From first unfurling to eventual denouement, Spill Simmer Falter Wither comes full circle in a torrent of emotional freedoms and physical escapes. Bound up with the seasons, this is an intensely felt love story.
We follow Ray, a hesitant fifty-seven year-old solitary dweller, as he discovers the quiet gratification of companionship with One Eye, a rescue dog as grisly and mangled as Ray envisions himself to be. Vicarious visions of One Eye’s world bind man and dog together in oneiric hyper-awareness; ‘Now you are my third leg, an unlimping leg, and I am the eye you lost’. Yet their bond is ever threatened by One Eye’s unpredictable savage outbursts towards others – one dangerous encounter drives them to flee house and home in a meandering road journey of evasion.
A tumbling kaleidoscope of miniature experiences
Baume’s precise, lyric language lifts this tale above tragic biographical narrative and reveals the myriad things we miss in our purposeful lives.
A tumbling kaleidoscope of miniature experiences suffuse us with the significance of small tasks and routine shared. Ray, like One Eye with his inquisitive nose, is attentive and observant of every small occurrence and change in his environment, exercising a gentle and mindful perception. His limitless empathy counters the pathetic pitiable character he believes others see:‘I haven’t lived high or full, still I want to believe I’ve lived intensely’. Ruminating on the unimaginable wonders of others’ lives, Ray shows us our world from the outside in with poignancy and humour.
However, we also see Ray severely hindered by his self-acknowledged “inability to do things”. He cannot reach out, or within, to find reason for the constant puzzle and battle of his existence –‘better to be content with ignorance, I’ve always thought, than haunted by the truth’. Darker hidden truths are gradually unearthed through confidences to his dog; which make a kind of sense of Ray’s situation. For someone unable to rebel, to completely let go as One Eye furiously does, these secrets offer a slight mitigation.
Truly the fable of the outsider and the outcast, reading this book was more akin to being so absorbed by a film you forget the screen before you. With such honest open feeling and vivid writing, I saw and lived the entire tale along with One Eye and Ray. An epic poetic relation of two small lives caught between the vastness of nature and the greater dangers of human society, I was engrossed by this jewel of a story and I think you will be too.
About Alvina De-La-Mare
A long-time fen-dweller, I like to put a creative spin on my work as a library assistant. Being part of the Readers’ Circle reawakened my love of reading for simple pleasure. A scavenger by nature, I will delve into any book or subject that captures my interest and likewise often come home from bike rides with finds and forages from country roads.