Peter Mickelsson, equipped with all the machinery of modern intellectual consciousness and a native brilliance, is plunged into a world containing facts, indisputable facts, which that consciousness cannot believe yet cannot deny. Mickelsson, however, is much more than a locus of conflict between the rational and the supernatural. His exposure to the ghosts is an introduction to the world of human suffering, which includes his present life among the present ghosts whose long-dead pain and anger persist in redundant cameo oblivious to everything else their lives might have contained. Mickelsson daily savors his own broken connections. His former wife lives in twenty-year-old photographs. His absent son in the grainy newspaper photo is rigid with resignation, a protester against the nuclear silo and the American “Reich.” Mickelsson’s most intimate colloquies are with dead philosophers—Friedrich Nietzsche, Ludwig Wittgenstein. Through the ghost of his grandfather, he contemplates and is haunted by the ghostly, life-despising Martin Luther. With his obsessions in tow, Mickelsson becomes a seer. Like his father before him, his prescience is mostly of painful things. The voice speaking from the past and the future testifies to pain. Mickelsson is most himself when beside himself.
The ghost haunting Mickelsson most persistently is himself. The “bad” Mickelsson never stops appalling the rational ethical persona. Which is real? he wonders. He suspects that his goodness may have been only the superficial manner of more respectable days in the Ivy League. In...
(The entire section is 643 words.)