The Bee-Loud Glade

The Bee-Loud Glade
by Steve Himmer
Atticus Books, 2011
224 pages / $14.95 Buy from Atticus Books
Rating: 5.0







I wish I had read The Bee-Loud Glade with fewer expectations, though that may have been impossible after examining its exterior. The title is from Yeats (“The Lake Isle of Innisfree”) and the front cover features a slightly altered version of Magritte’s “The False Mirror.” One blurb employs the phrase “postmodern complexity.” Another describes the novel as “Thoreau meets Ballard meets Huysmans and many more.” Thoreau was a hermit for some time, and The Bee-Loud Glade does feature a hermit.

Finch, the novel’s narrator, initially blogs under pseudonyms to increase product buzz for a company called Second Nature, which specializes in plastic plants. After his termination he is hired to work as a “decorative hermit” on billionaire Mr. Crane’s estate. Finch swears a vow of silence, dons a scratchy sheepskin tunic, and moves into a cave in order to earn $5 million per year (half if he quits before six months), for a maximum of seven years. One problem with Finch is his passivity: he is fired because he sits unnoticed in the corner of his office and outlasts managers until the company forgets his function, after which he sits in his apartment signing up for email lists and firing off emails to spammers, until by chance he is contacted by a billionaire who dispatches a butler to fetch him. The premise itself is not unpromising, but once employed in his cave, Finch is acted upon by a series of outside forces: hikers appear and disturb him, Mrs. Crane (an attractive actress) drops by to tempt him, a lion is introduced (to little effect, except perhaps to later wrap up a loose end), a river is installed outside, etc.

Numerous great works (by Nabokov, Toussaint, Beckett, et al.) have passive protagonists or feature a character confined to one room or location, though these books seem to compensate with inventive language or structure. The Bee-Loud Glade tends to distract with alliteration, rhyming, and general lack of focus. A flashlight is a “bobbing, blurry bulb” that “danced in the dark.” A “morning marathon of sneezing and wheezing from pollen particles” takes place. The narrator is “bleeding and sticky with scrapes and small stabs from sharp sticks.” A lion isn’t quite “regal and roaring and rough” enough. There is “stumbling and tumbling” and “moping and loping” and “skittering, twittering birds.” Similes include “as warm as a cat in my lap,” “as soft as a cloud but blacker than night,” and “bright as a supernova.” Verbs lose power and emphasis by coming in packages: “kicking and punching and clawing,” “churned and moaned and twisted,” “breaking and trimming and burning.” “Huffs and puffs” and “squeaks and squawks” remind one of Dr. Doolittle.

This novel isn’t devoid of striking language, however. The sections devoted to the narrator’s physical discomfort in nature are handled well, and the author doesn’t shy from injury to the cock and balls. Descriptions of Finch’s suffering in the form of allergies, scrapes, cuts, itchiness, and general physical decay are worth reading, as are multiple passages focusing on the beauty of the natural world.

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  1. DJ

      why are so many of these reviews anonymous? 

  2. Mittens

      If you’re going to have a rating system, it’d be nice if somewhere on the site there was a running average, sort of a gauge of the state of contemporary independent press literature. Maybe people will try a little harder when the average is low, or if the average is high, slack off a little bit.

  3. Nathan Huffstutter

      This is really shitty. 

      “I wish I had read The Bee-Loud Glade with fewer expectations…” How exactly are the personal expectations of Anonymous the slightest bit relevant to anyone reading the review? More importantly, if a work doesn’t meet your advance expectations, does that implicate the work or does that implicate your own pre-formed expectations?Dig deeper than the title, the cover art, the blurbs, does the book do what it sets out to do? Was it worth the undertaking? Where does the work stand in both historical or contemporary contexts? “NotBeckett, NotNabakov,” that’s a charge that applies to most written words – for someone considering whether to read Himmer’s book, the tag is meaningless. As far as what the book accomplishes, the reviewer establishes little more than that he/she is not personally keen on alliteration, rhyming wordplay, or verbs in triad. I can’t imagine criticizing someone’s prose without offering up even ONE full sentence. Cherry-picking words and phrases out of context is an easy way to make anyone look unaccomplished. Excessive alliteration, even low-grade cliches, at the sentence or paragraph level, these may in fact have been appropriate.If you write well-argued, well-thought reviews and feel compelled to present them anonymously, fair enough. The word count limit alone, though, makes that level of depth unlikely. Conversely, if you want to say “I read The Bee-Loud Glade and here’s a quick-take about what I thought,” that’s totally cool too. As a personal-opinion review, someone could read the above and take it for what it’s worth, whatever their own individual preference. But number-rated, surface-level, Anonymous Personal Opinion reviews? No bueno.

  4. BoomersMustDie

      Yes, I’m confused – is this a bell curve? Something akin to a A-B-C-D-F scale with a 5 flunking?

  5. Nick

      I wish I had read this review with fewer expectations.

  6. Joy

      I’m sorry, I just can’t take an anonymous review seriously. If you don’t put your name to your criticism, you’re not much better than the average YouTube commenter.

  7. Mimi

      As opposed to making an anonymous comment?

  8. Joy Lanzendorfer

      That’s the point, Mimi, anonymous comments and anonymous books reviews are very close in nature. So I guess you think my putting my name, Joy, makes me anonymous, even though you are just putting down Mimi? Funny.

  9. Guesty

      what i don’t get is that the site is asking for people to submit reviews with the caveat that they don’t get a byline..

      ..while kitchell, bulter, gay, and the lot all get to wax pseudo-philosophic all the live-long day about just about whatever.

      i’m not upset, i just don’t see how this otherwise potentially innovative anonymous review system is supposed to co-exist with bylined, bloggy messays?

      i would love to see a pitchfork for books–which i assume is what this is all meant to be about–but i don’t see it happening on htmlgiant. 

      oh, this review? i stopped reading when i realized the first paragraph was about the book jacket.

  10. Guesty

      who said that!

  11. mimi

      not me!
      i’m all lower case, all the time

  12. Roxane

      Your comment makes no sense. If people want a byline, they can submit to the Reviews Editor who runs bylined reviews. No one is forcing anyone to review anonymously. These writers are choosing to do so for whatever reason. 

      And we blog about whatever because we’re regular contributors. That’s what we’re supposed to do.

  13. deadgod

      you also provide a link at your blogonym to your site

      evidence to adduce, in addition to the evidence of the content of your comments, in demonstrating that your comments reward being taken “seriously”

      that your blogonym might be an pseudonym (which would make you an anonym, as I am) is not, in my view, a rational reason to take or not to take the content of your comments “seriously”

  14. Brooks Sterritt

      You spelled Nabokov wrong.

  15. Nathan Huffstutter

      A-D H-O-M-I-N-E-M

  16. Guesty

      i guess it makes no sense if you don’t consider the guiding editorial principle of this site to ammount to something like: “whatever.”

      didn’t know reviews didn’t have to be anonymous. consider me mistaken, Regular Contributor.

  17. Anonyynonny
  18. Anonyynonny
  19. Anonymous

  20. Anonymous