I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt. All my other real-time reviews, during the last three or four years, are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/
All my real-time reviews of Glen Hirshberg books: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/glen-hirshberg/
I purchased this novel as a customer from an Amazon trader.
The Snowman’s Children – by Glen Hirshberg
Carroll & Graf (first trade paperback 2003)
There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.
CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.
Pages 1 to 15
“…the night the lions jumped over the zoo’s retaining wall and escaped.”
Shuttling between 1994 and 1976 a novel’s protagonist establishes the novel piecemeal with blurred intentions that the reader needs to fathom: about a group of kids in his past that seemd to be tutored by their parents in ‘Never Let Me Go’ party games: a threat’s shadow of the Snowman, and the protagonist’s own present wife at the end of a feisty telephone. All in a feisty literary-modern prose that knows how not to condescend to us. My initial impressions. Dragged in because it’s Hirshberg doing it, the Knowman. (15 Jul 12 – 3.40 pm bst)
Pages 17 to 33
“It was like looking through the moon at the rest of the earth.”
Sometimes we struggle with the opening of plots and we need a sat-nav or gps or ‘Accu-map’ to transcend 1985, say, with 1976, those childhoods, then those adolescent feelings-of-the-way, an iPad window (this screen) with a hand in it to say the plague has been here. The stalker who masquerades as a reader in the know. The scuzzie artist and other characters who amass to pattern one’s early growing life. “…getting old is like becoming a lake.” (15 Jul 12 – 7.40 pm bst)
Pages 35 to 50
“I mean, Jesus Christ, it’s your birthday, you’re in some motel room a thousand miles away babbling about things that happened ten–twenty years ago, and you sound so small. You sound so small, Mattie.”
Mattie, our male protagonist, as small perhaps as a figure from a Canaletto painting, cross-sectioning 1976 to 1994 via 1989, a fragile, almost ‘lost’ man fragilely spinning his equally fragile relationships through the telephone-wires: to his banjo-playing wife and, then, his now after-life’s-storms parents in their porch-swing days … all skilfully over-shadowed by the Snowman who and which sounds more evil each time we ‘meet’ him and it, through these cross-sectionings, as a childkiller…), the GPS-type orientating of “long circle toward home” and “the wreckage of Motor City“: once the Detroit that housed the 1976 events, or so I infer, as a UK reader, a reader who meets a whiffle ball again in Hirshberg and the crafted ambiance of American baseball etc. The book itself has a sign of a corpse-hand somewhere stained on its pages to remind us that it was once pressed in there like a nature-study wild flower? I almost imagine tiny cars the kids once drove as if they, too, were once born from a Canaletto painting? Dragged in screaming, now, I am. (16 Jul 12 – 11.20 am bst)
Pages 51 to 64
“…he saw the little wooden clown with the arm stuck out that showed how tall you had to be to get on,…”
…to get on the fairground ride and I feel I am on one when reading this book, a see-saw contraption between 1976 and 1994, as Mattie continues trial communications with his past and with his now (the people of the past now and the people of now itself), with his brother, as well as with his wife Laura again, via some taut wire between more than just childhood’s tin-cans: a ‘harnessed’ race against time? Childhood ice-skating now become an adult career (which seems significant in the light of the Snowman) and a school affected by 1970s colour-bussing (I infer) and other grown-up quarrels seen through a child’s eyes seen through that child’s now adult eyes… “‘From my house,’ Spencer whispered, ‘you can hear lions at night. I live by the zoo.'” (17 Jul 12 – 2.20 pm bst)
Pages 65 to 82
“Now he’d been swarmed.”
…as if the reader is bombarded with a series of calliopes or see-saws of time: a book of bunk, a struwwelpeter, ice-cream signs, safety clowns, a dark carnival of prospecting for a past life amid the people who once peopled it, amid a threatening cloud of stings. Cold stings like all the bits of the Snowman now come loose? That’s me riffing on the Hirshberg griot. Political incorrectness made an art form or a Toynbeean challenge-and-response. “Sidecarring” by reader and author. The past as “Mind War“. The “minimall” present as another past. This book’s like playing games in a wonderful fiction-reality fairground. Masks or hands. Emblems or embolisms. Grown-up children needing something placating or playacting. “…a new sadness slides through me like an ice floe.” (18 Jul 12 – 2.50 pm bst)
Pages 83 to 95
“The brownie felt like someone’s hand, warm and dense and soft when you pressed it.”
One end of my ‘seesaw’ now rooted in 1976, as Halloween brings out memories from then into the future – of Theresa, one of those people who people the past as a child whom we are trying to discover in the present. Supremely archetypal Hirshberg in this chapter, with griot turned grimoire, as we try to fathom the racial recognitions of 1970s America (or at least this UK reader does). [I earlier quoted the brief mention of ‘lions in a zoo’ from this book’s first chapter because of my synchronous long-term personal preoccupation with CERN Zoo and the Lion’s Den Syndrome so I am now pleased as well as intrigued by the retrocausal development of this theme…] (18 Jul 12 – 7.15 pm bst)
Pages 97 – 102
“Our destination had been a bookstore called Iris, with giant pupils wearing spectacles painted on the door.”
[My own mother’s name being Iris, my recurring illness since 1973 Iritis (here in the book literally ‘stinging eyes’), and books my life-long passion], I am intrigued that my perceived ‘seesaw’ above actually describes the viewpoints of this narrative, see, saw, seen, will see, never saw, and standing by a playground contraption that you once saw at the beginning of this chapter now rooted in 1994 but now it is gone. Like the slippery people whom you can’t capture for some form of intended catharsis (as yet unclear), not yet captured on those taut wires between you, between you and your past, between a deeper past and your middle future. And the Snowman gradually crystallises and I shiver. An “idea bomb” become “splattering colors“. All in the ambiance of a certain decayed Detroit “….none of my stories have endings.” (19 Jul 12 – 8.55 am bst)
Pages 103 – 132
“The H told me this was a vision, maybe even an interesting one.”
Author as a drug? Not only for the reader’s veins, but the characters’, too. Author as drug and drag-artist, dragging me further in screaming, towards the Snowman syndrome which gradually comes clearer but not clear enough, until I want to “Let it go” (cf “Never Let Me Go” mentioned earlier in this review) like Spencer wants Mattie to let it all go – Spencer being the person from the past Mattie finds (in his continuing search for Theresa who’d been 11 in 1976 and now presumably grounded, not only rooted, in 1994, as 33), Mattie finding Spencer in some sort of multi-piano ‘Busby Berkeley’-like gospel-singing preacher role – and spoons and lions and other objective-correlatives accrete… This is a major section of the book, I guess, a watershed of writing and us reading it, masterfully done, as we learn more of the characters involved and the inferred catharsis sought. The H as Hirshberg is a good sort of H. At the gospel session at the start of this section there is speaking in tongues. And then Spencer later tells of Theresa’s own version of that phenomenon in the form of lists. But I could go on with my own real-time lists. Ever-sidecarred along the narrative’s mind-stretching audit trail. “The zoo water-tower glows gray-white like a monument to the moon.” (20 Jul 12 – 1.20 pm bst)
THIS REAL-TIME REVIEW IS CONTINUED HERE.