Glimpses Critical Essays

Lewis Shiner


(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Ray Shackleford, the narrator of GLIMPSES, knows his music, as a former professional musician. While thinking about the Beatles’ last album, which was to have been GET BACK, the stereo repairman discovers that his imagined music has been recorded. He takes the tape to Graham Hudson of Carnival Dog records, who releases a bootleg CD and encourages Ray to create the Doors’ unfinished CELEBRATION OF THE LIZARD.

Ray discovers that to create the album, he has to learn to think like Jim Morrison. Morrison’s thoughts and reactions to events stay with him even when he is not thinking about the album, and he finds similarities between Morrison’s background and his own, particularly regarding feelings about his father. After the album is completed, Hudson convinces Ray to create Brian Wilson’s SMILE. This time, the process of creation takes Ray back to 1966 and Brian Wilson’s house. He convinces Wilson to finish the album. Ray comes back to the present, having been unconscious for several days. He is able to create the album, having heard it. His trip to the past seems real, but Wilson’s version of the album still has not been made.

Ray’s final project is Jimi Hendrix’s FIRST RAYS OF THE NEW RISING SUN. This time, creating the lost album requires that he journey into the past to keep Hendrix alive. His attempts to do so lead him to realizations about his father’s death, which occurred just prior to the time of the story.

GLIMPSES is a powerful story of personal growth. Shiner describes Ray’s emotions perfectly, letting his discoveries about himself flow naturally from the action of the story. Music fans will appreciate the level of detail involved in Ray’s trips to the past. Shiner has made it easy to get caught up in the fantasy of bringing lost music back to life.