The Far Side of the Lake – Steve Rasnic Tem

Real-Time Review continued from HERE


The Sky Come Down to Earth

“But … the weather, the sky! It’s all white and it’s come to the window!”

“…against the glass […] the pane it would be ice cold...”

Even without a pencil, glad to nail those quotes. I am agog with this book’s resonances. This is one of those stories or fables that seems to have stayed with you for many years even though this is ostensibly the first time you’ve read it, one where the book’s erstwhile inter-generational two-way filter of security as well as lack of security, i.e. between child adoptees and adult adopters as well as between those blood-linked together (cf. the Mexico story), now comes together in a perfect pattern of intrinsic oxymoron: of a sensed ugliness and beauty: of fear and confidence: of relaxed comfort and alert sense of danger.  The sky as metaphor seems to optimise such an oxymoron (oxygen as well as moraine?) — a sky simultaneously touched and untouchable, hot and cold, wet and dry on either side of the glass or window or crystal ball that one reads through or, rather, scries … but I cannot see exactly how it works. Enough that this author makes it work.  Or allows it to do so almost volitionlessly. And with some readers not even consciously noticing but absorbing it into themselves nonetheless – a bit like being permeated and/or (psychologically) changed by the diurnal Wordsworthian, or pantheistic sky, itself changeable as filtered through those of us who sense its moods via our own moods. The art of fiction. (11 Feb 12 – another 90 minutes later)

Houses Creaking in the Wind

“…gazing out these windows, reading the dark before sleep,…”

Scrying the wind and the creaks, too. Another vignette, this time not of stone but, contrastively, “the spaces betweeen his thoughts“, and the inter-generational tragedies that time keeps within itself for our memory to exhume like ghosts or flies. If I said anything further, I’d be more an accomplice than a reviewer!  But I can say that  the book, so far, certainly seems organic both as an Ariel and a Caliban. No mean feat. (11 Feb 12 – another 30 minutes later)

Grim Monkeys

“I sat silently as the funnel of static poured through my head, attempting to kindle some feeling, some thought, anything. I took no pride in my lack of feeling.”

Well, that says something quite innocently, I guess, about the new ways of publishing fiction.  Meanwhile, one does not often encounter in one’s whole lifetime a perfect literary short story, as opposed to a perfect genre one, but this literary story comes as close as one can dare hope, blending Conrad, Lowry, Greene – even Lovecraft following this book’s earlier native or nativist or miscegenate considerations, here ‘grim monkeys’.  A parental abduction, a tug of love, to the Venezuelan jungle, a ‘freeing’ of the protagonist’s daughter: and the blending (once positive) continues towards a negative outcome, as if being back-to-nature is the worst possible solution to a civilised problem.  The relationships inferred, the accomplished language containing those inferences, are all, for me, pitch near-perfect. Why ‘near’-perfect? Well, because the context of this book (so far), its inter-generational backdrop, its encroachments of damp entropy, its ‘oxymoron’, its once uncluttered sky now a  tropic-cluttered sky, is needed to make the story in-itself wholly perfect. So, effectively, the story in-itself, without that context, wouldn’t be perfect?  It teeters on a brink of decontextualised imperfection – but the last sentence is quite wonderful and makes it perfect in hindsight, despite the negative outcomes that created such a last sentence.  Only in inspired fiction can such eked-out, perhaps unintended, serendipities be distilled.  A reaching-out towards a literary gestalt, that can only be reached by not reaching it?  All blood is mixed but is perfect for the body it fuels. Paternal love, too.  Shortcomings harnessed are stronger than strengths unused. (11 Feb 12 – another 4 hours later)



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