression of what I have been feeling vicariously from this author since starting the seemingly endless journey into his work. I wish I could quote it all here, but short of that, I shall quote nothing from it.

    BEDTIME STORY

    “Every so-called “scary” story he could think of was one he didn’t want to put into the ears of this precious little girl.”

    A man has a child relatively late in life, following the children he had who have already grown up. A precious, precarious little daughter. She wants a scary story from her Dad and ends up precociously telling him one instead to prove how scary stories can be.
    A Tem gem, of course. One that has now reached me late in my own life, almost too late in my life. A story from perhaps the only Black Static I did not review in the last ten years or so.

  2. OLD MONSTERS

    =================================
    I happened to read and review the next story five days ago in another book as follows…

    *

    VINTAGE DOMESTIC

    “Early in their marriage his wife had told him that there was this history of depression in her family. That’s the way members of the family always talked about it: the sadness, the melancholy, the long slow condition.”

    Remarkability upon remarkability in this book, amassing, accreting, extrapolating here unbearably, as it were, from a family of husband, wife, daughters, son, via dysfunction towards a deadpan cannibalism, as I read it, a behaviour bordering on inter-familial sex acts, just to survive. Even some of the similes are dysfunctional, “like ancient, lesbian mops.” No smiles, though. The delivery keeps coming at you, whatever otherwise it might say.

  3. Another of the few (remarkably few!) stories in this book that I have read before, reviewed only five days ago as follows…

    *

    GRANDFATHER WOLF

    “Grandpa, do you think if the time ever comes for me, I can do what needs to be done?”

    A touching, oblique, deadpan portrait of a little girl with her gradddad, as joined by common skills in pencil drawings and the ability to lop off dangers, to let art itself be the judge between predator and prey. Leaf-trodden nature, too. He saw, she saw, leapt or pelt though windows; be economical with truth, I infer, infur.

  4. THE UNMASKING

    “He made his face as stiff as possible, thinking as he had since high school that if he just made his face into a mask that no one would notice him.”

    You can have phantom limbs, but can you have a long chain of phantom faces one inside the other like Proustian selves? We follow Andrew as a striking study in good intentions veiled or filtered through a monstrous self-image. His rescued damsel in distress, family-abused and pregnant by unknown father, a monster masked by womb, one wonders — and she has been offered by Andrew to stay in his home as a permanent safe house, a woman rescued but perhaps as unsafe as one of his peeled selves…

  5. 3DCAFBE3-9200-4D31-B359-A363435E099FEven a man who is pure in heart
    And says his prayers by night
    May become a wolf when the wolfs bane blooms
    And the autumn moon is bright
    — From ‘The Wolf Man’ (1941)

    SHAGGY DOG STORY

    “getting geezer gobbled.”

    I’m sure gettin good hawlin here! Lon Chaney, Jr again, and a remarkably hairless narrator born into a dysfunctionally hirsute family, or not so dysfunctional as Flannery’s gorilla I guess. Their rituals and biting initiations were beautifully expressed, and I laughed myself silly.

    “It’s like taking a busload of monkeys to a Mahler symphony—they might sit and listen, but they’d much rather be picking their noses.”

    I know the feeling.

  6. Bodies And Heads

    “People led secret lives, secret even from those closest to them.”

    As if heads are their own perceived strobing of synaesthesia or Parkinson’s, a hybrid between zombies for real and the mental virus that caused it, their refrain of “no no no” as if a bodily as well as vocal reaction to the world as we now know it, or as if this refrain is the direct current desperation of the author at facing what is necessarily compelled to be written and still more yet to be written in such gruesome and nightmare-wrenching detail. An author can’t stop writing when the autonomous need takes. Beyond even Wimsatt’s view of intentionality. Bodies IN heads.

  7. HAUNTED

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

    517D8D2E-C1B3-4CB4-AEE6-23E451DAF6F8PHOTOGRAPH

    “He didn’t expect the photographer to understand—he merely took photographs.”

    I spent most of my family life when my children were small, complaining about people who took photographs – for the memories. I told them, memories should stay in the head. What a prig I once was! Those who see my Facebook posts know that I am now an avid photographer. But rarely of people, except an odd selfie. My photographs these days are more like frozen ‘happenings’ of object and place. I am the photographer featured in the above quote. But enough about me! This story is of a man finding a photo of his daughter when small, one he cannot remember taking, although in those days he was the only one using the camera, if he had a camera at all. I got confused but in a haunted way, as if the words became a mysterious happening, a blur as gestalt, with insidious implications.

  8. HOUSEWARMING

    “It was as if someone were holding on for dear life to the knobs within the cupboards, fighting her.”

    Judith moves into her new home, after a lifetime of associative fears with where she lived, and the tingling of things impinging, or structural or psychological resistance within settling. And her two cats, one black, one grey. A haunting story. Tem is well worth reading even at his most mediocre. His mediocre is most other writers’ best.

  9. Shadows On The Grass

    “He had acquired their grief.”

    A man who has no grief of his own, revisits places whereby he can take on the burdens of the tragic accident, even become complicit in it. Measure it, too.
    With perhaps no rhyme or reason to justify it, this tale of desensitised pain is the perfect coda to DAMAGE here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/05/10/trying-to-be-so-quiet-james-everington-2/#comment-15702, read and reviewed only a few minutes ago. I think my pattern of reviews does really begin to have worrying accretive links that cannot be explained, other than by the power of autonomous literature that nobody has tapped into before? It is literature to thank or blame, not me. And the shadows in the grass. Out of the dark. My photo yesterday: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2019/05/12/on-my-ramble-today/

  10. What Slips Away

    “But that’s what I mean. I want to make a name for myself. If I restore this house good enough, maybe somebody will remember me.”

    Not that I am into the legacy of self in property! My father always said that my D.I.Y was not Do it Yourself but Don’t Involve Yourself! Yet, this story with its settlements of time in brick and child and wife and the odd jobs that slough away into nicotine stains, the Mississippi as a giant River Tem, yet the latter is more important to me. A highly effective story of old age, memory, regret, false hopes, misjudged perm amnesias (auto correct) or permanencies now slipped away, and the coming sleepover with an old friend called Death. Bring a bottle.

  11. PASSING THROUGH

    “Tanglings and twistings and wreckings of people. Their voices together making a screech and a scream although individually none of them was screeching or screaming.”

    These stories together, as gestalt, screech and scream, but this story sort of does it on its own. A night shift cleaner with his mop at an airport where many pass through around him intent on their journeys, some already wearing overcoats for different climes from here, all with their backstories and race, including his own, and his own detachment, loneliness, past tragedies, and then a clutch of clothes gradually becomes a whole again: the onward march of humanity’s gestalt, intent to complete journeys after hiatus. Visions to stick. Unmoppable, unmappable, I guess.

  12. I read and reviewed the next story a couple of weeks ago as follows in the context of another collection…

    *

    MIRI

    “We remember people because of a daily changing gestalt—because of their ability to constantly look different than themselves.”

    Another substantive story that I would expect to be in literary journals, then anthologised to be studied in college as well as retaining the equally valuable cachet or éclat of the horror or weird fiction genres of literature. A man now in settled married life, with children and loving wife, but also in the fabricated puppet shows, as he sees them, as conjured by an ailment of inverse-synaesthesia amid a city’s light pollution and a perceived onset of colour blindness tinted, I infer, by amnesia. During those ailment moments he is dogged by a previous flame, the eponymous near-anorexic goth girl who once started a relationship with him by offering to model for the then young man’s painting. Or was she always to be present? It seemed telling when I discovered, relatively early on, that her name was short for MIRIam.

  13. LOVECRAFTIAN DENIZENS

    .
    Guardian Angels

    “When you can’t find the answers you leave empty spaces in the brain,” my father used to say. “And God knows what might try to crawl into those empty spaces and live.”

    A man – with the paternal angst of the Tem-themed books’ Gestalt – whose own father filled the empty spaces with Lovecraftian monsters, and now that he is a father himself he somehow thinks that creating Guardian Angels for his son Will would fill the spaces better. A frightening outcome, one for its own sake. Horror genre supreme.

  14. OUTSIDE

    “…each and every day there are things, vast and complicated things, which we miss.”

    A man whose wife dies of a form of cancer, described here in the most striking Lovecraftian way, as we reach into his mind as an outsider’s, in interface with his children, with his own eventual older age, his relationship with humanity and the sea. The encroachment of Otherness and Olders, and all this chimes with my own mindset, if not wholly. See my photos and thoughts of where I live near the sea as they chime back at this story. A significant experience of mutual synergy. The story as a discrete entity is a significant experience in itself.

  15. Waiting at the Crossroads Motel

    “He figured he got his body from his father, who he never knew, but he knew his father had been someone remarkable, because his body knew remarkable things.”

    When I was much younger in the 1960s, there was quite a popular long-running but creaky soap opera on UK’s Anglia TV called ‘Crossroads Motel’. The son of the manager originally walked upright but later he turned up in a wheelchair. I can’t remember whether that was in the story line or the actor had become disabled since starting the series. Probably both. But which caused which, I now wonder? Meanwhile, this story, yet another Tem gem, is far from creaky, but decidedly creepy, with the themes of an instinctively righteous father and children in horrific cross-contamination (but in which direction?), physical abuse upon his wife, and the cosmically potential prehensility of blood in those specially chosen, like him, I guess. Some of the guests at the motel, a church outing, or a slowly evolving Lovecraftian coven? A further theme and variations for those who once visited Hotel Deadfall, or vice versa?

    “, depending on the time of day and the position of the sun and the moon. So much depended on those relative positions, and the things that waited beyond, much more than most human beings were destined to know.”

  16. LEGENDS

    .
    Sleeping Ute

    “He didn’t know how old he was—he never could tell with Indians—but his face looked old, like a cracked block of clay.”

    This is Abner in earthy, sometimes drunken, interplay with an old Indian, where badinage easily became battering, more than just friendly battering, when strange instincts surrounding Abner and his mule Gracie came into Abner’s play with the Indian and his once sleeping alter ego legend. This is a story of hawling and holes and a Lafferty of earth’s core angles and misalignments. Instinctively inspiring stuff, I guess.

    “Abner started to say he was going to leave, bring the Ute that jar full right away, when the Ute’s legs shot down the hole dragging his belly, his arms, and even his big shoulders down into the darkness.”

  17. The Three Billy Goats Gruff

    “Johnny wondered sometimes if Father thought about those things—how hungry his sons were, and how large Benjamin was becoming, how strong.”

    Mother as brief experiment. She’s gone now. Her softness vanished. We’re inside the heads of the three sons, their hunger, the view changing between, them, but mainly the younger, not so much the eldest being fated as fatted up…
    The dysfunction literally weeps. We all know it lurks in all our families. Tem teaches what we need to know, so that we can know it, inveigh against it? Keep it in the fridge as part of our food? Hope it’s not a spoiler, but the troll trip-trapping on the dark stairs….(me dadward, or dadfrom, too?)

    “—at least their old dad had had some breakfast that morning—looked like something evolution had taken along too fast, making a bad botch of things. Made confused and stupid by it all. Didn’t understand his own body.”

  18. Adleparmeun

    “He remembered that day long ago when the shadow left his small body, escaping across the glittering plain of snow, not turning its bright eyes back even when he’d screamed.”

    This story struck me as beautifully written, hauntingly snowy with survivorship, Alaskan or Inuit or Indian hinterlands that reminded me of the earlier Ute story and much else concerning this man orphaned in Denver. But I am afraid it went over my head. It was more like music than anything I could grab hold of. Maybe that’s because, from here in the Uk, I did not fully understand it or had not concentrated enough. I sometimes get days like that.

  19. The Masque of Edgar Allan Poe

    “Trapped inside him like that, the heart sound was claustrophobic and desperate.”

    This is a wildly disturbing theme-and-variations on Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, a story dealing with a mask, a socially inept man, and his self complexes, and clumsiness with girls, ironically with a slick sales talk as a different veneer, though, but then attending a Halloween party in the mask of Poe, a gradually face-embedding mask, heart pent up, waiting to burst out as with the inner eruptions in Melanie Tem’s Blood Moon, a theme-and-variations that becomes a Poe one instead of a Kubrick one, and a story that is still going on in my mind. A tell-tale heart, still beating,

    “Somehow he managed to escape, to run into a maze of dead walls, screaming a song grieving the loss of his buried, but familiar life.”

  20. The next story was read and reviewed before when in the Screaming Book of Horror…

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

    Jack and Jill

    “–how his dad had been in his cups when Jack were born, and how his mum died during the event. Some would say she were dead before the event.”

    A marvellous raw, nigh-Homeric dialect of a fiction gem, incorporating the local in Grudge End’s speech rhythms (the Grudge at this township’s End here being an ancient barrow full of ‘treasures’, J&J’s famous hill?) and incorporating Moore’s you/I-type Pronoun Horror – even inCORPOrating this book’s apparent central leitmotif when Jill’s own treasure is rifled from her own barrow. Loved it! (13 Oct 2012 – 9.00 am bst)

  21. OBSESSIONS

    .
    EACH DAY

    “Each day there is horror.”

    Hope that is not a spoiler. Flash fiction as an obsessive incantatory refrain of ‘each day…’, as a man suffers the anxieties and dangers of ordinary life should he leave his house each day, as he does, to survive, earn money, fill in endless forms, but even in sleep one endangers others. In dreams and writings that one sends out each day, as I do, trying each day for my diurnal dose of Tem, and yesterday trying to put a stop to it, by crystallising this review at the point I left it yesterday by means of frozen unchangeable print in a book of my entries, my book of days: http://www.lulu.com/shop/d-f-lewis/gestalt-real-time-reviews-of-steve-rasnic-tem/paperback/product-24113711.html
    My way of keeping the dangers at bay, but each day I find myself incapable of stopping what I do! Obsession, indeed.

  22. GOING NORTH

    “He’d even taken the ties he never wore, abandoned after he’d given up the law to drive heavy equipment.”

    A husband who replaces lawyering with hawling but it is really a blend of hard core and mere abstractions. And his wife, upon whom this story turns, equally expunges self in the hard core of a passage’s frozen rite northward, to somehow BOTH exorcise and exhume their dead daughter, who died of a wintry disease. She follows her own book of days, alongside the dates of earlier historic expeditions into the wild wastes of winter.

    “: Tweedsmuir, Leoville, Hay River, Yellowknife, but always with that nagging side trip to Emphysema. Emphysema, mysterious region of white and cold.”

  23. THE DOLL THIEF

    “At those times he is pleased to discover that a lonely person might still find solace in the company of the inanimate.”

    I wonder if this is the Tem story one fears the most, but if so why exhume and then showcase it in this book? It is a doll itself or, rather, a found-object ‘book’ in garbage with which its story starts. One I skewer with my review, deep into its belly. The projection of the animate from the inanimate, the eponymous protagonist’s guilt at the ‘daughters’ whom I also tantamount to skewered? The book he had with another? Whatever the case, this tale of a man and his dolls, his lovelies, his surrogate projections, is as worrying as any story can be. Yet one senses within it a moral that we all need to learn. To let imagination off the leash, let it emerge ‘out of the dark’, and see where it autonomously goes. Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. Usually both, as one without the other’s comparison cannot possibly exist on its own.

  24. MYSTERIES OF THE COLON

    “…about how Americans, especially, didn’t pay enough attention to their colons, their colons were still pretty much a mystery to them, and as a result the consequences could be quite dire.”

    This American writer certainly knows how to look after his colon as well as his Oxford comma, I guess, viz:-

    “and peered at the cover of one: a crude drawing of a man with a long beard and turban”

    “the other background smells of the world: flowers and children’s sweat,”

    …till a small fart later in the story turns it into an exclamation!

    Seriously (or not!), a Tem story a day keeps the doctor away. Or some might say a Tem story a day makes the doctor stay! Here the Doctor God as the final fate for ageing men like me, who religiously does his regular bowel droppings tests, and fights the stomach acid, or concomitant cancers, and who cares for his colon. But entropy wins in the end, and this substantive story is the extrapolation of entropy to the nth power of nightmare: the clutter of a life become unrecognisable, the use of mops, giant pizzas, and more. Unmissable.

  25. S.D. Watkins, Painter of Portraits

    “But in the face there is every person you used to be, and every person you will become. The lines, the planes, are all there. I draw what I see, but sometimes I think I see too much.”

    A tantalising Socratic dialogue — on big things, giant things, beginning things and end things, Fallen Angels said to mate with women — between the eponymous painter (not Simon Daniel, though, if he lied) and a priest who is sitting for his portrait. The painter whose father, a greater painter, by all accounts, painted what they philosophise about. His son more meticulous, over-preparatory, straitened, multi-lined, methodical, while the father went straight for a few lines towards the mutant wings that wrapped humanity within, I guess. A panoply of symbol for the father-son relationship, that imbues these books, but any son is ever due to become a father, if not of living angels or an immanentising of the Eschaton, certainly of death as something more crudely mundane. Or a father of tantalising fictions like this one, a fiction that perhaps gives birth to far more than any straitened truth can manage? The priest? He understands less than I do. Ironic that priests are often addressed as ‘Father’.

  26. HEAT

    “She found herself wondering how much internal body heat was used to make a smile.”

    A symphony of heat. Heat and flame as a catharsis of body and soul, after a woman loses her husband and son to a fiery plane crash when ironically seeking ski runs and snow. Her obsession puts others in similar straits within her mind, even those who are seeking a mortgage from her in the day job. Being beset by pareidolia, I often see smiles in the configuration of flame. Strange how configuration makes me think of conflagration. And scrapbooks as sparks.

    “She read how fire was like any living thing: it ate, it breathed. Sometimes the fire would leave a room and go into the walls in search of air. Sometimes it was like an animal, hiding wherever it found the right place, then attacking when it was cornered.”

  27. FAR-AWAY LANDS

    .
    The Old Man Beset By Demons

    “—it was a sense of shame that made us human beings.”

    There is a soliloquy at the end of this supreme substantive story that, as an old man, you will never forget. Shakespeare couldn’t have done it better. Seriously. Earlier the unforgettable blue gravity demon that besets all old men, I guess, in hindsight…

    “The broad head of a blue gravity demon appeared as a slowly growing bulge in his belly, popping his shirt buttons and eventually becoming tall enough that it interfered with his view of the screen. The gravity demon’s eyes opened in Josiah’s skin, pale and wide and slightly crushed.”

    Another unforgettable demon haunting, but not haunting so much as THERE, as part of his retirement back to the Bahamas and its wild festivals of masks and bums that raid your bins. His wife Hannah has died. He is beset by all manner of guilt in her respect, helped by demons, demons that again you will never forget. Even Hannah herself, with Shostakovich. Another Tem classic to which I can do little justice here — other than to come in person and tell you to read it.

  28. BURNING SNOW

    “They love this country, it is so beautiful. But I only know they are dead if I knew them when they were alive, and then I heard one day they were dead.”

    This seems to encapsulate the perfect Null Immortalis as represented most of my reading life by Elizabeth Bowen’s ‘Most of all the dead, from mortuaries, from under cataracts of rubble, made their anonymous presence – not as today’s dead but as yesterday’s living – felt through London. Uncounted, they continued to move in shoals through the city day, pervading everything to be seen or heard or felt with their torn-off senses, drawing on this tomorrow they had expected – for death cannot be so sudden as that.’ Here , not London after the blitz, though, but Iceland after terrestrial schism worse even than Brexit. But not worse at all, perhaps, as it is with a positive mythos of such lands as Iceland, as we follow this male protagonist – via a tutorial on poetry like Robert Frost – being subsumed by an Icelandic woman – untouchable as the On Chesil Beach syndrome with a different coupling in this poem ‘Au Pair’ here read earlier today – and her brother and father as volcanic rocks? Burning snow as previous tropes above in this Tem book, too, and a house hawled into the brutalist rock itself. Beautiful, deep, and resonating even now, perhaps forever. Yet another Tem to take to term.

  29. The House by the Bulvarnoye Koltso

    “: the murmurings of those long-dead lips beginning so subtly, as if an aspect of the ambient sound, like the violins in a movement out of Shostakovich,…”

    The perfect coupling with the above Bowen quote about the dead, here with an 80 year old Russian man, blending some Nabokov stories with essential Temness, as he returns to the brutalist architecture of his old home, imagines his mum and dad and their belongings, some being a treasure, sees a woman in the street selling bread loaves as her children without mouths, embraced by the city and its fog, and the concept of Stalin doors, later thinking about possibly meeting old boyhood enemies from the orphanage of his past, now old men together, embraced by city and pastness. Perfect descriptions that will eat away at any old man reading this. How on earth can such stories find themselves again in some future where literature is cherished again? Easy, just explore the bookish past to take them on where you can die with them in your hands, whatever the fog that comes. The ticking radiator, too.

    “at the end of my days I return to my dirty beginnings,”

    “He could not get the stench of the moon’s blood out of his nostrils.”

  30. Noppera-Bō

    “He kept swearing he wouldn’t search his father’s room again, and he kept breaking this promise, because he knew he hadn’t yet found what he needed to find, whatever that might be.”

    I felt I was in Japan, ‘osmosising’ a place, a word I learnt by reviewing another story today. I knew this was Japan. But how did I know? I have never been to Japan. Well, I have read some fiction work by Quentin S. Crisp, and Brian Howell, writers who have at least some of the time been ‘foreigners’ in Japan, and written about how they felt. This Tem story seems to be the apotheosis of Japan for me. I wonder if Tem has been there. He must have done, surely. Here, we follow an American boy, at school, with various tropes of facelessness ad his Dad being inscrutably distant, if not invisible, or partly invisible. The apotheosis of the Dad-Son syndrome of much Tem work. This Tem is the prefect deadpan story, one that really got under my skin. Under my defences. Under my mask.
    Or mistook my house for somebody else’s house?

    “Nothing made any sense. That had at least become obvious in Japan, where he had decided not to learn the language, but let the confusion of words and colorful images and odd-looking behavior wash over him, to let himself drown in it, where nobody would ever find him again.”

  31. Now to ease myself back into Tremendous Tem, “in fits and starts”, until I hopefully hit a regular diurnality again…

    FAMILY

    “Then we made up some Daddy Rules that I was going to have to follow, and every Daddy after me was going to have to follow, if they wanted to stay Daddy. If they wanted to live.”

    Incredibly, as if it was meant to be, part of the while I have been away from this book, I have been reading and reviewing another book, one carrying a perfect mutual synergy with this Temmish list of Daddy Rules. That review is still ongoing here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/06/04/%EF%BF%BCwhat-were-teaching-our-sons-owen-booth/
    Makes me believe that I am not hoodwinked after all by the exponential synchronicities induced by the Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing process. And that they really do exist!
    That Fortean does indeed mean strong, not soft and gullible?

  32. Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS: I’m gettin great hawlin here.

  33. NIGHTMARES

    .
    Pulled Down to Sleep

    “He thought perhaps the hill was a rising irregularity in the night itself, the road a floating ribbon of asphalt.”

    Night driving, tiredness, white lines, landscape shifting with holes as well as hills, the night itself, too. Memories of his wife and two daughters. A shriving guilt, I guess. An auto-hallucinatory journey though the emotions of words, and the spaces between them. (That ‘them’, just typed on my computer, somehow auto-corrected to Tem – honestly.)

  34. SLEEP

    “You know, it might help if you just tried to accept your dreams. That way you wouldn’t be so frightened of them; you might even learn things from them. Important things.”

    A frightening, if also strangely comforting or confirmatory, portrait of sleep and sleep partners, sleep with corridors of dreams, but can those corridors lead, if to hopefully knowable exits, to potentially false re-entries? The dubious Will of Sleep unleashed. Tem has a unique knack to unsettle, even while seeming avuncular with his descriptions of fears we already know about. The plain title as obviant.

  35. After the Night

    “When Aickman found the brightly lit doorway he knew this was why he had come this way.”

    More sleep disruption. Probably one of the strangest stories you will ever read, disarmingly disturbing and disorientating. Only time will tell whether that was in a good way, as far as literature or your own life is concerned. The night hotel, the day people versus night people, a cross between Ishiguro’s Unconsoled and the stories of the main character’s otherwise seemingly arbitrary namesake. So may be a foregone conclusion that it will be good for literature and your own life.

  36. PILLOWS

    ‘Dad says when a person has slept on a mattress for years it “breaks it in.” Even better if it sags in the middle—he calls that “the sweet spot.”’

    This story hits the sweet spot, no mistake. With mattresses used and seasoned, their dead leaking into them, &c. You will never forget this inscrutable child-like narrator, perhaps a child indeed, describing the mattresses and his parents – and then the pillows. Potentially, I guess, the cusp of soft layers where pillowghost becomes poltergeist…

  37. Halloween

    .
    Tricks & Treats:
    One Night on Halloween Street

    This deceptively and darkly quirky quilt of incidents is as if Steve Rasnic Tem himself (complete with our now in-built knowledge of his fiction) is our invisible companion along Halloween Street, whereby we visit, inter alia, death’s own last trick and a mask of me.

  38. The photo below I took only this morning for the review here, before reading the next Tem…

    B113AFCB-07B6-42A2-A96A-F8178FBBE20EThe End Of The Yarn
    A Halloween Fable

    “…the yarn momentarily jeweled with bright rubies as it caught the light, then she sighed as it dropped into the absolute nightness that lay beyond.”

    A story told by a grandfather in one town about a neighbouring town’s disappearance. Wherein a girl finds a ravelled red yarn that is fabulised into finding one’s true love by throwing it over the rafter in the barn and seeing whom the other end of the yarn fetches.

    What happens, happens. One word an imitation of another, one lobbed yarn, too. Ending with a vision worthy of Bosch. Best to shuttle one’s loom for all weathers, the fable’s moral, I guess

  39. On a Path of Marigolds

    “Memories and spirits, ghosts that would not go away, would not be dissipated by the wind.”

    Surely a classic story, if but anyone read it, as they are sure to remember it? One with endless musical dying-falls as well as shocking moments, a path of marigolds to help those returning on this the Day of the Dead. A father’s tussling with the self-guilt of his own spanking punishments upon his small daughter for her playing with knives, a daughter now dead, who returns as a ghost, graspable as a ghost in Olive Harper. And as to the woman who has arrived to live as his housekeeper, there is possibly one of the saddest moments in anything I have ever read, as she lays the paths of marigolds for her own dead daughter, too. But how does her daughter know which path to follow and which house to go to, a house she never knew in life?

  40. PLAYING DEAD

    “It’s okay,” he said. “You can kiss me later.”

    A truly chilling Hallowe’en story, where the father makes up his small daughter far too realistically to look dead, at her insistence. And his own thoughts of the trick and treating children as “miniature adults”. Strange, as an aside , miniature has mature embedded? And the end where playing is slightly more than just acting. Beautifully couched.

  41. WITCH MAGIC

    .
    6A9516DB-C06B-40F4-BAA0-D7B5CADF7DD6A Hundred Wicked Little Witches

    “Women were like that, as his father had told him. All of them witches, as his father had told him.”

    Yet do we ever think fathers are worthy of belief, as Rasnic Tem and Owen Booth perhaps subconsciously reveal?
    Yet, oh my god! What a fantasy classic! It is absolutely perfect, in its frights and truths. I dare not say more, not in this day and age. What an instinctive seeing of what there’s is to be seen, whether we love or hate them with the irony of saints, their curtain-lectures included. (Before reading this Tem work, I happened to be reminded of ‘curtain-lectures’ here this afternoon in my concurrent review of The Big Book of Classic Fantasy in connection with the termagant whom Rip Van Winkle defiantly called his wife, although I am sure he exaggerated!)

    Some witches are disguised in unwitchly, colours, I guess. And there is a style of description in this story where the incantatory refrain of ‘witches of this and that’ is exquisitely couched. So much so, it is good to have these witches in the world to inspire such literature. Seriously.

    “He fell asleep with the witch of smells and woke up with the witch of what’s left.”

  42. BLUE ALICE

    “And when you died, your body stretched out and exposed on a table, it was probably Blue Alice who washed your body, making sure you were clean enough of the world’s dirt and pain to make that final journey.”

    If I said that you will never forget this story, particularly Blue Alice herself, the femme fatale and disguised Maybot, with her harvested tomatoes, I would mean it. But that begs the question – how, with so many Tem stories I’ve said recently that you will never forget, you will not at least forget one or two of them? Yet, I mean it, every time I say it, particularly with this story, as I remember, and can never forget, viewing my own Dad’s dead body in the funeral parlour….

  43. MOTHER HAG

    “But all agreed she was very, very wise.”

    A very big BUT!
    A big BUT to this story, too, as, for me, it became garbled, yet with some classic Tem moments, fairy tale moments, two children as in Hansel and Gretel, with the striking character of the eponymous mother, pockets and bags changing their size when inside them, castles, and family as well as religious tinges of the “one true mother”, the true children, and their relationship with the father…

    “Their father could not remember ever spending any time with his children when they all lived in the castle, so he didn’t really feel like a parent to them at all.”

  44. A Cascade of Lies

    “…the boys were onstage, dressed as girls, midgets, animals, and specters, until Max promoted them to victims: target of the bullet-catching trick, a neck for the Sword of Damocles.”

    Max is their father. If the previous story was a ‘garble’ of facts, this is a ‘cascade’ of lies, as it says, disarming lies, disarming images, intensely disturbing without the reader knowing why, German Expressionist in tone, the tricks of a stage magician’s trade, the onward dynasty of children abandoned as tricks that never existed or part of tricks to make the tricks work, I sense. Heads separated for real, as tricks. But the tricks are lies, because they are not tricks at all, but real. Arguably, this is devastating stuff, not garbled at all but tricked into appearing so. Deadpan, literally.

    “Everyone who gives you advice lives inside a corpse,” his father said. “So what do they know?”

    And this story somehow resonated with my reading and review, just now, before reading this, of the Odoevsky here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/07/05/the-big-book-of-classic-fantasy/#comment-16328

  45. CREATURES

    *
    Benjamin

    “, for the world needed hope to survive. Despair had to be led about on a leash, and released with care. People need not know they were no more important than bugs to the universe.”

    A very strange off-piste story, yet a piste we recognise in Tem – only in Tem. To describe this brief work in more detail would spoil it, merely take you on more public slopes of sorrow, away from the father-son space under one’s bed, a space shaped like a flea-bitten coffin without sides. It’s all in the name.

  46. The next story I reviewed last April, as follows:

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

    Bad Dogs Come Out of The Rain

    “Kelly yawned, a tall yawn, not a wide one.”

    A moving story of Kelly’s granddad and his taking her on a journey home after staying with him, a journey by aeroplane and rental car to his daughter, Kelly’s mother: with all the precariousness of travel, good intentions gone bad in backstory as well as present moment, a child’s far-seeing wisdom, and her mother’s bad dog moments now and then. Moving and utterly frightening. Sorry, but this is yet another Tem classic.

    “He smiled at the way the color went right to edge of the lines then stopped. Kelly liked her margin of error, preferring to leave an empty place rather than cross the lines.”

  47. SPIDERTALK

    “Suddenly Liz couldn’t breathe—she felt attacked by the child’s small limbs, trapped.”

    There’s something forced about the mélange of metaphors here, I feel, a teacher seeing herself in the girl child whom she is protecting in the classroom after the other children have left, an abusive father banned from access, and the crawling sense of atomised anti-natalism combined with arachnophobia, a black Volkswagen…. A Tem story that, for once, did not really work for me. Or am I getting spoilt?

  48. Cattiwampus

    “We didn’t have no calendar—still don’t—but I member when I had my last birthday the light was like this and the trees was like this and I felt just this way, like something new was bout to happen. Not bad, not good, just new.”

    Catty wasn’t a puss. No calendar, and dad weren’t Cal, neither? Yet, here our mum sort of was a were-wendigo. Or a kind of critter from Excavation? That’s how I’ll member this youneek story. (How many youneek stories has this Tem writ?)
    Member, too, tickly, the crash against the wall, and other spinoffs, we heard when mum and dad had a fight.. and when we think what we’re at, too. Or at least one of us is at.

  49. WORMS

    “The presence of the dogs, the smells and the awful proximity of their long slimy tongues, was almost overwhelming.”

    This story is not almost overwhelming, because it is.
    The dogs are just the beginning. The rest is perhaps to be inferred from the title.
    But nothing you infer will give you any idea of what only is made possible by what words can bring to the table. No screen could possibly do what this story does. No music, unless it is the music of words. I sense this is a relatively early story of Tem, early enough to be disarmingly created before the assumed dignities of future stages of a life’s career do set in, and perhaps such dignities would have diluted what has otherwise already been set down here. About a woman who herself is intent on the dignities of her past family and here where they lived, now on her own, beset with neighbours worse than anything in HPL’s Red Hook. Worse than anything that even a future Ralph Robert Moore might dream up. The indignities of disowning one’s own sexual drives even at an older age, as she sees a male neighbour’s nakedness amid whatever else he squalidly touts. Amid the naïve culinary duties of entertaining him. And I haven’t yet even got to thinking about trying to tell you about the worms.
    Yes, this is something else!

  50. THE LIVING AND THE DEAD

    .
    MERRY X

    “Unwrap! Unfold! Be bold!”

    This vignette itself has within it — when unwrapped — when read, that is — what all those necessarily cared for people in the rec room were given as gifts for Christmas by one among them. A gratuitous, heartfelt, if makeshift, gift to disperse the shadows otherwise around them. To act as an uncertain foil to darkness. In the room – or in the book.

  51. THE EX.

    “It looks like you shot and killed an old couch, and now you’re wearing it.”

    From one X to another. The most poignantly heartfelt yet amusing portrait of a man meeting his ex in a restaurant, the ex being his dead wife, audible and visible only to him.
    Yet, as a reader, I picked up its jigsaw pieces and put together each morsel of self and flesh (first time I have noticed the letters constituting those three words chime with each other) as I, if not the restaurant waitress, actually saw them both, heard them both. Characters in the fiction one reads, I guess, each become an ex of sorts? Some more real or more unforgettable than others.

  52. THE DROWNED MAN

    “He leaves the bus at the next stop, stepping off into a web of unfamiliar destinations.”

    A remarkable short short – yet another! – here depicting the defiance of the drowned man, emerging from the sea, boarding a bus, defiant against his family, yet loving them, too.
    Only Tem could write something like this.

  53. ANDREW

    “They have computer programs now, I hear, that will morph a kid’s face to something resembling an older self.”

    In this 1996 published story, a remarkable concept, that — a substantive story where the father teaches himself about his children, the nature of the sickly looking building that is the local hospital (possibly the most darkly haunting description anywhere of any building), a story hinting at why he takes his children there so regularly to A&E, and why Andrew, one of these children, died and now keeps reappearing in the emergency room in which he died, now looking older. This seriously is a story that is so disturbing, you find yourself wanting to put it down, but you can’t. It bears the essence of anxiety, and of paranoia at what is in your head and whether other people can see it in there, or hear it. In hindsight, in due course, this may become THE Tem story. The one you fear most.

    “I sometimes wondered maybe they should be afraid of their own home, just as I felt sometimes they should be afraid of the parents who must, inevitably, fail them, who would let them die without knowing what to do.”

  54. STRANGERS

    .
    THE STRANGERS

    “Fallow women who might pay any amount of money for a child.
    Everywhere she looked, strange men carrying no groceries walked up and down the long aisles of automobiles, searching for stray children.”

    A most anxiety-inducing portrait of a mother agonising over her daughter, a cinematic little girl in red, amid the strangers. Mothers need protecting from strangers, too. Or from dead husbands who have become strangers …
    and little red-coated girls with coded tattoos beyond Belsen and over-conscious breathing…
    I am running out of superlatives for Tem’s work and am increasingly conscious myself of becoming over-anxious about the need somehow to share with you each story’s every significant Temmish moment of angst or fear or spookiness or creative obliquity that I think you need knowing about or perhaps to prove I have read it properly. Mind the gap.

  55. THE REGULARS

    “Try the minestrone soup.”

    A restaurant, once a luncheonette, now a diner, with strangely righteous regulars suspiciously, perhaps anticipatorily, eyeing any unexpected customer off the street as a stranger, a story in the tradition of Aickman, Tem (if not Tim), Wyckoff and Ralph Robert Moore.

  56. SHADOW

    “Your obsessive consciousness of the past and fear of the future has let shadow in, has let death in, and there is little you can do once that tide has turned.”

    To be left a video of your uncle taken years ago and you watch it to get to your own Dad years ago who went missing and you find yourself in the same room with the substantial door built by your Dad, a door bearing lurid pareidolia in its knots and knurls, a door made by your Dad because your uncle could not do do-it-yourself, and the tide of shadows turns as the shaky peeping tom filmic camera as fly on the wall, on each wall and in each hand, becomes your head and you see that homeless diaspora again. Far more to this story than meets the eye or eyes. Another Tem one for which I do not have enough superlatives left. The actual process of following the camera is enough to make you queasy, at least. Or worse.

  57. We All Live on Sycamore Street

    Where has this story been all my life? Thankful that it arrived finally before I die. I refuse to put that last verb in the past tense! Seriously pervading me, this portrait of a neighbourhood, fake news, bananas and all, this portrait of a man, his children, his wife, his neighbours, and himself seen objectively as an eaten presence, is, well, let’s call it what it is – a masterpiece.
    Hope I will be forgiven for over-generously quoting from it below. There are so many more quotes dying to jump from those pages to mine, whatever the fading of the mind in all us baby boomers.

    “But I must find my wife. I wonder if she dragged the kids along, but this seems unlikely. For a moment I can’t remember if they are young enough to require a babysitter. For a moment I can’t visualize their faces.”

    “Even though on Sycamore Street our understanding of each other goes little beyond the superficial, tiny revelations do occasionally adhere like lint on sweaters.”

    “The worst thing you can imagine, the worst fiction you can tell, sometimes really happens.”

    “I have come to believe that all marriages require a fiction, the belief in which keeps men and women together.”

    “We knew that when the ordinary die, they are dead forever.”

    Nothing ordinary here. Yet, equally, everything ordinary here.

  58. AD2C0E34-947A-40FD-94CA-243266470172

    CONGREGATE

    “The scary thing about other people was that you could never know accurately what was inside their heads. You could never know what they might do, especially together.”

    A strangely terrifying Mass call to meet one’s Maker and receive Judgement. A Church of Luminous Particles. No wishy washy baptism but full immersion. Aided and abetted by the most exquisite personal paranoia within the Mass. Or gestalt.

  59. PSYCHOPATHOLOGY

    .
    SELF-POSSESSED

    “But he had learned through his impersonations that everyone was both worse and better than they seemed, just as the many children he pretended to be were both worse and better than the real Tom. If there was a real Tom.”

    Tom grows up and continues his collections of what all kids collected, but now they are selves. Masked selves, selfed masks. Proustian selves taken to the nth degree. Monstrous selves, playful chasing of his daughter, included. Until everything becomes him, or everything becomes a mask with him inside. We are all now Tom’s masks. Read it at your peril.

    “The masks taught Tom that all beings are in some way the same.”

  60. Your Daughter Is Here

    “, and, and. And nothing.”

    Is this really your daughter who has come to visit you in the Nursing Home? You want to believe so, even if you know it isn’t. I often disown my own daughter when she visits me at home. But that is an apparent joke, isn’t it? A joke with an edge, though.
    Chilling work, somehow ironically unironic.

  61. A SMALL ROOM

    “It comes to you that, for such a small room, this is a very large place indeed.”

    A massive piece of prose, too, not necessarily in size, but in what is crammed into it about woman Elvie’s life. I sense very few have entered this room, and this is my first time. A place in a 2005 published work that prefigures the widening world of social media that narrows it, polarises such a future world, a world that has accrued since then. It even shames me with my apparent literary desire for an infinite gestalt!

    “In small rooms lives were made that could be seen in a glance. In small rooms the precise placement of goods and furnishings was possible. “

    “graying envelopes with fine handwritten addresses and their hearts torn out.”

    “People lied about everything. They couldn’t help themselves. It was in their nature. They lied about that nature, itself…”

    “She believed it was important to taste death so that you might recognize the flavor.
    She believed incoherence was the natural anthem of the world.”

    Where do I begin? I cannot encompass this whole huge panoply of Elvie’s small room, her many dead babies. Her shocking thoughts about “foreigners” and what they do to us. The voyeurist middle-aged man who was an expert on the style of her nightdresses when she was 13. So many quotes that I could quote for you, in addition to the ones above, so many quotes that their wordage together would be greater than the whole story! A Tardis of Thanatos and Trauma.

    This book is difficult to review. Has it ever been reviewed story by story? If so, did the reviewer survive to reach the end? If not, I may be the very first. Only a handful of stories left to read, I sense. Or is this book too big for any reviewer, it having expanded (still expanding!) since the author and publisher signed it off? These may not be serious questions (obviously), but, but, there is always a but…

  62. BEDROOM CONVERSATION

    “You did, honey. You didn’t say ‘I think I know.’ You said ‘I know.’”
    “I don’t think so.”

    We just need to look further up this page to check who was right – who was right during this endgame marital dialogue between Mary and Bill, Pinteresque to the nth degree. I can see it happening on a theatrical stage. With stage blood. Until the final stage. And there is something I dare not speculate about what is going on here, as I often participate in such tentative marital dialogues, myself. In a small room. At least in my mind.
    Whose secret was the most secret secret between them?

  63. Cannondale at the Beach

    Another massive short story, if that is not a contradiction in terms. A story that needs anthologising again and again. But here it remains? Perhaps not forever, hopefully.

    “Human relationships changed, marriages failed, but bodies of water should remain constant.”

    The now older man Cannondale returns to the shore where he and his wife holidayed. But while that relationship lasted, he had failed how to see the young people enacted their own sex these days. He worried about the dangers they risked.
    Our older man, tempted by older women or, against his better judgment, by younger woman alike, amid fish that acted like awakening babies, or dying ones, on the shore. I can only TRY to summon up the utter strength of this story by the few quotes from it below. Meanwhile, I do respect this man, his instinctive need to assuage his own desire on his own as well as to share it with others after so many years. (Another book that conveyed the renewal of sexual activity by a fifty-something man I happened to read earlier today: here).

    “Obviously this, whatever it was, was consensual, but he found it impossible to interpret. He had never known a woman of any age to freely consent to such things.”

    “She was quite young, and a bit overweight. Her breasts hung and spread unattractively. But many of the young women from that afternoon had been somewhat unattractive. It was if their nudity had equalized them in the eyes of the men.”

    “And even if he had managed to leave a mark he felt sure it would only have been on her skin, leaving no traces on the layers below. Because the body was mostly water and you could plead with an ocean and you could beat your fists on the ocean and yet at the end of the day the ocean would show no evidence that you had ever been there.”

    But no possible quotes as fragments can do justice to its eventual gestalt.

  64. ELENA

    “We just know we’ll feel part of everything then, and the joy of that moment will be an orgasm that’s unsurpassed.”

    An attempt by this autonomous-seeming book to prevent me finishing it! Yet it has failed – it has given me the need at the tail-end of my life to ‘feel part of everything’, reach its ‘explosive completeness ‘… as I still absorb this story’s extremely strong series of separate sexual encounters by Elena with friends and strangers, of all genders, of all orientations and disorientations. It is serious, often gut-wrenching, and evocative of humankind’s attempt to quell the monster of sex by wreaking as much from it as possible. Not so much self-destructive as a would-be apotheosis of the incontrovertible literary gestalt that already contains so much human sex.

    “A monster they must pass or kill in order to reach that mysterious sense of explosive completeness which must await them inside.”

  65. ALTERED STATES

    .
    A Trip into the Country

    “I had been ill for a very long time. In truth my illness had been of such lengthy duration that I no longer remembered what it had been like not to be ill.”

    I cannot emphasise enough the utter power of some of these journeys towards the tail end of this book, possibly of my own life. It is as if I am enduring this man’s deterioration via the words themselves describing it, a deterioration in his body and mind, his changing PERCEPTION of both those things, and the perception of that perception, and so on, as if I am truly living the death of this book, but also giving it life to last out for others to read beyond when I shall myself be unable to read it or will have already finished it. The gradual loss of the wife, her pendulum coming and going, the pendulum’s pause point getting longer and longer, the similar gradual loss of my car, and where I think I now live or have endlessly lived, the onset of Ligottian Doctorly nightmares during some imminent endgame, the deadpan human-like behaviour of the insects and flies I can now imagine entering my life, my house, whenever I finish this book. Perhaps it is best, therefore, not to end it at all? (Perhaps I should fabricate some sort of continuity with the concurrent Book of Days and/or the forthcoming Centipede?)

  66. BLACK

    “Interrupted dreams tear loose from the dingy ceiling and sink into the corners of the room, turn brown and quiet like spoiled pears.”

    Then all is black, after the colours of our previous life, but black entails different shades or consistencies of black in this often incantatory prose poem, a work beyond even the scope of famous poets who often dabbled in different blacknesses or darknesses, or black alone. But black can never be alone; it always or, at least, eventually, has us to share its black with our black.

  67. SPIRITED

    “One of the regulars sat with his face in his hands. When he looked up he appeared to leave part of his face on his fingers.”

    Ah well, I surrender to this book. No point in fighting it any more. It has been like a job of work at a Ligottian corporation, and it lets me out to go home to my wife when I finish for the day. I hope it will fire me, but it never does. That bus home, that pub you go to, you will have read nothing like it. Or the wife’s welcome, if welcome is what it is. The town itself.. I could go on. That’s the spirit. Never give up, as each story, this one included, seems to surpass the earlier darkest stories, outdoing them in darkness. Even though I am always sure at the end of each day, that the future stories in this book could not possibly get any darker.

  68. YESTERDAY

    “The best thing about his mother was that she made him believe her. The worst thing about his mother was that she made him believe her.”

    How can you know what you think, who you are, and what you will be tomorrow when today is yesterday? Who can you rely on to tell you?
    Here that ‘you’ is called Brian and he gets short shrift upon any reliable answers from his mother.
    This is another of those deeply, achingly poignant Tem stories that keep piling-up in the sump of my mind. Tem has lots of wisdoms moving about on the surface and below the surface of his texts, along with telling darknesses. Moving and waving at you, in inferred relentless rhythms. I call them wise saws.
    Alfred J Prufrock et al.
    This one has the story again of the father whose car crash ended his family… his dwelling on it forever as if it happened yesterday. This time it arrives, for me, at its most shockable apotheosis. And I also found one of my own recurring nightmares (both asleep and waking)… “He tried calling their doctor, but their doctor never answered the phone. Eventually the phone went dead…”
    Always try again tomorrow.

  69. DEPARTURES

    .
    THE GIVEAWAY

    “She could hear her mother crying, her father shouting.
    He sounded real mad.”

    Mad mud, too. with it being thrown by her at another girl, and there is dirt on the windows of the long car that takes away her mother. Are things mad in themselves or is it what you do WITH things that make them seem mad? My question, not necessarily the story’s.
    This is another grim straight-faced story, one about the concept of being ‘given away’ after your bad behaviour towards others or your inability to help others. But given away to whom? Or what?
    The things that take you away.
    Being let down, too.
    Mud sticks.

  70. RED LIGHT

    “He didn’t suppose everything gets worse—he wasn’t a pessimist, for Christ’s sake, but he was pretty sure most things do.”

    We’re all at the stop light now. One that everyone else is going through regardless. Meanwhile, this is a story of those bad car journeys and I, as a car driver, have always feared them. Getting lost in a strange part of the city. And things coming out at you from the side or suddenly appearing in front. Wife in passenger seat. Just been to visit one of my in-laws whom I am also wary of. And well, this story veers off even that scale of my fears. Good to read it, as any future journey I make will surely never be as bad as the one in this journey! Yet it might have rubbed off on me, stained me with its inimical light?

    Incidentally, from this story, we can cull the enduring message below as an emblem for the caring Tem in us all, but a message also paradoxically transcending and enhancing any separate, if concomitant, frissons and fears that we also seek variously to experience naturally or gut intentionally from his literature…
    “Children were lost in the streets everyday and people just weren’t careful enough with their young, inexperienced charges. They didn’t know what it really meant to take responsibility for someone.”

  71. SCREE

    “Answers could be revealed if you proceeded carefully enough, ears and eyes open. But the ability to perceive—it didn’t last forever. The voice of the world would fade, the light dim, and then he’d be all out of answer.”

    I need to finish this book. Today! Before it is too late.
    I feel I am part of this narrator’s accretively crumbling scree. On her visit yesterday, I hugged my own grown-up daughter in a similar clumsy manner. Still, I am still with her mother. That’s one difference from this narrator.
    I have proceeded carefully enough, my lateral ears and eyes alert to this book, before they fall off or out. I am glad I have reached this story in particular. It is the ultimate poignancy of a once stoical man who desperately tried to show positivity to his kids with sceptical or absurdist humour. There are so many staggering wise saws in this story that even outdid earlier wise saws that at the time staggered me and outdid even earlier ones.
    Can it go on? I need that special glue for building meat sculptures, I guess.

  72. The Last Moments Before Bed

    “He examines the six or seven pillows, places them so that they will provide support for him in some areas and softness in others.”

    A counterpoint or counterpane to the previous story, amazingly equally as strong a story about fragility, but this time more papery than scree-like. His wife dying, her own stoicism in death, his own “last dream” that he sinks towards. Remembering the face he put on the body that faced the world and faced his kids. The futility of being a slug-a-bed but the freedom to be so when he chooses. This story is the power of poignancy incarnate. Needless to say, needless to say anything else.

    “One of the last things he ever said to her was, ‘I’ll be okay. I have all that scar tissue holding me together.’”

  73. PASTEL

    “Every year it seemed a new allergy appeared, as if manufactured in shadow factories beneath the tree roots,…”

    And with his pseudo-scientific theory of the NEED TO FADE (in tune with the previous two landmark stories, from scree to paper to what, beyond what has pillowed one?) Reggie reaches towards the legends of the forest that he once told his now more realistic son about as a child, if that makes sense. And this major work makes similar sense or no sense to me, a story of nursing a wife in illness of mind and body, but even illness brings wisest wise saws to the illest of us, I guess. A work about self-guilt, paradox, the state of contentment sometimes being counter-productive, the soon to be melting houses viewed from your marriage house in alternately pastel and bright colours, awaiting the scientists’ end flashpoint of a world’s demise focused, or your own slow motion following of your loved one toward the forest’s edge, amid that fog that worried others but not you, although whether you are allowed to say ‘I’m sorry’ or not is still part of that mist.
    And your not really knowing your neighbours. I genuinely watched yesterday the man living opposite, a new neighbour in the last few weeks, a man looking even older than me, knocking down his front brick wall with a hammer for, so far, a seemingly incomprehensible reason. At one point he bent over, hands on parts of the wall still remaining, for quite a few minutes, staring at the neat gap he had created next to a wider gap for the car that already existed. I admire him greatly, whoever he is. He has not been out there today, as it is raining. So not the end of the story, at least for me. Not normally a curtain twitcher, but I don’t have curtains, just blinds, and he was in my normal line of sight where I always sit. A writer’s sight.

    PASTEL as the colour of the past, and as a story, is a fine climax to what I consider possibly to have been the most important book yet in my life. That’s why I needed to finish it. Out of the dark soon to become into it, I guess, with stoical equanimity and a shrugged-off fear (at least today), weighing up all that Tem has been teaching me. Teaching his sons as well as his fathers, daughters and mothers. A real words’ worth.

    “I’m not even sure your children can ever completely be who they’re going to be until you die.”

    end

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s