I read Hayes’ “The Strange and the Wonderful” in Harvey Duckman Presents V7 and was (am still) amazed by it (I reviewed it in Why It Works for Me – Mark Hayes’ “The Strange and the Wonderful”). I reached out to Hayes and learned “The Strange and the Wonderful” is part of the Passing Place mythos, so asked for an autographed copy of Passing Place.
It took a week to read the book because 1) I’m a slow reader and 2) I was savoring it. Passing Place is a fine meal, an elegant respite from the world’s chaos. I’m leaving the following review in several places and the baseline take-away is READ THIS BOOK!
READ THIS BOOK!
Written based on reading only the first 200 pages
Imagine Ray Bradbury as a line. Now do the same for Lord Dunsany. Now Frank Baum and finally Lewis Carroll. Hold them as infinite, straight lines in your mind. Do the same for Cream, Yes, ELP, and Peter Gabriel. For visuals, take Jon Favreau, Steven Speilberg, Wim Wenders, and Guillermo del Toro Gómez.
Arrange these straight-line wonders so they all intersect at the same point. That point is Mark Hayes’ Passing Place.
I’ve known Hayes for a while as a fellow Harvey Duckman author, and you can get a sample of Passing Place in his “The Strange and the Wonderful” in Harvey Duckman Presents V7 (along with the works of many other authors). “The Strange and the Wonderful,” more than anything else I’ve read to date of Hayes’ work, caused me to get the book.
Rarely do I read anything with such power, such vision, such imagination, such intimacy. If I’ve ever read a book ripe for movie treatment, this is it. Take The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, and Pan’s Labyrinth and you have a start. Passing Place takes magic realism, stands it on its head, and brings it full force to the native English speaking world.
Hayes’ visuals are amazing, some amazingly disturbing. He borrows from lots of sources and lists them in the beginning of the book. He also lists a chapter-by-chapter discography and I have no idea if those were his inspirations or are listening suggestions.
Hayes’ settings are so sensorially rich you may have trouble removing yourself from them.
Have you ever read a book you wanted to get back to? You needed to finish your required activities so you could get back to it?
That’s Passing Place for me.
Hayes writes it took five years to complete the book. Those five years must have been like Tiziano Terzani’s fifth century before Christ: “What a fantastic combination of stars there must have been in the fifth century before Christ! So many great spirits, all born at the same time: Sophocles, Pericles, Plato and Aristotle in Greece; Zoroaster in Persia; Buddha in India; Lao Tse and Confucius in China. All, more or less, in the space of a hundred years. Today many, many more people are born, but not a single one who can measure up to those. Why? Is the reason in the stars?”
I hope Hayes stays under the stars because I want to read more work like this.
Passing Place has a raw power to it I often find in first novels of gifted writers finding their authorial voice; people who share their experiences in their writing, are flexing their writing muscles, and write to let what’s inside out. Some writers – myself included – so work at craft they lose their power and voice for a while. I haven’t read Hayes’ later works and I hope he continues to grow and maintains his power and voice. The world would be a grayer place without them, and if Hayes continues in this arc, I’m hanging up my pen and keyboard. I can’t compete.
Final note: I started reading Passing Place and quickly concluded it needed at least one more editing pass. The work so engaged me I wanted to contact Hayes and offer to pay for professional editing for the book.
Then I started paying attention to the “errors”.
Pay attention. If these errors are intentional, Hayes is a genius of the best kind: subtle, whimsical, and worthy. If they’re not intentional, Hayes is a genius and needs to let the cat out of the box.
Written with only ~50 pages left to read
The second half of the book maintains the power and drive of the first half, plus adds extra dimensions (and considering how rich the first half is, I wouldn’t have thought this possible).
The second half adds Samuel R. Delany when he’s at the top of his game and Truman Capote’s early writings of the lyricism/magic of life in the American South.
There was a point in the third quarter of the book where I thought I knew where the book was going and hoped I was mistaken. I trust Hayes enough to relish his misleading me, as if guiding me through the twisty, windy, root covered halls of a dark earth cellar (anybody remember the original, mainframe Adventure? It’s like that).
As I child I often became absorbed by books to the point where I didn’t want them to end because, when they did, the magic would end, too. I don’t think that’s the case with Hayes’ Passing Place. There’s too much magic in here. It seeps out if you let it (please let it).
I wrote previously about the “errors” in the manuscript (the mathematical linguist in me may have been buffering apophenia, specifically pareidolia). I’ve decided I won’t offer to pay for editing because part of Passing Place‘s magic are the errors themselves. To remove them would be to deny Hayes of his voice and the book of much of its authority. I’ll do neither.
What I will do, however, is send an ebook or print copy of Passing Place to the first ten people who contact me about this post with this caveat: you must write a review on both Amazon and Goodreads of Passing Place.
Your call, your turn.
Written after completing the book
I go back to my opening of “READ THIS BOOK!”
I’ll add Joseph Campbell to the mix of author/influencers. The book didn’t go to the two places I anticipated and that’s because I’m an idiot. Hayes put all the clues to where the book really went throughout the manuscript and kept me so focused on what I was reading I didn’t pull back enough to connect all the dots (and spoiler alert – Hayes has a remarkable metaphor involving connecting the dots in here).
I dogeared the last twenty or so pages because Hayes litters the book with amazing lines (Hegelian puzzle masters will love the end of this book. Anybody studying perception versus reality must read this book).
Am I gushing? Of course, I’m gushing. This book and Hayes deserve it. As I wrote earlier, I haven’t relished a book this much since I was a child/early teenager and I can list the books which brought me so into their world: Asimov’s (original) Foundation Trilogy, Crichton’s Andromeda Strain, Thomas’ The Seed, Van Vogt’s Rogue Ship and Voyage of the Space Beagle, Blish’s The Seedling Stars, Simak’s City, Lem’s Eden and Solaris, Bakis’ Lives of the Monster Dogs, …). Each of these books opened my mind and made me think (glorious think). Hayes’ Passing Place enters a hallowed gallery in my mind. It made think and question, and for that I can never say thanks enough.
ps) I offer a full analysis of Passing Place‘s opening line in Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Oct 2021’s Great Opening Lines). Enjoy.