By Jeff Gardiner (Eibonvale; 2012)
The fourteen stories contained in this collection, the first by Jeff Gardiner, are notable for their considerable range. No two are alike, yet all are distinguished by beautifully evocative writing and a staunch commitment to originality. I can honestly say that, in a most unusual occurrence, nearly all the tales in A GLIMPSE OF THE NUMINOUS are defiantly unique, if not downright bizarre.
The title story is a perversely erotic piece about a man who finds himself aroused by the spectacle of his wife masturbating in bed each morning…until he discovers that something else is in bed with them! “351073” is even stranger, being a bleakly comedic account of a girl named 351073 (Eloise spelled upside-down and backwards), which instills an obsession with numerology that leads her into believing she’s a new messiah because that’s how her life numbers add up. Then there’s the profoundly chilling “Bred in the Bone,” a recollection of a seemingly normal childhood that as the story advances reveals itself as anything but normal.
Of an entirely different, more reality-based hue is “More Sinned Against,” in which a budding relationship between a man and woman is abruptly derailed when the woman undergoes a sudden religious conversion. The situation plays out with a definite ring of truth, and offers no easy answers. The supernatural is likewise absent from “Delirium Tremens,” consisting largely of a schizophrenic man’s nightmarish visions and fantasies, and the short-short “Heartwood,” in which a woman makes love to a tree!
Inevitably there are some less-than-inspiring pieces. “Withdrawal,” about a man terrified by a nonexistent childhood friend, is obvious and (unlike most every other story here) predictable, while “Writer’s Block,” the book’s final entry, has a riveting opening line (“To have married one exploding wife was unfortunate, but to have married two was just getting silly”) but degenerates into a silly and overwrought account of an insanely pretentious writer.
Yet despite such disappointments A GLIMPSE OF THE NUMINOUS overall must be counted as a success, showcasing a new writer from whom I believe we will unquestionably be hearing great things.