THE FAMILIAR by Thomas Kinsella


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paper 1-901233-36-7 Kinsella continues in his introspective mode in this, the 20th volume of his Peppercanister Series (cf. Godhead, Peppercanister 21, below). The fluid presence of time by which the past continually invades the realities of Kinsella’s narratives remains one of the author’s hallmark virtues here and lends a chill to his perceptions—although those are, for the most part, simple recollections whose dramas are inherent rather than inescapable. The very notion of the —familiar— implies a presence out of the past, and a ghostly one at that, but in Kinsella’s narration this emanation may—in the best Jamesian style—be nothing more than a powerful recollection of a past love. Not that that’s any small thing, of course, especially in the employ of one who knows how to infuse the ordinary rhythms of daily regret (—Remembering / our last furious farewell / —face to face, studying each other / with a hardness like hate—) with an emotional intensity that seems to have its origin in another world. But in Kinsella’s hands the haunting seems to go beyond the heartache of mortality into some strangely literal apparition of grief (—the demons over the door / that had watched over me / and my solitary shortcomings—) that is very nearly palpable, and undoubtedly real. The surpassing excellence of the method lies in its simplicity: Whether the ghost is there or not, we feel her clammy touch with as much dread and disbelief as the narrator does himself. A true but very small gem, with just enough facets to give off a few real dazzles.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1999
ISBN: 1-901233-37-5
Page count: 24pp
Publisher: Dedalus
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1999