Glimpses Essay - Analysis

Lewis Shiner


Lewis Shiner does an admirable job of creating Rays world. Ray is a lover of music. Before becoming a stereo repairman, he had been the drummer in a somewhat successful band, and he cares about the creation of music. The first half of Glimpses is infused with the spirit of the music of the 1960’s, and Shiner draws the reader into Rays world by providing details of that period and of various performers lives.

Glimpses, however, is far more about Rays relationship to his father and to his past than it is about music. Shiner ultimately uses Rays inner travels in time as a device to get him to consider his past and realize that he cannot change it. Even if he could, there might be disastrous results, such as the premature death of Brian Wilson and of the man Morrison kills with his car.

By creating the “lost albums,” Ray brings into existence things that were not meant to be. He tries to do the same in his life, to create a father who shows affection for him and appreciation for what he does, or at least to understand why his father did not show appreciation. When Rays father tells him to let go, he means that Ray should stop trying to change the past.

From the encounter in heaven, Rays life moves forward quickly. He makes a final break with Elizabeth, then visits former girlfriends and discovers that his relationships with them were what they had to be. Lori is the only thing in his life that is not stale. His new relationship with her shows that he can shed the past and create a new future. He even buys a guitar and plans to write some songs, to create something new.

Glimpses, Shiners most successful book to that point, won the 1993 World Fantasy Award. His output has varied, including the fantasy of Glimpses, the Magical Realism of Deserted Cities of the Heart (1988), and the straightforward science fiction of Frontera (1984), his first novel.