Review: “Variations on a Theme from Seinfeld” by Peter Straub

3 of 5 stars.

One of my favorite songs from Michael Jackson, due to its self-empowering lyrics, is “Man in the Mirror.” The refrain is also ironically fitting for protagonist Clyde Mortar who has to chase down his missing mirror-self every decade or so. How this has anything to with Seinfeld is beyond me.

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

from “Man in the Mirror”

In this very short tale, bathroom mirrors are a window to the mirror-self that lives in the mirror-world, here called De Land ob Cotton by 6-y.o. Clyde during his first trip to De Land. That first time his mirror-self failed to appear, little Clyde was upset and confided in his Uncle Budgie who a) swore little Clyde to secrecy, and b) lifted the kid up into the mirror–now a portal to De Land–and helped him locate the missing Doppelganger, or potentially polar opposite of a doppelganger . . .

Later, OtherClyde left in a huffy teenaged snit. Then, during a Peace Corps stint in Mali. Finally, in dodgy Beirut where Clyde may have been an American agent. Each time OtherClyde disappears it’s to a sleazier place and in reaction to some situation that Clyde has generated.

This 5th time, OtherClyde may have greater motive than merely hiding . . .

This short story was included in the anthology The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2010 edited by Paula Guran.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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