Friday, March 8, 2019

Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun, by Jerome Stueart

★★★★☆ Sad but Sweet with Never a Wrong Note

(Modern Fantasy) Mr. Dance is a great musician who’s withdrawn from life since a religious fanatic put him in a wheelchair decades ago, but mentoring a young man starts bringing some of the magic back. (7,998 words; Time: 26m)

"Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 03-04|19, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2019.150 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: I like the way we gradually learn that Mr. Dance is much more than merely a musician, more than merely a great musician, more than merely human.

He starts the story in a very dark place, slowly dying in his isolation, mourning all he’s lost, And then Eric shows up with Mr. Dance’s lost magic clarinet. It tells us a lot about Mr. Dance that he doesn't outright try to steal the clarinet, particular when we know he thinks the clarinet can heal him.

It's a nice twist that it doesn’t work that way. Even when he drives Eric away, the clarinet won’t speak to him. Only when he helps Eric find his way do things start to happen, and it’s from Eric’s playing, not his own. Even then, the healing doesn't touch his legs, which was what he wanted the most.

Before he can heal his body, he has to heal his soul, and his interactions with Eric show that happening, bit by bit. In retrospect, he must have known this on some level or he never would have started teaching again.

At his reunion with his old friends we see how far he’s come, particularly when Eric makes his comment about Billy Sunday and he manages to just roll with it.

In the final scene, where Mr. Dance is playing the replacement clarinet and Eric is tentatively playing the original, it's very moving that the new clarinet is starting to glow with music because that’s just as it should be. The old clarinet is part of his past, and he can’t have that back, but he can have a brilliant present, if he works at it.

The title is particularly cute, once we realize that Mr. Dance is himself a faun, not a human being.

Side note: Billy Sunday was a real person, although probably not as bad as depicted here.

Con: The story took a while to get going. In particular, it took a while to get to the point where I cared about Mr. Dance.

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