THE BOOK OF DAYS

Steve Rasnic Tem, Author
Steve Rasnic Tem, Author . Subterranean $40 (250p) ISBN 978-1-931081-39-9
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The traditional book of days, filled with readings commemorating each day's historical significance, provides a structure for this reflective fantasia on a father's love of family and despair at the challenges of parenthood. In a brief introduction, Tem (City Fishing) introduces Cal, a man so distraught at life's risks and the natural vulnerability of his children that he abandons them for his childhood home where, alone with his thoughts and $300 worth of calendars, he endures dark days and nights of the soul extending nearly seven months. Cal's attempts to come to terms with his fears yield a daily succession of diary-type entries in which one or more historical events specific to the day shape his meditations. For some days the connections are obvious: September 17, the birthday of William Carlos Williams, inspires a perfect pastiche of the poet's spare verse in which children fill the sandbox of the world with their play. Other days forge more oblique connections: on December 5, the date of Mozart's death and Walt Disney's birth, Cal poignantly compares children to prodigies and cartoon characters, "brilliant and dazzling and colorful and full of pain." Though some entries stray from the book's theme, all showcase Tem's poetic skill at grounding abstract ideas and volatile emotions in perfectly polished metaphors and images judiciously distilled from literature, history, dark fantasy and popular culture. Not quite a novel or a story collection, this contemplative odyssey is easily one of the more risk-taking and rewarding books of fantasy published this year. (Aug. 5)

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