After Many A Summer by Tim Powers
Deluxe Hardcover Edition – Subterranean Press – May 2023 – 84 Pages
After Many A Summer, a magisterial new novella from Tim Powers, borrows its title from a line in Tennyson’s famous poem “Tithonus”. An elegiac appeal for death on the part of the titualar figure from myth, a man who was granted the everlasting life he had originally begged from the gods, only to have their gift turn to ashes in his mouth, only, as Tennyson wrote, to become someone whom “only cruel immortality consumes”.
What does this have to do with homelessness, troubled movie production companies, kidnapped heiresses, prophecies delivered by taxidermized heads, and a Los Angeles County rendered with such masterful, lived in, bone deep attention to physical detail that to read the opening is to feel the heat from cracked asphalt rising through your shoes and to taste cheap fortified wine grown warm in the sun cloying your tongue? Can all these seemingly disparate things be connected, cohered, clarified?
This is a Tim Powers story. Of course they can.
Conrad is a down on his luck screen-writer who takes a very strange assignment that leads him to encounter a kidnapped heiress after delivering her ransom — a hundred-year-old mummified head fond of cryptic utterances. Nothing goes Conrad’s way, though, because nothing, no matter how bizarre, is what it seems.