The Angel not of but with Death

The Janus Tree and other stories – by Glen Hirshberg

Subterranean Press 2011

Real-Time Review by DF Lewis: continued from HERE.


Part Two – Tales from the Rolling Dark


“…a bunch of somethings…”

The dead with eyes ballooning like Buddy’s glasses. A Jewish story from the point of view of a 35 year old man, widening at the waist, I guess, who is a Jew but fears he is a “pretend” one: asked to stand vigil or ‘shomer’ over his uncle’s body at the Funeral Home: turning out to be his last chance to reprise, after many years of not doing so, the sharing of valuable company alone together with this uncle.  I’m sure I’ve met soaped-over mirrors in Hirshberg before, but never yet been privileged to share with him this fullest sense of sheer cumulative uncanniness of death’s accompaniments: and its chance or deliberate, connected or unconnected sounds and smells: ‘wailing’ from who knows where, reminding me of this book’s earlier ‘moaning’ : and human accoutrements as by-passable servants of reality playing boards games as a way to short-circuit vigil … but I have shared with him word puzzles and those games as ricochets or correlatives of death that become in their own way ‘uncannily’ more meaningful than diffused in the context (my finding, not necessarily the story’s): and the story’s climactic scene with the same power of pre-set ricochets as the Neighborhood’s spider or Kagome’s trilby man: here a cold angel.  The dead become its own next  neighborhood. “The rug beneath Marty’s feet felt deep and soft and dark. Like earth, he thought. Which was appropriate enough.” (26 Mar 12 – 1.15 pm bst)

Miss Ill-Kept Runt

Gets erased. Fills up again. Gets erased. Abruptly, it’s all the way dark, and Venus pounces out of the sky.”

‘Venus Pencils’ was a famous old brand name, I believe. But it’s a story in indelible print: yet it is about those ‘buffalo’ pencillings-in of identity or name or self…  Told from the point of view of child Chloe (with outsized, larger-than-life bead necklace), she and her brother ‘The Miracle’ (named such after his surviving a nasty skull injury in the past), are in the back of the car, their parents in front, hidden by the packing-boxes, as they make ‘the move’ to a new life through the night. A story of pass-the-time, keep-sleep-away (keep death away?) pencil-games etc, noises, whisperings or snarls from their parents with their grown-up concerns that gradually serve to confuse the increasingly sleepy Chloe and, so, she can’t touch base with their parental safety-blanket, as if they have become other people, or as if she has become other than their daughter: familiar music on the radio though… “shush of tires“, “panic breathing“, rustles (cf: the rustling in the previous story’s funeral home) here the rustling of husks or the bristles of “CatDad“: a panoply of correlatives that we need to piece together from the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction (like I try to piece together leitmotifs in all my reviews) almost as if the author himself is in front driving me to some unknown frightening destination, or I become Chloe, and she me?  And then we have that ‘cold one’ from the end of the previous story: connected by contiguity with ‘blue’: with some sense of having to sell-out to Cold Ones for miracles: (cf: “What else did they imagine angels were for?” earlier in this book) …for miracles future, present and, yes, past.  And thus I shuddered as I closed the book after reading this story. I’m still being driven… not by a blinking “frog in the dashboard” I hope: or even a God in the Machine – unless he’s typing with it!…  Pencil me in at least.  As I do lightly in the margins of this book. (26 Mar 12 – 3.10 pm bst)




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