Knowing about these books is not enough.

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Onion Songs - Steve Rasnic Tem

  1. nullimmortalis

  2. os15

  3. The Multiples of Sorrow
    Along the way Malcolm became progressively more aware of the increase of light in the room. [...] With the heightened illumination came an abundance of raw detail:”
    And in the light of ‘The Glare and the Glow’, I can absorb the illumination granted to me by a creative comparison of this story (taking place just after the First World War) with ‘The Magic Mountain’ by Thomas Mann (being written before the First World War but revised to reflect it) that I happen fortuitously and simultaneously to be real-time reviewing. X-Rays, notwithstanding.
    Meantime, the Tem story stands in nagging complexity on its own and seems to concern a down-and-out Aesthetics-seeker in Paris who came from London (against the steering of his father relationship) and takes up with a theosophist type, via the advice of his room-mate and, edged with this book’s Temian critters here as insects and other nationalities of down-and-outs; we are led into a Jungian miscegenation of souls (cf ‘Crowds and Power’ by Elias Canetti) where, inter alia, pages of books are used as physical stigmata and blood accidentally spilt on bread is eaten for show… Disease as depravity, or optimism of a new world order (cf Settembrini in ‘The Magic Mountain’)? The ‘old man process’ as a spiritual crucible of ‘profound patience’? Or just despair and Cathrian Ligottianism?
    [While reading this story just now, I sensed that I had read it before (and later checking specifically at the back of 'Onion Songs' to discover where!) and my previous review of it is here. I wrote above before reading my old review.]

  4. Fish
    “…mommies and daddies and kiddies waiting to be burned by the burning crews…”
    A powerful askew portrait of two brothers, one pushing the other in a wheelchair, and the duties to the parents, a shaft of this book’s own patient duty yet shafted, too, by a beam of darkness that is as strong as Gary McMahon’s work but even a notch more grievous regarding the human condition, a condition that I must share however much I put futile depth-barriers of perception between it and me…
    We thinking old men try to swim highest of all…and end up lowest?

  1. Merry-Go-Round
    Amazingly, this is based on the broad template of ‘The Magic Mountain’ by Thomas Mann (being concurrently and quite coincidentally reviewed by me), whereby the main protagonist finds he is, by some sort of insidious stealth, kept imprisoned in an institution, under the guise of being a patient. There a tuberculosis sanatorium, here a psychological or mental home. Both works also have the same feel of Tarr and Fether. Meanwhile, the concept of the merry-go-round elevator, specific to the Tem, strikes me as the way I am travelling around this book as its own sort of institution or dark sanatorium whence I sense I may never leave…!

  1. os16The Green Dog
    “He loved making the effort. He loved trying.”
    I know I first published this story (in Null Immortalis: Nemonymous Ten, with my original review of it here), but, having just re-read it, in the context of this book, I genuinely believe it is (so far) the most poignant and the most central to the 'old man process', as I have begun to call it in this review. Also relevant to another theme of this book: ‘identity’. There is nothing sexist intended by me about the ‘old man process’ (semi-colon) it's just a frame of mind that only 'old men' of any age can have (but, of course, not all old men). A combination of anal-retentive, curmudgeonliness, a paradoxical spirituality and creativity deriving from that otherwise negativity-strewn oldmanness, often with a Ligottian cathricity, sporadically peppered with good intentions and, dare I say, love (often unrecognised). Well, who knows, that may just be me trying to make me into a class of many mes, to make me feel better!
    This story has the 'miscegenation of souls' I mentioned about 'The Multiples of Sorrow' and seen, too, in 'Merry-Go-Round' via, here, a symbiosis between an old man and a green dog, the refraction and incidence of the lights in 'The Glare and the Glow', the state of human 'existence' represented by Charles in 'Charles', the 'inventing of holidays' from that earlier holiday in foreign UK, an aspirational love of one's family as well as the isolation beyond family and the irritation of the negative channels between family members, and much more, both negative and arguably positive.
    'The Green Dog' has to be read at least once in your life.

  1. A Dream of the Dead
    “And this absence that swells the lungs with shadow,…”
    A dead gorgeous prose piece, that echoes, poetically, the existence of Charles in ‘Charles’, and the old man in the green dog in ‘The Green Dog’ and this book’s earlier “snowfall” as dying … discovering, I claim, a new, original form of Zombie, if that’s not demeaning this work by the very use of that word in its connection. Engorged with beautifully revelatory, tantalisingly graspable and ungraspable sentences on this theme.

  1. Forgive me, but I have been thinking more about ‘Figure in Motion’ earlier in this book. As a story about the ‘loss’ of one’s lifetime partner during the Autumn of one’s life, it is unsurpassable in conveying, via quality fiction, what I imagine the feelings surrounding such an event must be like. But so is ‘Flowers of the Sea’ by Reggie Oliver. Two of my favourite stories ever in the Weird Literature field, each with resonances of the other.

  1. Saturday
    “You might attempt to blow it out of your lungs or vomit it out of your stomach…”
    Excuse me if I call this piece the ‘orgasm’ of despair, the earlier ‘Fish’ McMahonism distilled to its strongest proof, a perfect storm of Ligottian Cathrianism, the ‘old man process’ taken to its logical conclusion when ‘identity’ as well as the body forsakes you while it still happens! Yet… I am strangely left uplifted by this piece… [perhaps because I was listening to Bach as I read it, just like the character in Ian McEwan's 'Saturday'!]

  1. Aphasic World Syndrome
    From ‘Archetype’ to ‘Cats, Dogs & Other Creatures’, I hear a thousand birds scrabbling around above me, as I rest, amid waking dreams, upon the bed directly beneath the roof of my bungalow-house in Holland-on-Sea. Or did I mistake the sound of ‘birds’ for ‘words’?

  1. December
    Snow has ben a metaphor for death earlier in this book, and now this effective short piece takes it a stage further – where all one's 'loved ones' – during freak snow in the city – are metaphorised into humanity's state of existence – working mindlessly and hoping and shaking off black thoughts with escapism – now swaddled in snow not as the missing but as the missing missing.
    Another version of the earlier Baudelairean ‘Zombie’?

  1. As an interpolation, I have just remembered that ‘Black Dog’ was Sir Winston Churchill’s way of describing his own bouts of depression.
    ‘Green Dog’, in view of the strength of Tem’s story, may in future be a famously useful reference to the ‘old man process’ and one’s ambivalent ‘identity’, both factors infused with possibilities of depression, creativity etc.

  1. The Mask Child
    “My big and beautiful face with all its paint and terror?”
    Cf: the evolving mirror-face-into-coulrophobia at the start of ‘Slapstick’…
    This is a remarkable set of stage-directions and written-drama for a Noh-play-style puppet show. Ligottian become a new, perhaps more durable, literary reference: Temian.
    The parents-child relationship, so important to this book, indeed here takes centre stage again, with ricochets of mutual responsibility, whatever the (mis)-outcome of body or mind in the child that the parents create or with which the child reflects back at the parents. And I deeply feel this concept and this haunting enactment of it.
    [It has taken on an even more special meaning for me as, synchronously, a few hours ago, I read and reviewed the 'Humaniora' section of Mann's 'The Magic Mountain', where portrait-painting was involved, regarding skin, flesh, fat and other matters since reverberating with 'The Mask Child'.]
    Some day there won’t be a face at all”.

  1. os17

    “But these are things perhaps that only the dead lie still enough to know.”
    This turns out to be a major Tem work in my mind. 54 cards or sections to shuffle-read so as to gestalt John’s life from the leitmotifs of ‘philosophies’, ‘dreams’, ‘behaviors’, ‘events’…what I might call my own long-googleable ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’? As I am already carrying out this process with the whole book in the order it is printed, I am anal-retentive enough to read these shuffle sections in a like manner – and so I did. I found the whole thing extremely inspiring, while it touches like an ‘old man”s tinkerbelle wand upon each of the themes and variations of the whole book. An ‘old man’ in this context with an impish, if not a fairy, soul! Dark and Temian, but uplifting. Meaningful, but absurd. Sad, but sad. Only a Korean war could be the Joker or Chaos Card to disrupt it today. Who knows what, tomorrow. Happiness? Nirvana? Another Art Installation of photographs that I have here built up during this review, a process retrocausally referred to in ‘Shuffle? Another cocktail of your body parts with absurdly separate beliefs that make the essential you? Or just another cocktail of moments?
    “–people lived their lives with too many missing cards.”
    I began talking at the beginning of this book’s review about a ‘way station’ in one’s life. This is the book’s way station. Perhaps my own, too. There are many features I could quote and compare, many phrases and sentences that will be printed in future Books of Famous Quotations — and the story’s concept, in the context of the whole book, is one of genius. I have no hesitation in saying that.
    “At least once a month John would travel to an isolated rocky beach, to sit, to stand,…”


  1. Twelve Minutes of Darkness
    …or the Twelve Labours of Hercules? .. Or Murkales, as I once had it in my earlier days of writing?
    For me, this exquistely dark-poetic coda to all that has gone before in this book is a work of a Hero, not anything less. A coda of storing night in compartments, while reprising the car crash of JUNGLE J.D. and its outcome, the New Zombie in CHARLES and others, the double-viewpointed maritals of STRANGENESS and FIGURE IN MOTION, the father-son relationships … the old man process, the green dog syndrome (the latter two no longer in inverted commas)…

    [Another quote from SHUFFLE: "There comes a time when a twenty-year guarantee on the house's new roof has no more meaning." and, here, in its coda, "His abandoned house was in fact his own shabby head, where no one ever enters, no one ever leaves."]

  1. An Ending
    “…she’d been assaulted by the fairies, and she fell away from him and he couldn’t even shout his outrage at the terrible thing.”
    A coda’s coda. [The first time I've physically cried (and not onion tears!) during the reading of this book, this end story reminding me of watching my Dad gradually die, over three years, from Motor Neurone Disease, his gradual inability to communicate, but no loss of marbles, just this transcendental experience, also watching my elderly mother's fortitude when she visited him with me... And his struggling reaction to her and to me, and to my own son and daughter...] This story also has a telling reference to the ‘onion songs’ and conveys the Absurdity of such experiences, eg the goat trope that constructively makes this book remind me again of Royle’s QUILT novel. ‘An Ending’ is very powerful and makes this whole book even more memorable, of which I need say no more.
    “There is nothing more he can say.”

    [This experience, generally, though, I think, has been the essence of what I originally meant by the phrase NULL IMMORTALIS in 2010, three years after my father's death. If some, meanwhile, shuffle or scrabble some of the letters and call me the NULL IMMORALIST, so be it!]

    [When it is finished, I shall show my wife's earlier quilted needlework - that was shown somewhere above in an unfinished state - within the next comment space below, but I shall say no more about the wonderful ONION SONGS. Thanks, too, to Chomu Press for enabling Tem to produce it for we readers in such a fine form.]


  1. A reference today to ‘Rasnic Tem’ being shuffled into ‘Met In Scare’:


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