The Man on the Ceiling by Steve Rasnic Tem & Melanie Tem (2008)
The Man on the Ceiling is an expansion of a 2000 novella of the same title which won the World Fantasy Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the International Horror Guild award. From that alone, one might expect the book to be horribly creepy, perhaps filled with blood and gore. What we have instead is a powerful, open, and courageous biography of the Tems' imagination, to paraphrase Steve's words.
The man on the ceiling is their code word for every irrational and rational fear one can have. The man on the ceiling can also be uncertainty. The man on the ceiling is someone who takes and sometimes gives. The man on the ceiling is a sometimes quiet, sometimes roaring creation who follows us through life.
In a rambling, discursive memoir laced with fantasy, dreams, and nightmares, Steve and Melanie Tem explore their lives and those of their children, grandchildren, and parents. Hopes, fears and secrets are laid bare, exposing the fragile nature of love and humanity. Don't expect a plot -- the man on the ceiling does not allow a logical sequence of events. Expect instead (as the back cover states) a "surreal tone and redemptive heart."
One character prominent in the book is story. Story is something elusive, but it's solid enough to form our lives. There is the story we tell ourselves and the story we tell others; there is the story others tell about us and the story we tell about others; and there is the story that shapes and the story that becomes us, and the story thaat shapes others and becomes them. This biography of the imagination becomes, of necessity, a biography of story which, itself, becomes a biography of life.
If all that sounds confusing, I apologize. I find it difficult to explain what Harlan Ellison has called "exquisively compelling." Love, loss, family, hope, fear...all the emotions that comprise our lives are here. And as the Tems explore these items, they guide us in exploring ours. This is a fantasy unlike the fantaasy we are used to. Because, as we are told over and over again, every contradictory and imagined word is true.