*

os7

Real-Time Review continued from HERE.

THE RESULTS OF MY READING OF THE FICTION IN ONION SONGS by Steve Rasnic Tem WILL BE SHOWN BELOW IN THE COMMENTS TO THIS POST AS AND WHEN I READ EACH SEPARATE WORK IN THE ORDER THEY ARE PRINTED, WHILE HOPING TO GARNER THEIR GESTALT.

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15 responses to “*

  1. Charles
    “‘Hi, Mom.’ His voice had a phlegmy sound.”
    I have just re-read this story after first reading it in 2009. But I have not yet re-read my own review of it at that time. I shall put that directly into the next comment space below, without further comment, whatever it says!
    Today, this story felt, at its start, as if a mother was visiting her son in a sanatorium (someone like Hans Castorp in Mann’s ‘The Magic Mountain’), but, if so, his room there is haunted by a living-room from what he has dreamed up as his home to which he hopes to bring his future bride. This interpretation stems, in my mind, from each of the previous three short pieces, which have lent their weight of influence, I feel, to ‘Charles’. As if death itself is its own course of cure. So utterly poignant. And the last two sentences are a wonderful masterstroke. A lot depends on whether you are of the anti-natalist philosophy, I guess, how this story lets you end up feeling. The central underlying counundrum of the whole book, perhaps.
    I’ll have kids. That means you’ll have grandkids.”

  2. From here in 2009:
    Charles – Steve Rasnic Tem
    A marked parallel with the type of relationship in ‘My Brother’s Keeper’, but there it was a sibling one, here a mother / son one. A Pinteresque setting, significantly in the context without perceived pauses. The abode is evocatively seedy and disowned, but disowned by whom? Not a whodunnit, as such, but more who’s the leaseholder? I’m sure the headlease author once thought he knew. But the beauty of this truly haunting story is that the reader at least senses that there is nobody at all wielding the levers of collusion-with-some-reality. A wonderful emptiness where once there had been at least one person to imagine another person. As if the ‘hanging-rocks’ here are not caves or cromlechs, or sunning-places, but dark corners where even death itself cannot subsist. One wonders if flights of stairs in these places create acts of ascent and descent that transform time itself on each occasion they are undertaken with only the Proustian selves of the same eventually depleting person being able to pass each other. Like all well-anthologised Horror fiction, each story subsists separately as well as communally, each of them thus strangely empowering a negativity or tabula-rasa that becomes its unique strength. (18 August 09)

  3. os10

    The Figure In Motion
    “After the war the human figure was trivialized in modern art.”
    For personal reasons — eg a life-long interest in painted art, a creative appreciation of the figures and shapes emerging with Ghost Story frisson at the edges of Weird Literature and a fear or embracing of the growing poignancy represented by end-of-life couples, a fear or embracing that no doubt comes close or will come close to my own life — this has to be my favourite Tem story so far.
    In many ways, it’s too precious (in a good sense) to discuss or fathom out. The ‘old man process’ (so-called earlier by me) that subsists after the vanishing of one’s lifetime partner into the white canvas of snow (cf the earlier self snow-death in this book), the “dignity” of ‘profound patience’ (as I see it) and the slow withdrawal into Hans Castorp’s ‘reclining-chair’ on the loggia balcony that one sporadically fights against, and this story’s Happening or Art Installation — attempted by its protagonist as he builds his late partner’s belongings and works-in-progress (she did knitting, for example) in the gallery of at least felt observers — is too sad even to countenance. But, perhaps paradoxically, uplifting, too.
    Together with this, the Art of Fiction is also addressed in its assumed version of the author’s autobiography … when faced, as I would say, by my life-long interest in the literary theory of ‘The Intentional Fallacy’. Life’s ‘disturbing’ onion “layering” that this story questions so movingly when faced with “the truth of the body”. Exquisite.

    [I hope I can be forgiven, from time to time, in this review, when I wheel out my own brief prose pieces that seem to act as a foil, or tangent or mere continuation of this book’s ‘theme and variations’ as in music and its ‘dying falls’ and ‘laments’, however humble my prose efforts are when compared to other writers. I don’t intend to mean that as a form of false modesty, but as a genuine ‘relaxed snowman’ acceptance based on hopefully objective observation. In any event, here is another brief piece of mine (published in 1996): The Provenance of Souls.]

  4. The Glare and the Glow
    “Shakespeare said ‘We burn daylight.'”
    As if to give the reader some literally contoured relief from the sadder or more poignant side of marital life, this is an engagingly amusing modern fable of bickering, buying light bulbs, the two sorts of light that either illuminate or outglare, and the fear that nothing you can say is original because you might be quoting someone else… And there are more Temian, seen-or-created-out-of-the-corner-of-your-eyes, crittery figures from the edges of light who direct light on our behalf, for good or ill.
    [I used the above Shakespeare quote by printing it in ‘Nemonymous Two’ in 2002. And earlier today I reviewed the X-Ray section from Mann’s ‘The Magic Mountain’ which in hindsight seems highly appropriate when seen in conjunction with this Tem story!]

  5. os11

    Slapstick
    You will NOT believe this, but it is absolutely true. I don’t know how to prove it. But I took the above photograph after only reading the first page of this story. You see, this is a picture of my typo-hunters whom I have used before in a number of public real-time reviews. They originally thought there was a minor typo four lines up from the bottom of this story’s first page. But it is not a typo at all. It is something that they originally thought was a typo but when they read the sentence in another way it fell into place as correct.
    I would apologise on their behalf – but imagine my pleasant surprise, nay, shock, when I realised later how appropriate this photo is for the story.
    It seems so appropriate for many of the themes of this book, too, with this particular story being an Eugene Ionesco-like absurdism with a satire on family and office life centring around some form of coulrophobia. An absurdism of identity by mirror-painting one’s face while accepting absurdism at face value to prevent one’s aging in such a narrow channel of existence. The existentialism of literally facing out the absurd in life with the weapon of even greater absurdity. One can love one’s family in more ways than one, with an edge of sinister avenues along the way. Hilarious, but eventually thoughtful.

  6. Real-time review as its own living art installation or on-going happening. My wife’s double sided quilt from 2009:

    os12os13

  7. os14

    Strangeness
    “The lands at the periphery of her vision, the island out the corner of the eye — that’s where she had come from.” (cf the above quilts and the quantum physics that starts this story)
    Another important story, I sense.
    This time it is the ‘Figure in Motion’ scenario (with infidelities of all sorts spiritual and physical) but now viewed by the female side of the equation or couple (not quite so old, though, I guess, but married many years), where he is caught up with Reality TV and diminishing into one of the those side-by critters I guess, that may put a belated message of love on the house-haunted wall as someone did earlier in this book. Or being drawn (painted) in real-time as reality (like the mirror face in ‘Slapstick’). ‘Strangeness’ as a dead person’s inventory or an old-fashioned dictionary, before people were trapped inside a Whovian Wi-Fi? And a wonderful ending where Aickman-like takes on new dimensions. A very great story in which I dread to see myself. Very close to ‘Figure in Motion’ as my very favourite Tem (so far). It will haunt me, I know, for the rest of my life. Or susurrating, at least, in the background.

  8. Thinking further about ‘Strangeness’, its Aickman-like ending is constructively synergous with the ending of QUILT by Nicholas Royle that I real-time reviewed here a month or two ago: Novel Doodlings.

  9. …and there is a list of words in QUILT and STRANGENESS, both of these works seeming more and more significantly, constructively, accidentally related. And, so, onward…

    Off the Map
    “The Dad replied, ‘Well, we all die alone, even those of us in families.'”
    An engaging tale of an American family with their childish and child-like in-jokes and pet names, a family on a ‘conscientious’ budget-constrained foreign holiday in the UK…full of charming throwaway lines and sinister undercurrents (sinister to me at least with the possibility they are jokey suicide-bombers! Out to get me or make me Mexican! The electricity facilities in my country obliquely echoing much in ‘The Glare and the Glow’).

    [cf my A Halo of Drizzle Around an Orange Street Lamp.]

  10. Unknown
    “He has a number of questions about the book, most having to do with its authenticity.”
    A man with an Ambition of Anonymity, or as I prefer to call it Nemonymity (in fact, towards the end of the story, the ethos of Nemonymous as unpreconceived reading is explicitly broached if not specified). And this story, becoming eventually a wonderful blend of absurdism and surrealism with, for me, the variable rhythms of Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi (both film and music), is often harrowing as the nameless man tries to prevent the card of his identity being shuffled into the pack of people he must have known, such as one woman who calls him Bob. And the audit trail also ends with and echoes the fiction / autobiography theme earlier that I picked out from one of the stories.

  11. Also, the unknown man’s relationship with the woman who calls him Bob – this seems to me to be an intriguing counterpart of the man-viewed relationship in ‘The Figure in Motion’ and the woman-viewed relationship in ‘Strangeness’, but here it is the would-have-been relationship rather than the actually was.

  12. Saturday Afternoon
    “The roof is on fire above me.”
    Even more harrowing than the Unknown Man is the gradually being Lost Man – now ostensibly in an institution being visited by his daughter. Other patients with the pet names like those from the book’s earlier ‘foreign holiday’ – and this blend of not only a sense of the Absurd permeating other stories but also a genuine Lewis-Carrollian feel that is effectively factored into what I have called ‘the old man process’, a process that besets some men, like me, from childhood onward, first, second and third.

  13. A Visit Home
    “My mother and father seem older, grayer than any human beings I have ever met.”
    A very brief piece. Instead of the house-haunted Changing Room, we have a belief in a different homebase to give the past a dreamlike quality, as we, as a young student, begin his own ‘old man process’ by visiting his parents with his college friends.
    If you think conscientiously about some of these Tem stories, they are very frightening. But if you let them slide through the mind without sticking to the sides, they’re just something you might forget. Including the yellow wallpaper.

  14. THIS REAL-TIME REVEW IS NOW CONTINUED HERE.

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