“What We Know About the Lost Families of — House”
I suspect Mr. Barzak may have been reading Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Not that this is that. But it is a sort of abstracted, more distant, simpler version of that. Told from the collective, rather starchy POV of a small town, using the royal We—or I guess the legislative We—this story approaches the interstitial from a social standpoint. The boundaries it crosses and creates are those of marginalization, ostracization. And there’s no coming back once you’ve crossed them. Though I’m not sure how intrinsic that interpretation is to the story, and how much of it is conveninelty imposed by the interstitiality-minded reader.
Beyond that, “— House” is more or less a haunted house story held at arm’s length. The line between good and evil is blurred only by the starchy attention to propriety of the POV—the townspeople aren’t good or evil, they’re just telling the story. Unfortunately I think that distance handicaps their story somewhat. I have trouble engaging with the characters or feeling bad for them, or forgetting the fact that they are made of ink and wood pulp. And I think that if Barzak really wanted to challenge us with that, to give us something tangible to cling to in lieu of the characters and really make this an interstitial story, he could have told it from the house’s POV. Or from the collective houses of the town, as oppposed to the collective people. Which isn’t to say there’s nothing to enjoy here. As with other Barzak I’ve read (which has tended to be quite a bit more abstract and experimental than this), the prose has its high moments. For me, the most endearing thing about “— House” was the image of people disappearing into a misty apple orchard on a cool morning, never to return. Beautiful and shiver-inducing. I wouldn’t mind dying that way.