Home > Books > No Doors, No Windows by Joe Schreiber

No Doors, No Windows by Joe Schreiber

In the good old days before the birth of the Internet, we were all the victims of failing memory. If we half-remembered a line, placing it was always a delightful challenge. The various books of famous quotations were always serendipitous ways of passing an idle hour as the search would inevitably be diverted by delight in seeing old friends on flicked through pages. Today, it’s more efficient as we trigger a googling only to find many possible sources. So it was that I thought, “sins of the father” and then found myself pitched into lists of Biblical references which, inconveniently, contradict each other. It seems the generational transmission of sin was always controversial as the notion of personal responsibility vied with vicarious liability if there was any suggestion the sons had benefited from the father’s sins.

So picture a house standing out on its own in the countryside. To the eye outside, it’s all straight lines. But inside it’s all curves. Houses pass through time, handed down as the accumulated wealth of the family. They are the wombs in which the young are conceived and are carried until it’s time to give birth to each new generation. Wombs must be flexible in size, ready to expand and contract. There must be passages in and out for fertilisation and evacuation. A house is life. A house is a place in which we die when disease or old age catches up with us.

So picture such a house. It’s the means whereby a curse might pass through time. Do the sins of the father really justify visiting revenge on the innocent children? Is such a question meaningful? Perhaps a curse is like a computer program, forever set to repeat its operation when certain conditions are met. How or why the program was written never matter to the computer. It has no mind to make moral or any other judgements. It simply executes. . . an appropriate word when dealing with curses.

So picture a house — each new generation of owners may be manipulated. There are traps and lures. Once the hook is set, it floats or sinks depending on the weights attached. All good fishermen know where the targeted fish like to swim. History guides them.

No Doors, No Windows by Joe Schreiber is a fast and pacey read for two-thirds its length. It runs well as all muscular stallions will when left to run the course at their own speed. But there comes a point in every narrative when calculations must be made. In part this is driven by the power of the horse, but the expectations of the crowd at the track also come into play. Seeing a front runner burn out before the finishing post does not appeal to the betting fraternity. It wants to see winners. So the little chap perched precariously on this mass of pounding flesh uses a mixture of encouragement and pain, hoping to guide the unthinking animal to its best result. It must be held back, positioned just right, then readied for the sprint to the line.

This is a wonderful atmosphere piece that, perforce, must fit into the readers’ expectations. So, acting on the trainer’s instructions, the jockey takes out the whip and hits the horse.

Everything is great up to this moment. The horse then veers off into a different race in which ghosts from the past rear up in the present.

Shame really. If only the jockey had kept his nerve, this horse would have run a great race. As it is, it all gets far to literal in the last third and the horse tails in at the end. But if your thing is fighting the good fight and seeing the good triumph over evil, well, this ending is for you.

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