Phillips, Thomas - And The Darkness Back Again
My mistake, I was expecting a continuation of Phillips’ previous, and superb, In This Glass House.
This, however, is a collection of unsettled stories, and witnessing.
“Everything Was Explicable” chronicles a day in the perfect life, the perfect marriage, until an abrupt disappearance causes one partner to confront their self, and their shortcomings.
A home-schooled adolescent begins his first forays into manhood. His father, a religious fundamentalist, keeps the boy on a tight leash. The youth is drawn to two females: a fetching librarian, and an absent mother. “Into Her Darkness I Go” uses journal entries to show the learning of forbidden knowledge.
“God In An Alcove” reflects the full day onboard. Not sailing, not adrift, anchored. Stream of consciousness prevails. Stray thoughts, flash of memory, casual decisions, into the night. Nightfall, oh the night, what the darkness brings.
Phillips often writes in fragmentary sentences. So much so, I wondered at times how firm his grasp on syntax was. (Don’t get me going about his almost complete lack of dialogue.) The fragments often underscore the deconstructed lives, the string of insignificant moments, and ego inflated ruminations.
“Firehouse” offers another smug, self satisfied couple, who congratulate their good fortune, their innate cleverness. Making the most of a cramped, yet coveted living space. An oasis in a neighborhood surrounded by dark.
Several stories dance around the confines of religious dogma. Perhaps the author uses these to resolve internal conflicts. Those readers who wrestle creed with liberty may identify. I read unmoved.
“Individual Thought Patterns” is a nasty creeper. Just when I thought Phillips had tucked in one or two exercises, this poisonous pill was forced into me.
With “She” I must confess I deliberately misinterpreted the flow. Once Annie (she) opens her new vinyl album, “Alive,” I envisioned the glam group fronted by Gene and Paul. As Annie lulls to the hypnotic words, I speculated a hybrid between “Angie Baby” and BÖC’s “Unknown Tongue.” I lost the plot and scampered into my own music world, which I am certain was not the author’s intent.