The Far Side of the Lake – Steve Rasnic Tem

Real-Time Review continued from HERE


In the Trees

“The forest floated up out of its roots and shouted.”

Here the father-son inter-generationality (and with his little girl, too, alongside the ever-pervasive spouse) becomes a powerful fable – while portraying a clumsily well-intentioned fallibility of doing one’s best in every little thing one does, like encouraging an anxious child to beat his fear of sleep, echoing much in this book so far: one of those fables you sense you have read before but ostensibly you haven’t. Perhaps it’s already in the reader’s ‘sap’ (sap strengthening rather than sapping), its words flowing through the Jungian Collective Unconscious or simply, inexplicably molten? Each generation is the other’s climbing-tree, almost conceivable as a retrocausal circle of effect. And, again, the flames climb the trees, seen from across the other side of the metaphorical lake, here silver ones of the electronic (?) moon as it tries selflessly to pull the books from the branches or selflessly to push them back again, as I infer. (13 Feb 12)

Among the Old

“The ancient trees turn colour even as I watch; they are expert with the properties of light.”

As if by magic, this vignette complements the previous – in hindsight – co-vignette: where the circularity of youth and age, text and light, multiplicity and singularity, becomes deeply poetic if simply conceived in a park where one keeps seeing one’s own face in others. As I do in this book.  Once a book of trees, now of “silvering” moonlight? (13 Feb 11 – 20 minutes later)

The Little Dead Girl

“I’m just going to have to give you a bath! All that filthy clay on you…”

Now an ostensibly dysfunctional inter-generationality between a mother and daughter (genuinely dysfunctional in contrast to the father-son situation earlier today which was well-intentioned if clumsy) – with the daughter seeming to have a traditional ‘imaginary friend’ who appears in various places as a dead little girl. It is all rather disturbing: and I wonder if the paper sacks used for the daughter’s lunch that she effectively stock-piled each day as accumulating rubbish in a ditch on the way to school has some oblique synergy with the polemics, if any, of my review heretofore.  I am at a loss how to place this story in the growing gestalt – perhaps that will become clearer. As it does, to some extent, when seen in synergy externally with ‘The Little Dirty Girl’ by Joanna Russ (that I reviewed here): as if that clay is some sort of potential ‘statue rind’?  A nurturing or heart-melting bath (as illustrated above) rather than a scraping-off one?  And the story’s special school some sort of punishment come full circle  for us all when seeing our faces – as earlier today – in the faces of others, even in the faces of some so very old that dead they’ve become? (13 Feb 12 – another 90 minutes later)

In a Guest House

“…then the bald man passed serving plates around, nodding vigorously as if it were the most wonderful thing in the world to be doing.”

(Those little meticulous caring things again cumulatively considered). And now that ‘special school’ is replaced, and paralleled, by a Guest House. The story of Brian, a well-intentioned, if fallible, salesman and clumsily caring father and husband whose worries are paying the bills. After perhaps ‘sleepwalking’ while driving his office car, he strangely finds himself in a Guest House where worries are seemingly expunged (except for the odd anxiety of the other guests’ strange behaviour or clothes provided that are so starchy clean they have edges sharp enough to cut or glimpses of half-monstrous pets coming round the door into the dining-room or accumulating strangers ever-changing as guests or a consistent presence of the disarmingly officious bald man). A gentle, flat-lining experience … but, then, when seen in in external synergy with Robert Aickman’s ‘The Hospice’ (that I reviewed here), I wonder if Book is effectively talking to Book rather than Story talking to Story within the same Book, because of the now uncovered ease of electronic communication between both these Stories from different books with each of them having recently been re-published in an electronic way…?  For me at least, this is an added, if mischievously questionable, frisson to an already delightfully enjoyable absurdist fantasy. (13 Feb 12 – another 90 minutes later)

flag “Can you recall the lasting effect of the most deeply disturbing collection of horror stories you’ve ever encountered? The narratives join hands…” — Dominy Clements




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