Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Lazarus Trick: a study of loneliness and mortality

Greetings, commies!
Halloween is over, but we have a long winter ahead of us. Here is a suggested piece of short fiction for your teens and preteens, The Lazarus Trick from John B. Rosenman. 

Growing up can be hard, especially when you have mixed feelings about a fellow sixth grader. Tommy Starr is drawn to Mark Harmon, but despite Mark's magnetic personality, he has a dark side as well. On Halloween, Mark displays terrifying telekinetic and other abilities that frighten Tommy and make him decide never to see Mark again.

His father also doesn't want Tommy to see Mark. Still, Tommy disobeys him, choosing to remain Mark's friend. Soon, government agents discover where Mark and his own father have been hiding. They pursue Mark, determined to harness his powers for the military. As the two boys run, they grow ever closer until a climactic event changes Tommy forever.

My thoughts:
"The Lazarus Trick" made me think of a 1970s psychological horror film "Phantasm", as they both depict an adolescent mind trying to process the concept of mortality. You can read this novella as a straight up sci-fi piece that takes place in its own universe, or you can take it as a fantasy concocted by a child trying to come to terms with such daunting subjects as loneliness and death. A seemingly ordinary 11-year old Tommy puts himself at risk socially and physically when he befriends Mark, an outsider with supernatural talents. The novella starts with Mark playing a rather cruel trick on Halloween, much to Tommy's horror. As the plot progresses, we find out that there are unsettling reasons behind Mark's cruelty, secrets tied to the story of his birth. This child is carrying unfathomable burden that makes him and his father outcasts wherever they go. I kept wondering if the whole story is a figment of Tommy's imagination, if Mark was an imaginary friend, an alter ego Tommy wanted to possess. Regardless of how you interpret this story, your middle schoolers will find it enjoyable, thought-provoking and relatable. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your perceptive review, Marina. I'll have to check out "Phantasm" again. One influence on this story was Stephen King's novel "Firestarter". Many of us can recall being different from our adolescent peers and not fitting in. And as adolescents, some of us befriended such outcasts. Then again, some of us out of our loneliness made up friends who weren't really there.