The Reach of Children – by Tim Lebbon
|Gradually written on the Shocklines thread here: http://shocklinesforum.yuku.com/topic/9622|
The Reach of Children by Tim Lebbon – Humdrumming Ltd 2008(later) I’ve read Part I now. It’s as if the book reaches into everybody’s childhood whatever the era in question. Mine was the Fifties. The mini-bus, the dictaphone, the surfing of the TV etc don’t make it any less the Fifties. It is as if they were dreams of my then budding writerly mind, echoing backwards from this very reading of Tim’s novella. At my first school in 1952, there was the emptiness of a slate, black, ready to scratch words. Mummy a dependable force who met me from school. Plasticene. Black and White Coronation on TV. It’s all here in Tim’s book even if it isn’t. Because this seems (so far) to be a tale of ‘being not there’, ‘absence’, ‘blankness’, the reach of past comfortable habits into the future-become-present-become-past-again (but transmuted…? ). We shall see..
Indeed, we shall see. I intend to make this an on-the-hoof review, because reviews tend to look back at the wholeness of a book (which I shall do eventually). Meanwhile, I like to describe/interpret/evaluate as I proceed piecemeal in media res.
This is a novella by the look of it. Well, I knew that before I received it. But it tucks neatly into my potential reading mind even before I’ve read it … as if the child within it already reaches out to me. I sense it by osmosis. Both by the book itself physically and what I know of Tim Lebbon and the earlier fiction-collaborating with him in the Nineties.
(Later) Part II
I’m not going to mention what is under the bed – not only for spoiler dangers but also for the reason I do not want it expressed, fathomed – not yet any way. I need to be tantalised. I need to savour this relatively short book. Sip at its incredible undercurrents. It’s as if the book itself (with rehearsed suicides (by pill or drunken driving) and pub garden lunches) is a thing under my own ‘bed’ of reading it. Its mysterious voice speaks to me. Poignancy is facing death as a thing to be sipped slowly, never let go. However, I sense the main protagonist doesn’t want to get drunk on death. He needs to grow up. Like son, unlike Father. The Child is … worth more than mere words. Reaching out to those who reach for him, but their arms aren’t long enough …. yet.
BTW, I am not reading Michael Marshall Smith’s Foreword till I’ve completed and commented on the novella itself.
EDIT: Feb 18 2009: Part III
The visit with Gary and his Dad is another outside broadcast paradoxically accentuating the eschatological claustrophobia of this (already haunting) tale – a scenario parallel to the inwardness/inwoodness of the bed(room). I’m fascinated how this book’s deceptively simple description of complex matters will resolve itself in the forthcoming final part: a fascination that is a cliffhanger more exciting, in its way, than one at the end of Saturday Mornng Pictures. One can see inward with eyes (a frightening concept). Other frightening concepts that lace this book – by illusions, elusions, allusions, even delusions with child-proof screw-tops – are conveyed by phrases like a doctor who is ‘grave-faced’, a bed-cover caught up like ‘a dancing girl’s skirt’ and a new-polished proverb: ‘you can’t shine shine’. All reaching out to the reader with their meanings offered, but not quite touching … yet.
EDIT: Feb 19 2009: Part IV
I feel as if the world is as it should be. I need not have worried (although I did need to worry as that very worry was part of the pleasure of reading (reaching) ‘The Reach of Children’, a worry that would not have been so fulfilling if I had reached this novella in one single sitting) — and that cliffhanger of worry was whether I was seeing the correct things being fore-shadowed. This final part is a perfect completion of symphonic form (the nearest that ideas, characters, plot and tangible words can reach the musical tipping-point of revelation) – while teeming with emotions, that are sensed to be so heartfelt and personal, the readers themselves cannot escape their touch.
So, I was pitch perfect in my previous comments above. But I take no credit for that. The book in many ways was under my bed (written by Daniel’s Dad’s book-collecting, guitar-playing friend?) — thus written from within outwards. Inwood, inward, where eyes can only plumb via a worth of words. The Child is Father of the Man.
All my Real-Time Reviews are linked from here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/df-lewis-real-time-reviews/
Since spontaneously writing above review on the Shocklines thread, I have added above a minor (hardly noticeable) amendment: a reading/reaching touchstone. There seems to be a world of difference between readng a work of fiction and reaching it.