21 December 2011

The Bee-Loud Glade - Steve Himmer

Fiction, Trade Paperback Original
ISBN 978-0-9845105-8-0
6 x 9 in / 224 pages
Publication Date: April 4, 2011

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.”
-W.B. Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”

The Bee-Loud Glade is the story of Finch, a daydreamer whose job as a marketer of plastic plants consists mostly of updating the blogs of the imaginary people he creates. Once new management steps in and kicks him out, Finch slowly lets go of all ties to the outside world. With both his electricity and motivation shut off, he sinks into a state of oblivion, holed up in his apartment for weeks on end. But when his reply to what he thinks is innocuous spam sweeps him into the world of billionaire Mr. Crane, Finch agrees to live and work—for more money than he’s ever imagined—as an ornamental hermit in a cave on Mr. Crane’s estate.
This darkly comic commentary on modern work and wealth thoughtfully probes deep-rooted questions about the nature of man, the workplace, and society (and what happens in their absence). Set in a postmodern pastoral landscape, it brings a playfulness more commonly found in urban fiction to an outdoor setting. With light and engaging prose, Himmer deftly unearths the ironies of life and the futility of escape.


A while back I wrote a review for a Korean movie called "Castaway on the Moon" (review here).  This novel tracks the same premise...disillusioned soul finds himself inexplicably 'trapped' in the center of everything.  It is a theme that I personally find fascinating.

Mr. Himmer has written a novel that manages to be sublime and deeply thought provoking simultaneously.  Rarely do authors manage the two so deftly.  As a commentary on modern life Himmer pretty much nails the essence of our daily existence...and our collective modern way of living has never seemed so inane, so inexplicably ridiculous.  Finch is a perfect citizen in so many ways.  He does just what he is told to do and if he stops to question 'why' he doesn't dwell on it for very long...he simply follows whatever instruction has been given him to the best of his abilities though he rarely tries very hard.

Now, with nothing but time on my hands, I didn't know where to start and it was simpler to not start at all.  I had no more interest in finding a job than I had in anything else

He is in every way a thoroughly modern man.  He exists without any particular passion, without any definable goal, no dreams, no real emotions...he is essentially an empty case, vacant and vacuous.  And he doesn't even realize that this is a tragedy.

Over the course as his tenure as 'hermit' Finch undergoes a gradual transformation...nothing very dramatic, just a slow, soft ascent into the realm of higher values.  At one point in the story Finch is struck by the industry of nature, it's beauty and perfect imperfections he marvels...

All this had been happening every day of my life, while I'd been moving too fast and with too sluggish a mind to take note.  While I'd been too busy shitting and showering and shaving myself, trundling myself off to work in a mental fog that lent itself to traffic jam driving but not to being alive.

The nature of his Glade-somewhat manipulated by man, not entirely secluded and sort of dependent on the care of outsiders and it's slow transformation through the years toward total independence tracks the progress of Finch's spirit.  He is not so much adrift in isolation as he is cast out of a society that has lost it's meaning, it's soul, it's raison d'etre.  Here, in The Bee-Loud Glade a man finds himself and in the process has thrown the world a lifeline out of chaos and maybe back into the Garden.


Steve Himmer teaches at Emerson College in Boston, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and is on the faculty of the First-Year Writing Program. His stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Hobart, The Los Angeles Review, Night Train, Pindeldyboz, PANK, Emprise Review, and Everyday Genius. He also is a frequent blogger on writing and teaching, and edits Necessary Fiction, a webjournal from So New Publishing, a press based in Eugene, Oregon.
You can find Bee-Loud Glade at Atticus Books here.

The Bee-Loud Glade is his first novel.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.


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