That's her work in general. (Or at least one corner of it; her work is vast.) This story specifically? There is a glorious moment as it nears its climactically anticlimactic climax in which Jack Shade, in order to prevent himself from being annihilated by an incomplete duplicate of himself that wants nothing more than to take on Jack's full existence for himself, must write down as full a record of experience — his specific experience — as possible. To do so he uses a special kind of magical pen, possessing
the ability to write very, very small, in words that couldn't fade or be erased. Everything Jack saw he wrote, and still it all took up less than two sheets of paper. [...]In order, then, to remain himself, Jack must write his life, must make sense of his life in writing — and he can neither record a fully accurate accounting of that life nor be paralyzed by mistrust in his ability to select details. He has to give himself over to writing, to trust its ability to do something he knows it cannot do in order to invest it with precisely that ability.
Painstaking as it was, the physical part was easy. The memories, however... Someone once said that to set down all your experiences would take longer than it did to live them. But neither could you consciously decide on the important ones. You had to allow them to come to you. So Jack closed his eyes, let out a breath, and invited his life to parade before him.
For this moment I am eternally grateful, but in other ways I have to say that the Jack Shade stories (of which this is, I believe, the third, and the second I've read) feel like something of a misstep to me. This story, like the earlier "Jack Shade in the Forest of Souls" (I haven't read "The Queen of Eyes"), seems overlong, heavy, often plodding aimlessly from event to event, one thing after another, in a way even Pollack's explicitly arbitrary stories seldom do. And though the world is quite different, the particular ways in which the wondrous and the mundane are mixed feel a bit like a retread of material that worked better in Unquenchable Fire and Temporary Agency (and if, as Kip Manley has suggested, "fantasy, to do what it does, must" appropriate, that appropriation is — for better and/or/but worse — much more on the surface here than it was there, and it was on the surface there, too). Combined into a novel, as they seem destined eventually to be, these stories might read better by virtue of the disjunctures such combination would create (the ol' van Vogt effect, and god bless). In the meantime, I will try to remember that what seem to be an artist's missteps may always be revealed as necessary, may not in fact be missteps.