My real-time review continued from here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/04/01/book-of-days-steve-rasnic-tem/
My further comments will appear in the comment stream below…

53 responses to “*

  1. DEC 15
    1939: Gone With the Wind has its world premiere.

    DEC. 16
    1901: Anthropologist Margaret Mead is born in Philadelphia.
    1916: The Russian monk Rasputin is murdered by a group of conservative noblemen.

    DEC. 17
    1903: Erskine Caldwell, author of Tobacco Road is born.
    1969: the U.S. Air Force closes Project Blue Book, concluding that there was no evidence for extraterrestrial visitations.

    DEC. 18
    1737: violin-maker Antonio Stradivari dies in Cremona, Italy.

    “Using headphones wouldn’t be the same, either – he had to have the soft vibration of the speakers, he had to feel the music drifting through the house, rubbing against walls, bouncing back off the ceiling.”

    The last entry above has the most poignant synergy of loss of the (for me, essential) availability of one’s classical music with the loss of one’s family, whether such losses are due to one’s own fault or not.

  2. DEC 19

    “and there is no difference between adults and children.  The adults no longer even know their children.  All are equally disappointed.  All are equally insubstantial.”

    And the man in the moon is the only panning peeping tom, a moon or man taken into every room, even at Christmas…instead of a star.
    Literature autonomously feeds across to each other part of itself. A tour we all share, inside each other’s heads?

    Like today’s 3D headphones.

  3. DEC 20

    “He looked down to see that it was his left hand, finally shaking itself off his wrist…”

    The perfect coda to the Sycamore Street Symphony just now in my parallel Tem review, as Cal thinks of presents to send to his estranged children.

  4. AD2C0E34-947A-40FD-94CA-243266470172

    DEC 21 & 22

    “It wasn’t his light, he knew, the healing warmth that had always been his, but he would have to make do if he meant to survive.”

    “I cannot find my way: there is no star . . .”

  5. DEC 23, 24 & 25

    “When he turned his back Cal could see his sack full of small children’s corpses, their mouths and eyes sewn shut.”

    Old Red Nick’s sack, the Santa Claus of our nightmares, I guess. Or Cal’s own sack, he transposes to Santa. Much powerful material here apotheosising this book for Christmas. Not easy to avoid this book, I guess, now that it has come out of its closet into the open with the help of this review. I wonder if I shall ever be thanked by those genre and literary readers whom I point in its direction, and whether I should now read this book quietly to myself in future!

  6. DEC 26

    “When so many children are born, great numbers of them die.”

    Almost a sequitur. A powerful passage where Cal dwells on the nature of babies, the passing joys in them, but also the end date that, for me, God or LiGotti put into them at the point of birth. Death as another day’s entry, one already written on the calendar.

  7. DEC. 27
    1831: Charles Darwin sets out on the H.M.S. Beagle to voyage the Pacific.  His discoveries on this trip will form the basis of his theory of evolution.
    1985: Gorilla specialist Dian Fossey is found hacked to death in Africa.

    “In the middle of a dream of his children it came out of a distant cloud, and soon it was tearing the memories of his children away.”

    A “throw-back (or throw-forward)” entering Darwin’s dreams (now Cal’s) to punish him for what he had done to it. I shall now enter Tem’s dreams to punish him for what he is now already doing to me in my own dreams! Thinking about it, I merely need to allow his dreams to return to where they came from, without the middle man of me? Omission, not commission. Throw-back and throw-forward together. And not or.

  8. DEC 28

    “And the walls would move in and out, breathing like the walls of the lungs, or the walls of the womb.
    When his children were first dropped into this prison of love it would no doubt confuse them.”

    I was desperate to quote the whole of this entry. There is a grey area between reviewing and retelling. Between word-for-word and précis. Here I can at least, with impunity, cross-reference again my concurrent reviews: e.g. Dines’ ventouse and Chiang’s flattened, exhaled lungs, and Goodfellow’s chiropractoring us from our body’s prison, and Westlake’s prying off of our faces, too.

  9. DEC 29

    “Most of all the dead, from mortuaries, from under cataracts of rubble, made their anonymous presence – not as today’s dead but as yesterday’s living – felt through London. Uncounted, they continued to move in shoals through the city day, pervading everything to be seen or heard or felt with their torn-off senses, drawing on this tomorrow they had expected – for death cannot be so sudden as that.”
    Elizabeth Bowen – Heat of the Day 1949, written about the London Blitz.

  10. DEC. 30
    1963: The game show “Let’s Make A Deal” debuts on NBC.  Monty Hall is host.

    Yesterday in my reviewing, it was Noel Edmunds’ Deal, or No Deal with Brexit mentioned here.

  11. DEC 31 / JAN 1

    “Sometime in the night the world had changed, and old men had been put in charge of the daytime.”

    Am I the FIRST person to review, in relative detail, this incredible book?

  12. JAN 2

    Probably the most wittily nifty piece about a robot and its attitude to the human condition you are ever likely to read!

  13. JAN 3

    “For children have the worst secrets of them all, and as long as they are children they will never tell.“

    “He hauls them out one by one,…”

    A relatively long, unforgettable post-death vision of our children. What can one do but read it?

    And please read, too, as complement, Schwob’s Children’s Crusade (1896) that I reviewed here: https://zencore2007.wordpress.com/374-2/#comment-662

  14. JAN 4

    “…felt the Braille of the world, and discovered it was a different language entirely.
    His fingertips ached as they ran back and forth across the hidden irregularity of the world:”

    Back and forth, the wise saws of Tem.

    CalTem, aka “the smooth cool of unlimited devotion”…?

  15. JAN 5

    “…he might see the world and the people in the world as only children can see them. 
    He might see right through them, right into the luminous heart of things.”

    Children see other children. Sometimes they blur them when adults are looking. Here, Cal has deep sight, into what lies beneath things. And what another man sees when he sees children. What I say or see seems to me increasingly to make less sense the longer my stint of Tem reading continues. But I like to assume, without knowing definitely, that what I say or see actually makes MORE sense the longer I go on reading Tem.
    It’s almost becoming a religion.

  16. JAN 6
    1412: Joan of Arc is born in Domremy.

    “He found a child burning in the middle of that greatest light.”

    The light here in tune with the RED LIGHT in today’s OUT OF THE DARK story here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/05/04/out-of-the-dark-steve-rasnic-tem/#comment-16647

  17. JAN 7

    A moving portrait of Cal’s son Parker taking over as the heir and taking responsibility (except at night when he gets his toys out again) like a Japanese emperor becoming such, as a small boy, when his father’s death happens.
    Tem has the knack of touching things beyond the reach of others, assuming that those others actually WANT to reach out to touch such things!

  18. JAN 8

    “Oh we all go somewhere, Cal.  Haven’t you figured that out by now?  We all go somewhere whether we want to or not.”

    …so says the telephone operator, as Cal rings his estranged family at last but eventually gets Elvis Presley’s ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ answerphone, instead.

  19. AA763008-FC5E-469A-B54C-A0CBD0A9AC2DJAN. 9
    1793: Frenchman Jean Pierre Blanchard makes the first manned balloon flight in the United States.

    There was a 1956 film called The Red Balloon that enchanted me as a boy. This entry today charms me in equal measure. Tem certainly knows how to capture visions that stay with you and this is one of the best, vis a vis Cal and his parenthood obliquely symbolised. Although ‘charm’ may not be the exact word I require. A cross between charm and scar?

  20. JAN 10 – 12

    “Watching our children lying on the dark ground with their broken wings, waiting for the night feeders to come, is intolerable.”

    Telling comparisons of his estranged children with birds and animals.
    Ted Hughes who wrote poetry of hawks etc., he abandoned someone, too? My question, not the Book of Days. Meanwhile, who should play Cal when they make a film of this book? I used to do Amateur Dramatics in my younger days!

  21. JAN 13 – 15

    “This dream of his life made a pretty good novel, but it was no way to live, and certainly no way to teach his children how to live.”

    And now Cal’s separate Proustian selves are more like many Lewis Carroll rabbits running about. Which perhaps brings us to human beings running about in Basketball. Usually tall people, I guess. But fathers are not always forever taller than their sons. The rules of Basketball were not covered by Owen Booth in his ‘fathers-teaching-their-sons’ book, I recall. Perhaps he should have done? Mothers teaching their daughters, too? More rhetorical questions?

  22. JAN 16

    The difficulties in what we’re teaching our children, especially about what they should or should not do, and especially as they grow older. To allow or prohibit.

    But please do read the separate paragraph in this entry about a girl who found bits of herself turning to shadow. It sheds more light than you might think.

  23. JAN 17

    “Being a father is filling your children’s heads with as many words as possible, as many scraps of information and advice and truths and half-truths and warnings and inspirations as you can in the hope that something useful may stick, that some preparation can be made for a life for which there is no preparation.”

    This is a very moving entry about fatherhood. That long quote (please forgive me) is less than half of it. The rest is even more moving.

    I intend to leave my review of this book for a while. It deserves to be my longest ever review in the time used for me to read and review it. Also another sabbatical gives me a chance for spiritual regrouping in the book’s light, and in its shadow.

  24. JAN 18

    A most striking series of scenarios that Cal pictures about his return home to his family. Some more poignant than others. One involves greeting cards. Jan 18 is my birthday.
    This book has not grown weaker in my recent short absence, and indeed it has grown even stronger, judging by this entry.

  25. JAN 19

    “He could feel the house moving in anticipation of the coming wind.”

    Hoping to atone for his derelictions of duty to his own family,
    Cal approaches a house where an old man is due for crucifixion –
    or the house itself is due for dereliction, even crucifixion.
    This book makes you comprehend dreadful incomprehension.

  26. JAN. 20
    1942: the Wannsee conference is held in Berlin, during which the “final solution” calling for the extermination of European Jews is proposed.

    You MUST read this entry about green pigs.

  27. JAN 21

    “Sometimes he thought the world would be a much better place without heads.”

    Cross-reference the Evenson cleaver novel LAST DAYS that I am currently reading!

  28. JAN 22

    “Parker: How many daddies does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    Jenny: Daddy doesn’t live here anymore, and I’m scared of the dark.”

    In the context of this book, I defy you not to weep at that.

  29. JAN 23

    Children arguably shouting “fruitcake”, a word used here, when their father sends them an insect as part of a bag or popcorn to represent his regret,

  30. JAN 24, JAN 25

    I was deeply affected by the story of the swallowing lion. The phone call, the half-guesses at who was talking to whom, who was swallowed, and who carved the cat the day before.

  31. JAN 26, JAN 27

    My 11th point about turkeys to add to the 10 listed here – their collective noun is “rafter”.

    In vain we roared; in vain we tried
    To rouse her into laughter:
    Her pensive glances wandered wide
    From orchestra to rafter –
    “TIER UPON TIER!” she said, and sighed;
    And silence followed after.
    — Lewis Carroll

    A sad homophone is ‘tier’. His daughter staring down at him.
    And Cal’s encounter with both his estranged children in a Lewis Carroll setting is even sadder.

  32. JAN 28

    “but something happened in the connections and interconnections, the switchings and unswitchings, and he was shuttled in and out of the lives and conversations of numerous people he did not know.”

    Happens to me a lot these days of books!

  33. JAN. 29
    1820: Britain’s King George III dies insane at Windsor Castle.
    1845: Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven is published.
    1963: poet Robert Frost dies in Boston.

    It’s a miracle of dowsing how historical dates and their events can be blended into this book’s gestalt.

  34. JAN 30, JAN 31

    Appropriately, two dates that link The Lone Ranger and Zane Grey. Are we all people with masks, wallowing in a grey area of not knowing, even by ourselves, whether we are black or white.

  35. FEB 1

    This may be the book’s turning point. Strange how things become more powerful in this guise of dates conjuring up a significant conflux of events as facts and dates. Cal the father faced with the crimes against his children, in a legal ritual, a Supreme Court that only fiction fed on facts like those can produce.

  36. Written yesterday …

    FEB 2, FEB 3

    Buenos Aires and a conflux of nesting songs on the day the music died, seems fitting ironically or obliquely for a new 9/11 today in my own real time

  37. FEB 4

    A most amazing vision as vignette of anorexia and perception that you will ever read!

  38. FEB 5

    I can’t resist quoting significantly from this William Burroughs inspired entry (please forgive me).

    “ in the other room a very nasty man was melting Cal’s children down inside a great black kettle, melting them down for their Essence and he would take that Essence and shoot it into Cal’s veins for the absolutely highest high a man had ever felt.”

    This book is like keeping a diary yourself, except the entries are straight into the diarist’s veins. You are both reader and diarist each day, A weird feeling. As if your day has not been your own.

  39. FEB 6

    The ultimate poignant pareidolia of parenthood, via baseball and ball in a tree.

  40. FEB. 7
    1812: Charles Dickens is born in Portsmouth, England.
    1943: the U.S. government announces shoe rationing.

    A remarkable prose stream of your shoes and the feet in them, whether they are your feet in them or not. A conflict between a manly pride in wearing out shoes till the are unwearable and an obsession in collecting different styles of them, a fad of wear and discard, or of wear and store.

  41. Cross-referenced this book with Chapter 14 of Salman Rushdie’s ‘Quichotte’ here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/09/02/quichotte-salman-rushdie/#comment-16920

  42. Following above cross-reference…

    FEB 8

    “Somewhere on his dreamed island his children were hiding from him, pretending to be small animals indigenous to the terrain.  Maybe they were afraid they would be sacrificed to his personal volcanoes if he ever found them.”

  43. FEB 9

    I know, in reading andvreal-time reviewing, there is often the passion of the moment, almost an orgasm, an orgasm with a book, an orgasm as described by Cal in this entry. Well, I believe, even in the cold post-coital light, I will consider this entry to be the strongest literature about sex with one’s long-term wife as compared to sex with a tempting taunting extraneous woman. Essential reading.

  44. FEB 10

    “Through the eyes of fire…”

    And in that way one must read this book. Audio would not do.

  45. FEB. 11
    1963: the poet Sylvia Plath commits suicide in London.

    I don’t think I have before read anything so powerful about Sylvia Plath, here in the context of Cal and his calendars. I remember once reading a poem called DADDY by Plath. I haven’t checked to see if I am correct, least of all re-read it. I read her novel the Bell Jar in the 1960s I think. This book is a bit like a bell jar. When does my air run out?

  46. FEB 12

    “He stacked one box on top the other, no more than two high, trying to keep the edges straight, as if he were creating a piece of art.”

    Cal preparing to go home. Talk of cabins, too, with a man he meets. Is there not something horrific about cabins? We all live in boxes. Or books.

  47. FEB 13

    “He looked up into the sky where stars appeared one by one, creating patterns which turned and twisted into other patterns, where he could read the story of his exile, his family’s life without him, and then the story of his long trip home.”

    He leaves the cabin ready to journey back to his family. I wonder whether he does, and whatever he does decide to do, do I tell you, before you read this book? I may read the rest of this truly remarkable book in silence.