Between the excerpts of Praise for… , its Foreword and the book’s title one is
preconditioned for a dismal read. A psychotherapist writings of "the deviant and damaged" and described by a colleague with
" a dark view of humanity" would unlikely be the chosen read of most lay people.
Down to the Sunless Sea is a collection of fifteen short stories, each a well-written snapshot
of thoroughly believable characters. The author’s immersion in psychology, primarily Freudian, is quite clear in their
portrayal. Pleasantly there was more to his story-telling than that. Albeit some, like Herbie, are an explicit example of
Freudian second or anal phase, complete with characters’ spoken metaphors and a "business" partner so inept as to be
criticized as "a mouth". Beyond analytical posturing, Herbie is also the story of youth’s failure: colossal bungling
of a desire to succeed due to anal ambitions. A parallel triangle of father versus son for mother leads to one of many worthy
stellar quotes in the collection of stories.
Others stories have less dogmatically encased tones. The author brings humor even to a difficult medical
condition at the same time giving the reader a realistic description of his relative with cerebral palsy. Another in the collection
presented exquisite creativity, at first thought by this reader to be typos. Then it persistently and clearly blossomed into
an ironic character, irate with picky English teachers and their insistence on correct grammar, punctuation and other silliness
when it is unimportant… unless you decide to write or speak. In summary there is much in Mr. Freese’s stories
beyond the degenerate. Not the least of these is fine writing, creativity and skill.
The unfortunate placement of the two opening stories seems to give credence to the bleakness of the title
and forewords. They would perhaps be better placed later and separate. The latter would give the collection a broader public
Surprisingly readers are likely to be able to relate to many of the well-illuminated feelings of these
characters. Bits and pieces of all identify with compulsions, aged versus youthful rewards, family dynamics, etc. An example
is Gunther teaching his son to swim. Many have expressed this experience yet none viewed it as either sociologically or psychologically
pathology but rather as the newborn’s swimming instinct exercised more commonly today.
One of the joys of these short stories is the reader’s search to find among these characters those
bits and pieces of self.