My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/steve-rasnic-tem/
When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/steve-rasnic-tem/
When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
THE WORLD RECALLED
“, breast feeding of the dead”
KITCHEN TABLE CLOCK
COFFEE TABLE AQUARIUM
BATH TUB KNIFE
Published in 2004, this is an amazing portrait of an old man on the brink of death as he sees it – pondering his life over the years, his now dead wife, his mother, his daughter, but mainly his wife and her death, by describing the objects above that somehow now featured in his past life, and you will not believe these objects and how they work and how they have become part of his thought patterns today with perhaps different names, making his whole life one litany of imaginings competing with madness, or whatever. IT WORKS! THEY work! They all come into my mind and I, as an old man myself, believe the world of life I have lived has always been in battle with how I experienced it. And now perhaps for the first time, I understand something I did not understand before. A litany as inventory.
“But reading the papers day by day one could lose sight of the even distribution of fates. Some days a succession of truly terrible events might occur. Enough such days and a person might forget anything good ever happened.”
“[[“What has happened to my daughter?” he asked the plant computer. In answer it grew and grew, quickly doubling its size. “How much does she love me?” was his second question. In reply the plant computer doubled its size again. “She’s mine!” he shouted at the plant. “Where is she?” And the plant uprooted itself, casting itself out through the window, where it joined the endless greenery below, becoming indistinguishable from the mass.]]
No idea why I just chose those two quotes to quote. The whole work of novelette length is a teeming series of such quotable quotes as mental configurations now become unlikely physical objects of use and misuse and disuse: end to end objective-correlatives. Based on what I have managed to unearth of this author’s massive canon of literature in the last few years, it overflows with such wondrous finds, many near lost or forgotten.
THE DISEASE ARTIST
“He did not know when hospitals had become places of such quiet.”
A disturbingly detailed, almost academic, account of Jerome the disease artist and of his lover and business partner Mickey. A portrait of suffering serial diseases as a performance art. The control of body amid concerns for cleanliness and medical supervision. This is a ground-breaking panoply of showmanship that leads ironically to the least spectacular disease of all as the one that finally ends his career. Knowing that fact is not an infectious / contagious spoiler for this laterally thought-out performance of a story or its audience, a story that is uniformly remarkable throughout its length, an enlightening one regarding catharsis and posterity.
A highly tantalising story, I seem to recall, about a street of eight houses whose history or appearance make the street a particularly spooky place for children to visit trick and treating on Halloween. How one such child becomes a denizen, as an old woman, of ostensibly (by its appearance) the LEAST spooky house of all eight defeats me — or if I had known how she did become it, I now no longer recall. I shall have to re-read it, if it is still there to be read.
WHEN WE MOVED ON
“To fill the space, to put our mark down, and then to erase it. That’s what we human beings do. That’s all we know how to do.”
This is the most exquisitely poignant down-sizing, not in bodily size so much as the things one has accumulated over the years as a married couple, watching the family home — lived in for a communal lifetime by both of you and by your now grown-up (but still children) children — watching it attenuate and show its own contents to those outside. The descriptions here of further listings or inventories of a lifetime’s ‘stuff’ are absolutely shockingly brilliant. It is utterly perfect. I say that with heartfelt certainty of understanding such emotions even more deeply now. How can I have not read this work before? Or perhaps I have read it before but blocked it for bringing this apotheosis of heartbreak into such potentially beautiful post-existence, so beautiful that it seemed a shame to pollute it by giving it a berth in my corrupted soul? ‘But what story?’ I shall (with real-time having moved on) ask.
THE WOODCARVER’S SON
“He rested his hand against the smooth wood of the door, his thumb caressing the grain one could see but not feel, the grain of a dream.”
I never have strong enough or simply ENOUGH superlatives for Tem. I often think to myself that each collection when I read it must surely be the best of the best. Then I pick up yet another collection of his work and realise it is possibly even the best of the best of the best. Where will it end? This story is a case in point, a woodcarver, his wife and their son Alejandro, where the wood is church and house and life’s props, heart and doorbell and the wood of each word, in the good sense of wood not the wooden of stiltedly acted, each wood or word having a grain of sorrow as well as a hoped for reclamation of love and happiness when death happens to intervene. Even the visit by the son to ask the witch to heal his father’s sorrow, is ripe with every innuendo of good and bad, with milk of kindness, too. Just to hold someone again after they’ve gone. No way I can do justice to this work. Nothing works other what wood or words work by having been engrafted therein TO work. I am just chipping away at the sides, tugging at tiny wooden vestiges of an udder, while the real heartwood’s within whereto only YOU can reach for yourself.
“Alejandro spoke to the house and his father spoke to no one. The house drank his father’s tears and held its wooden tongue.”
“It would be an odd thing to say, and he knew he had a reputation for saying odd things, although no one had actually told him so.”
Well, I have read and reviewed this story before as shown below in the then context of the Tem collection FIGURES UNSEEN.
But I have just quoted a new quote above from INVISIBLE in the light of my review earlier today of Eloise C.C. Shepherd’s story here.
And this Tem story takes on a new slant, particularly in the light of the art of painting, in a chance simultaneous review today of a novel called SIGHT UNSEEN here! You can’t make it up?
In the Tem: “These haloing strokes appeared hesitant, as if part of an unsure painting. It was the kind of light he imagined you would see at the end of the world: a sad, quiet fading of form and colour, as if all earthly materials were dissolving from a mass failure of conviction.”
My previous review last May:
“It was the kind of light he imagined you would see at the end of the world: a sad, quiet fading of form and color, as if all earthly materials were dissolving from a mass failure of conviction.”
“At some point they’d stopped authenticating each other’s sadder perceptions about their places in the universe.”
You feel alone, ignored. This is how it starts, and this is how it ends, if in different words. A work of utter attrition and, paradoxically, even a work of conspiratorial inspiration from self-recognition at such attrition in your own life. You and your family, wife and daughter, gradually more invisible to others. All the signs are increasingly there – a form of inverse spirituality, inverse synaesthesia. Till you even find yourself, as it were, in a church of others like you. Your wife wrinkling away, till her empty bed is the only way to recognise her, and your daughter hardly recognising you on the phone, indeed hardly seeming to recognise herself. The apotheosis of such figures unseen. Perhaps the only consolation is that you are not alone.
Cross-referenced with King’s Institute today: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/09/25/the-institute-stephen-king/#comment-17090
This is a rêvelation, particularly for those Big-Headed People among all us dreamers. It is not only skull-shattering but brain- and mind-shattering, too, and I now realise that I often feel my own head split apart by some of the stories I tend to read as aligned with the gestalt real-time-time reviewing I create about or for it as attempted healing or hawling. Description, interpretation, evaluation. Triangulating the coordinates or inventories of self in the guise of all of us.
A head explosion as art form…
“After a couple of minutes the bits of floating head and bone, flesh, blood, and grey matter settle down, arranging themselves into an aesthetically-pleasing object resembling an exotic plant or abstract sculpture. After this event, we are told, the brain and sensory apparati, although profoundly altered, continue to function, albeit differently. […] In a sense, I suppose, I’m lucky. And I don’t mean just because I’m alive, or that without an artistic bone in my body I became art.”
And this is the way this story (published in 2007) works in our era of Terrorisms and Trumpisms as aids towards such ironically constructive repercussions.
“People are willing to believe any damn thing, because people feel, perhaps rightly, that nothing and no one can be trusted. Particularly the government which is supposed to serve at our will.”
Reading as an art of transgression as well as creativity in this age of the New Normal — the only way possible when, when we and, thus, I “forget people’s names, but I was starting to forget people’s names before the incident. It’s a natural part of aging, I’m told. I’ve retained most, although certainly not all, of my previous memories. But I’m hardly the same person.”
“If you sculpt chicken-flavoured cat food into the shape of a rose, it’s still chicken-flavoured cat food.”
“Nourishment is taken through that inarticulate, sewer-like ruin my throat has become. But I’ve traced my voice to a freshly sprouted bulb near the top of a tall, gently waving structure approximately where my right ear used to be.”
“I fall asleep in front of the TV as I do almost every night. I wake up with the sun coming through the window again, warming my leaves. There is a comfort in the sameness of this routine—it reminds me of the days before my head exploded, when I was a father, a husband.”
God save me, but this, against all the above odds, is another ITem of faith in self’s permanence. Another classic for which my life now is, perhaps paradoxically, richer and more certain to be me.
Head explosions later today cross-referenced with beauty eruptions here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/10/01/patience-toby-litt/#comment-17100
I reviewed the next story in 2010, and below is what I wrote about it in its then context…
Chain Reaction by Steve Rasnic Tem
“You cannot believe things were always this bad.”
I’m glad I’ve started my celebration of the second anniversary of my inception of real-time reviewing with this classic-to-be story. It is in itself a real-time narrative (literally) of a major statically-serial car pile-up — as a result of an avalanche (I think) — a piecemeal visitation to each constituent of the pile-up by one of its victim drivers, reminiscent (but not all that much) of Jean-Luc Godard’s film ‘Weekend’ (1967)…but that comparison gives you the idea. It is well-written (and although I rarely mention artwork in my real-time reviews, brilliantly illustrated by Dave Senecal) – and the story itself, without giving anything away, sure collects the leitmotifs retrocausally towards its own plot gestalt (a process that has recently become a personal obsession of mine). All life is here, absurd, horrific, poignant, itemised, surreal, caricatured… Loved the Suitcase Man, just as one example. And I also enjoyed what I interpreted as a seasoned authorial man’s view of life that does not only have entropy individually for each of us but globally for our way of life itself as a slow downward path from civilization’s beginning to where we are now and, later, to where we will be in a few minutes’ time….. Hey, loved it! (7 Nov 10)
THE SECRET FLESH
So much to quote, so much to tell you, but this search by a man as father and husband, a quest to regather — or open the lids of — his son and wife from death by means of coupling with an alien stimtech who could summon such secret flesh, making this a secreted fiction now awakening again, a process that only its words can convey to you, as each word stimulates into being a single body part, time and time again, to summon the whole or gestalt – at least for the nonce. They forgot to summon the eyelids. So a nonce of sight becomes a forever – or more likely a never of noticing too much. Thankfully. Nothing is perfect. Not even hope.
I read what turns out to be the next work last April when reviewing the author’s FIGURES UNSEEN collection – as follows:
“…a sheet of lost and yellowing stationery, until at last the first glimmer of bird came through.”
A fine prose poem about the one who made the title. Figures seen and unseen.
By remarkable chance, in mutual synergy with today’s Bruce that I happened to read and review just half an hour ago here.
Remarkably, earlier today 16/10/19, I mentioned the important word ‘origami’ in today’s instalment of my review of the the novel SIGHT UNSEEN, yes, unseen, by Brian Howell here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/10/03/sight-unseen-brian-howell/#comment-17111
Cross-referenced Head Explosions with Humpty Dumpty here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/10/01/patience-toby-litt/#comment-17116
IN THESE FINAL DAYS OF SALES
“Emil, of course, is unlike any of these salespeople. There is no good reason for the company to retain him, and yet he remains year after year, hoping for the blessed dismissal which will free him, which he cannot ask for himself, and which never comes.”
Looking back on it, I was a sort of salesman for over twenty years with an office car. And this provoking dystopia of salesmanship rings true from beginning to end. It has all the ingredients of humanity, good and bad, all bad, or all good, it little matters, it is the essence of humanity. The dreams, the needs, the sales processes and formulae, the weaknesses, the strengths. A literary tour de force that Swift might have written had he lived in the twentieth century or even the twenty-first. It little matters, nothing changes. I am now selling this story, selling horror and death, because that’s what you need. Believe me it is a masterpiece of sorts that will last forever, with irony, too, and teeming with wise saws. Cheap at half the price. Alexander Pope, Swift, Orwell, Joyce, Gass, Sinclair Lewis, Stephen King. Tem encompasses them all and more. Uniquely tragi-comic in his own way, too.
“Little Poucet vowed that when he eventually used words, as he knew he would someday, they would be practical words. They would mean something.
But in the beginning Little Poucet relied on dream, and memory, and for as long as he might remain a child, he knew these would be very much the same.”
Believe me, whatever your own strengths of imagination, this work will probably bring you to a pitch of imagination beyond anything you have reached before. About Little Poucet and his brothers and their parents, the latter seeming larger than life and the brothers smaller than life, but all living, transgressively, or at least the parents are thus over the top, or especially the father with a searching of groins, the pinning back of penises with string to make them girls, or was that Little Poucet’s doing? … but Little Poucet is a product of his father after all. This is Book of Days made intermanipulably mountainous flesh and tiny flesh, by turns. With natural mother love, too. Yet another Tem masterpiece, I fear. Where has it been all my life? Why was I not spared it? Probably, I nearly escaped by the skin of my teeth without reading it. Sincerely. No irony intended.
The next two stories I reviewed earlier this year and below is what I wrote about them in their then context…
THE BEREAVEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER
“The great photographers are great because they see things differently from the rest of us. So from our perspective they see things that aren’t there. I’ve long had this notion, not quite a theory, that the world changes when a great photographer looks through the lens.”
I am not a great photographer, but I know what I know. See my recent selected photos in a book called ‘Nemonymous Lights’, an apt title, now, after reading this, in hindsight. Hindsight when death flickers the lids…. and last night I watched, by chance, Bergman’s film ‘Cries and Whispers’, a Tem-like film if ever there was one, so utterly powerful, without my being glib. With death frozen and posed but shot by a a flow of close ups when death flickers, even when death spoke, as photos rarely show. This story perhaps in this light I should not review. I am biased. But it is a truly great story by any measure, and any attempt to describe it by me would be sacrilegious, any attempt here to describe the voluntary eponymous photographer’s reactions to his subjects, posed as families at most sensitive times, and his lonely sporadic visits to his sister and husband, his two nephews he wanted to father, and his niece…
“He dreamed that the Japanese-Americans had committed some terrible, secret sin, and that a great white god was punishing them. The Japanese nation had better watch out, he had thought, else this god would send tornadoes against them too.”
This is a sprawling evocation spilt between the later reactions of various characters of all the repercussions of the Japanese-American War and the eventual outcome. Apocalyptic, religious, personal, in body and mind, related to some new Godzilla or God proper, and I could tell that there is some strong writing here. But I am afraid it tended to pass over my head, without hitting. And I could not engage with the characters. Whether I was in the right mood or not for reading it, only a re-reading another day would show. But I don’t feel at the moment enticed back to it. One thing that struck me was the religious angle. Without religion they could have dealt with Hiroshima better, by treating it simply as it was. Man against man, and nothing to do with some God.
THE MOUSE’S BEDTIME STORY
“‘Murem murum my son,’ his mother sang sleepily from someplace far below.’
This has all the power of the nursery rhymes that I was told on my mother’s lap when a small child. Not just one of them, but ALL of them distilled in essence and as told in the form of a story for hugemans and little ones, alike. And, oh yes, for any miscegenations.
Having slept on it, this story is remarkable, a counterintuitive portrait of a counterintuitive mother. So strange it ceases altogether to be on the normal/strange spectrum.
“That had become the peak of Alec’s feelings of helplessness: to be frightened of his own son. It made him ashamed, and yet now he missed all the arguing—at least then his son was talking to him.”
I did not at a human level understand this story at all, yet I did understand it at a level I could not quite reach. I now begin to presume, as something I have resisted till now, that Tem is simultaneously human and supra-human, by being able to write stuff like this at all. A story of difficulties between Alec and his father and later with his own son, connected by some SF-transformational material about a were-Dragon that he becomes, within a hospitalised situation of real people and robots. Even though I did not understand it, I was somehow inspired by it, as I am by most Tem material. Tragically, to fail catching a child after chucking them into the air playfully, then catching a sclerotic disease but failing to “catch on” to its meaning, all implied by elements of the text. Can real dragons fly, I wonder.
THE MONSTER IN THE FIELD
“That, my friend, is my unasked-for wisdom, my untrammeled knowledge of the world.”
A fable feel to this meeting by a sort of beauty (humanity) and beast (monster) as Socratic dialogue between a student and a randomly visited-in-his-car community’s token archetypal monstrous monster in a field with a recurrent hut from Bosch’s sense of being all head, I sense, with balding orange hair with three gutters where the brain has risen to the top of the skull, a melding of beauty and beast as an inchoate symbol of our inchoate times today, no doubt a symbol created in this Tem work years ago, to deploy a supra-human’s panoply of what basic humanity essentially is.
Cross-referenced generic Tem with a new Shannon Scott story here today: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/10/04/nightscript-volume-v/#comment-17178
THE HIGH CHAIR
“People had far too many names, places, and words in their lives. They so crowded out what was important that importance was forgotten,…”
They keep on coming. Not only the classic Tem stories (of which this is surely yet another one) but the babies one didn’t have in one’s life. Stories are sort of babies, though, I guess. And this is a story of an ageing childless couple, Byron and Pat, and the words or statements said and made to lodge somewhere till they are accepted. An attrition beyond earlier spooning. And the perfect ending where they need their high chair back when their neighbour is finished with it. For all Byron knows, I guess, that neighbour may be his daughter who chose to stay with the angels and would have been this woman? The young girls with babies he sees pushing prams, his window-shopping, and other visions of babies that have haunted him over the years, “…and increasingly remote connections.” At least Pat wants to grant Byron an anywhere.
“He couldn’t remember his mother, except as a gauzy presence, more like a ghost, something dead and not dead. He didn’t think she had ever lived with them in the rooming house, but he couldn’t be sure. It bothered him that he could remember so little about her—a hint of light, a smell, that was all. She had vanished.”
A story that one needs to work at to acquire it. A tale of dusty inventories, a dotted landscape of oil wells and cowboys and other American things new to me, where a man travels to and from work, thinking of an ancient school lesson about the vanishing of dinosaurs and of his father’s drunken head crashing to the table. He also has a girl friend at one end of his journey. This is a poignant meditation where those things come together in some increasingly telling way. Memories of his mother, too, whom he never knew. Or did he? An overture to our own race’s dying out, a journey no doubt now further along since this story was first written.
“They had magically given uncertainty a physical form.”
The essence of the Tem parent-children syndrome that I have long since created in my mind from the texts read so far is now made manifest in a highly imaginative casting of the Gulliver-Lilliputians scenario. What fathers taught their sons, and vice versa. The Owen Booth book as additional reading.
I reviewed the next story last April, as follows…
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP
Just one paragraph from this work, if I may…
“It saddened him that the truth of it had never been clear to him before, that people like him, people who had endured a solitary desperation all their lives, required no words for their secret communications, that their private handshakes demanded no actual exchange of touch, that their meeting places were spontaneous and secret even unto themselves, that, like the early Christian churches in a world of persecution, they met wherever and whenever more than one of them came together in one place.”
These words seem sadly and laterally, even ironically, to now factor into the news of the real-time day. The story’s perfect ending of deadpan killing, too. A Corporate Horror, in its literal sense, not only the tedious and soul-destroying of workaday life, but the lost, the loneliness of life. Kindred loners gathering palely, silently, with matched stumbles and other mutually recognisable bodily tweaks and habits. This is possibly the greatest Tem classic of all? But will I ever finish reading the seemingly numberless Tem works, so as to be certain? Each day often brings a new superlative of literature, in the passion of the moment’s real-time reading.
For others, figures unseen.
“Through these doors lay the celestial.”
A man who happens to feel that his relatively small abode has too many doors…
Those ‘doors’ representing all the ways that Tem can magnificently enter the many fiction genres in his armoury… and now…
This is possibly the most impressive short Tem piece in itself, as the inventory continues here with these items as connected with the storywriter’s dead mother. You will never read anything else quite like it. Even outdoing the Book of Days inventory. How can any writer work with such things as cotton balls and bring their poignant effect so utterly alive?
“He began to wonder if life itself might be a toy to a dying man.”
He now considers his toys from the past, putting later grown-up possessions into anchored perspective, toys that often vanished or later became different makeshift toys, by revisualising them. I, too, did this, whereby broken toys became other toys because of the configuration of their breakages. Here the business end of a key has the configuration of a mountain range. Perhaps not a key to a clockwork toy, after all, but one to open all those earlier doors?
PITCHER, APPLE, BATTERIES
“When he reached his teen years he began to worry that perhaps electricity actually consisted of the souls of the dead.”
Three more remarkable sections of this inventory. If you want to look at common objects anew or extrapolate upon their uses, then this does that and more. Where else can eyes be thus opened? For example, there is the above conceit about batteries and my inference that a pitcher can tell a thousand stories as well as contain fluid. Also, I had never before thought of open empty vessels being full of air.
Two more for the inventory, future self and filth, mostly seen as always ready for cleansed or cleansing renewal by mysterious forces but still enough dirt as dust residues to shamefully warrant connecting the two. Never completely in or out of the closet.
Found this quote today:
“I had moved on to a new tale, “A House by the Ocean,” by Steve Rasnic Tem. It read like poetry, each word melting in my eyes and trickling through my veins.”
in a story by Christopher Ropes reviewed here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/10/31/nox-pareidolia/#comment-17232
And, as it turns out, by remarkable synchronicity, that Ropes story is in perfect resonance with the next item of the Tem inventory:
“lid sprung open as if to pay homage to the ceiling, the shiny emptiness of it like a sterile wound begging for infection—“
Read them both together and see.
“Even the human body had a seam, running from anus to genitalia, fastened with a ridge of hidden, mysterious skin.”
You would not normally imagine any inventory of objects with fasteners as an item could range so wildly from the ordinary to the extraordinary, from the innocent to to the revelatory upon defining and then tearing such fasteners open. It simply seemed extraordinarily fitting in hindsight to read this on the same day as I earlier read about the halving of a human body and the Stintzi Skin House here.
The ‘’Bread” item as a would-be baby in diapers should be read in the whole context of Tem’s work. It is highly significant…highly memorable, I guess.
And then in the “Numbers” item, we have this telling quote: “the geometric acceleration of mental complexity, and the infinitely additive quality of even the simplest human life.”
“Numbers” as the most difficult part of this his celestial inventory, though this is the nearest to celestial of all the items so far… and it has the following quote upon the occasion of renaming this review site of mine after a parhelion ….
“Whenever there were two of a thing it seemed an illusion, an accident waiting to happen.”
The ‘Puzzle of the Day’ today on Today (Radio 4):
Which number as a word has its letters in alphabetical order and which number has them in reverse alphabetical order?
“It distressed him that, until now, he had never thought much about his floors.”
And me, too, until reading this multi-level basebone of our homely feet. Still, there is some hint of this Floors phenomenon in a story (Mitchell’s Manifold Kindnesses) coming out in my forthcoming book collection from Eibonvale Press: ‘Dabbling With Diabelli.’ You heard about it here first!
“After a time he realized he didn’t even recognize the feel of his own skin, except from the inside.”
That quote is a sort of bridge between these two sections of the inventory. Reading this work continue to be a revelation. These two sections make you look closely at your hands and faces. And words like flay and flense. More layers upon the floors of self. A way through to the celestial ceiling?
“…the narrow white worms who moved back and forth on one end as if in trance, like some form of intelligent cancer,…”
You will never think of a chair in the same way again after reading this!
ANY share of chair.
The inventory’s next iTem as an obsessive extrapolation upon the nature of house dust’s moto perpetuo – in interface with one’s bodily crematoria. So utterly Tem. (I read and reviewed a synergous story elsewhere today that featured joss papers.)
I will complete this review after the book has been transferred to Crossroads Press.
To obviate any Tem withdrawal symptoms, I am slowly delving into this book in the meantime: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/10/15/in-concert-melanie-tem-steve-rasnic-tem/
Crossroad Press (December 10, 2019)
The man above seems to be basking in the inventory’s next item, almost insultingly with a rude noise from his backside? Appropriately, it is now Christmas time in my real-time, the season when he gets his next lamp.
After being plagued by
junk as well as autoreply,
he is plagued by his own
“Besides which, hair was not properly an object for inventory but a part of the very fabric of the universe itself.”
A theme and variations, an ever-growing extrapolation upon how hair becomes tantamount to the ghost of you. A malemerge?
“Sometimes it betrayed its presence by the noises which escaped it.”
Sometimes I have to repair a book’s plumbing even as I plumb it in media res. Never Tem’s plumbing, though.
“If company came for Christmas he’d have to thaw it out somehow, get rid of it, so people wouldn’t think him poor or otherwise deprived.”
…to airbrush it like a growing numbness on the skin. A sporadic redaction of his soul, I guess. An inventory item that he hopes to lick into defeat. The ice that reminds him of his Mum warning him against catching his death
Ice is made up of celestial stars?
“At night he stared at the sky, searching for the nails the moon and stars were hung on.”
The next two items in the inventory, and the nails are sub-inventoried, with religious as well as bodily uses. Forks, for me, are like nails conjoined? Here they are demon silhouette-shows, each with a hand of nails or a hand stigmatised?
Fork handles or four candles?
“He wasn’t sure what importance clocks were for him anymore—he hadn’t had a regular job in years; he seldom went out; he watched whatever was on the television when he first turned it on; and whenever he was hungry, he ate.”
His various clocks told different times, and not really worried, but when he comes to inventory these, he checks the time on his phone for the first time. A remarkable work on its own as a long lost Tem masterpiece, I reckon, with the pulse of life in a new perspective. Celestial timepieces at last inventoried. Inventstoried.
“…they were apparently timeless, like the other side of the sky, or reality’s backstage.”
“Although the walls possessed continuity, corners and variations in paint and wallpaper permitted an accounting.”
Each of his walls inventoried.
Seemed to complement the Neugebauer story I read earlier today; https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/12/06/vastarien-a-literary-journal-fall-2019/#comment-17606
“Feet were the underworld, the low lying dark, the realm of subconscious impulse.”
Another stunning extra for the Tem collector. You will never see shoes or your life itself in the same way again, especially when you realise you always wear the same shoes in dreams. If only you had noticed.
“They were ephemeral display areas for words, words whose ultimate utility was dubious.”
Another sense-opener of an inventory-entry, his different papers assorted and sorted, mailmerges and cross-contaminations between categories, interpenetrated between papers and print themselves — from ephemeral to sentimental, garble to wailing garbage.
To include gravity in his inventory needs much weighing in the balance by yourself, the balance or synergy of truth and absurdity.
Two inventory subjects to follow his mother’s gravity mentioned in the previous one, now his collection of postcards, including those posthumous ones his mother sent on the day she died, posthumous and posthumid, swaddled in the sheets like a mummy.
Tem is unlimited.
Stones to bones.
Sixteen stones, half the total number of teeth humans usually have, The teeth part of the inventory is illuminating when his mother collects her child’s teeth throughout his lifetime till she dies and he needs to collect his own teeth when they happen to fall out or are extracted. Short-changing an eventual corpse? No, but any loss of a tooth after it has been inventoried no doubt throws a whole new light on existence itself, I feel. Do they turn yellow even after loss or extraction, as if they have a death of their own?
“Trash was anything left over: pieces too small to save, torn bits, non-reusables, organic debris. Anything which resisted inventory.”
Except he kept representative bits of it, and thus inventorifiable. All is eventually trash, I find. Except an ebook like this.
“Sometimes he found prints on surfaces he could not possibly have touched, such as the bottoms of lamps.”
Two invenstories that adumbrate his existence. His meticulous pointlessness. An obsessive mind, growing yellow like the yellow wood of the fork handles? Sorry, “four candles”, as here. I shall be reading the yellow wood next year. And seeing the night doctor if I can get one.
“So finally it all came down to this: an old man on his back in bed, staring at the ceiling.”
Exploring its marks as maps of far countries, as I did as a child? Or two ducks in a row? I can empathise with this inventorying old man, well, not too much empathy needed! It’s just an eye opener it has given me that things are thus inventorifiable. A job I need to do before it is too late. The next Tem I have intended to read, appropriately, is The Man on the Ceiling! If I live long enough, that is.
IS IT A TEMCH?