Alembic

Timothy D'Arch Smith, Author, Timothy D'Arch Smith, Author
Timothy D'Arch Smith, Author, Timothy D'Arch Smith, Author Dalkey Archive Press $19.95 (226p) ISBN 978-1-56478-009-6
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Judging from his earlier books, this antiquarian book dealer and writer's interests are eclectic, ranging from the English ``Uranian'' poets to rock music to Aleister sp ok Crowley. All of those concerns can be detected in this, his first novel. The protagonist, Thomas Graves, who has long been fascinated with alchemical texts, is recruited by ALEMBIC, a shadowy British government department dedicated to searching for the philosopher's stone and the endless gold and eternal life it will bring. Compounding the strangeness of his peculiar position are Graves's vulnerable imagination and the influence of the symbolist-sated, sexually jaded, possibly satanic Nicholas Spark, an old friend and the animating spirit of a wildly popular hard-rock band. It's a formula for paranoia, and everything that follows--from the grounding of herons to the sexual preoccupations of Graves's underage lover--becomes tinted with a (perhaps deserved) sinister significance. As in a maze, a few paths rather annoyingly lead nowhere, but d'Arch Smith's anfractuous, often beautiful prose is seductive, whether in comic deadpan descriptions of improbable events or in the gradual, hallucinatory revelation of the truly unnatural. (Oct.)
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