Book by Straub Peter
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—The Memphis Commercial Appeal
“Savor the novel to the fullest.”
—Dayton Daily News
“You will be transported!”
—Richmond News Leader
“A blend of . . . the old horrors that crouch in the dark corners of the adult mind.”
—John Lutz, author of Jericho Man
Berkley books by Peter Straub
The two schools, old and new, are inventions of the author and should not be confused with any existing schools. Similarly, Shadowland, its location and inhabitants, are entirely fictional.
I owe many thanks to Hiram Strait and Barry Price for their advice and comments about magic and magicians, and to Corrie Crandall for introducing me to them and to the Magic Castle.
by Peter Straub
Along toward the end of 1978, when Gerald Ford had bungled the Oval Office into the damp, eager hands of Jimmy Carter back home and, in my adopted country, James Callaghan’s Labour Party was soon to be trounced by that iron cupcake Maggie Thatcher, I began writing this book on the second floor of the first house I ever owned, 79 Hillfield Avenue, London N8, otherwise known as Crouch End. It was a nice, comfortable place, a terrace house with the living room, dining room, and kitchen on the ground floor, two bedrooms on the top, and my office, two good-sized rooms knocked into one, in the middle. The front half of the office floor contained a television set, bookshelves, red leather furniture, and two of four AR speakers wired up to the amplifier and other sound equipment enthroned on a broad length of wood fixed to the rear wall of the back room and flanked on either side by long oak shelves crammed with LPs and books. Directly opposite the electronic toys—the life-support system, as I thought of them—and pushed up against the corresponding wall stood my desk; another long stretch of wood, this supporting one of a series of bound journals with numbered pages; a jam-pot from which jutted the sharpened points of about a dozen pencils; and, off to the side, an Underwood manual typewriter waiting to be drafted into service at the final siege. Above the desk hung two “book jacket” graphics by R.B. Kitaj that went unnoticed as I bent scribbling over the journal. Most of the time I scarcely heard the wall of sound blasting toward me. Facing a wall when you write really aids your concentration.
In those days, as the above indicates, I wrote everything by hand, filling the left-hand pages of the big journals with an entire first draft, and inserting revisions on the right-hand pages as I went along. When I reached the end of the book, I generally did some more revising in the journals before pulling the typewriter before me, loading it up with two sheets of paper separated by a carbon, uttering a heartfelt groan, and readying my right index finger for its long, coming torture by hunt-and-peck. If I were able to type, why would I bother writing everything out in longhand to begin with? Typing up a whole book at one go cannot be anything but excruciatingly boring, especially for one-fingered typists, but the process gave me another chance to revise. When I began Shadowland, I assumed that the work of the next year and a half would travel along these familiar rails.
A great change was gathering itself to surprise the industrious lad at the desk, but another had already occurred. Our first child, Benjamin Bitker Straub, had been born the previous year, obligingly entering the world to occupy the increased space we had provided for him. By the spring of 1979, Ben was old enough to understand most of what was said to him, and I had jumped at the chance to entertain him by inventing stories.
Nightly, stories poured out of me, as from an inexhaustible source. I had no idea where they were going when I started them, but along the way they always turned into real stories, with beginnings, middles, and ends, complete with hesitations, digressions, puzzles, and climaxes. This was thrilling. My little boy was entranced, and I felt as though I had tapped into the pure, ancient well, the source of narrative, the springwater that nourished me and everyone like me. After I had uncorked maybe twenty of these homemade fairy tales, it occurred to me that I should write some of them down. Now I wish that I’d written down every single one. I made up stories for years, and the only ones I managed to put on paper are in Shadowland. (The best one is about why frogs leap and croak.)
Traditional fairy tales, which I began to investigate soon after I started making up my own, pervade this novel. The beautiful story called “The King of the Cats” is the novel in miniature. Rose Armstrong is Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid, who accepts human form and forever walks across nails and razor blades. Tom Flanagan and Del Nightingale step in and out of the skins of the lost, wandering children inhabiting the Brothers Grimm’s compilations of folktales, and the Brothers Grimm inhabit Coleman Collins’s mansion.
That same year, I had been moved by John Fowles’s novel, The Magus, which suggested a way to unite the powerful strangeness resulting from the oral tradition with more conventional narrative satisfactions. No one familiar with The Magus who reads Shadowland can fail to notice Fowles’s influence on me, which was profound and pervasive: But this influence was above all liberating, not enslaving. Fowles demonstrated how the seductive uncertainty implicit in theatrical illusion and, even more importantly, the emotional effects of this uncertainty, could find expression in a narrative that itself moved through successive layers of surprise, doubt, suspicion, and uncertainty.
What disrupted the familiar process was an abrupt shot across the bows from my accountant. My previous and still as yet unpublished novel, Ghost Story, had begun to alchemize a startling quantity of moola, ninety-five percent of which James Callaghan’s bloodthirsty Department of Inland Revenue would have for lunch were I not to accept banishment from the United Kingdom—“yesterday,” the accountant said. So after a brief flurry of packing, off to America we sailed, the three of us, on the QE2. There was an agreeable rented house on Crooked Mile Road in Westport, Connecticut, and by the end of the summer, we had signed the papers for an older, larger, even more agreeable house on Westport’s Beachside Avenue. By September, the architect, the contractor, and a platoon of carpenters had turned the place into a beehive.
I wrote the middle third of Shadowland in what would be its dedicatee’s bedroom as soon as all the worker bees had vacated my brand-new office on the floor above. Up there, in the best workplace I’ve ever had or will have, I began the final third, still writing by hand in big journals. In mid-December, 1979, my publishers, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, demanded a finished manuscript in two months. They had already bought the cover of Publishers Weekly to advertise the book as an October publication. Somehow, I wish I could remember how, I found Barbara Bouchard, a wonderful woman in my neighborhood who was married to an official at the UN and willing to do typing. Every couple of days, after finishing another stretch of pages, I walked over my lawn to Beachside Avenue and over the little stone bridge at the entrance of Burying Hill Beach to Barbara Bouchard’s pretty white house, where Barbara took me to a room on the second floor, settled herself down before her trusty Underwood, me in another chair behind her, and medium-like, flawlessly, typed every word I read aloud to her from my journal. Together, we sailed along to the end of the novel. What an immense satisfaction—it was exactly like telling a story.
Little Red Riding Hood was my first love. I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood, I should have known perfect bliss.
The key to the treasure is the treasure.
Tom in the Zanzibar
More than twenty years ago, an underrated Arizona schoolboy named Tom Flanagan was asked by another boy to spend the Christmas vacation with him at the house of his uncle. Tom Flanagan’s father was dying of cancer, though no one at the school knew of this, and the uncle’s house was far away, such a distance that return would have been difficult. Tom refused. At the end of the year his friend repeated the invitation, and this time Tom Flanagan accepted. His father had been dead three months; following that, there had been a tragedy at the school; and just now moving from the well of his grief, Tom felt restless, bored, unhappy: ready for newness and surprise. He had one other reason for accepting, and though it seemed foolish, it was urgent—he thought he had to protect his friend. That seemed the most important task in his life.
When I first began to hear this story, Tom Flanagan was working in a nightclub on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, and he was still underrated. The Zanzibar was a shabby place suited to the flotsam of show business: it had the atmosphere of a forcing-ground for failure. It was terrible to see Tom Flanagan here, but the surroundings did not even begin to reach him. Either that, or he had been marked by rooms like the Zanzibar so long ago and so often that by now he scarcely noticed their shabbiness. In any case, Tom was working there only two weeks. He was just pausing between moves, as he had been doing ever since our days at school—pausing and then moving on, pausing and moving again.
Even in the daylit tawdriness of the Zanzibar, Tom looked much as he had for the past seven or eight years, when his reddish-blond curling hair had begun to recede. Despite his profession, there was little theatricality or staginess about him. He never had a professional name. The sign outside the Zanzibar said only “Tom Flanagan Nightly.” He used a robe only during the warming-up, flapdoodling portion of his act, and then twirled it off almost eagerly when he got down to serious business—you could see in the hitch of his shoulders that he was happy to be rid of it. After the shedding of the robe, he was dressed either in a tuxedo or more or less as he was in the Zanzibar, waiting patiently to have a beer with a friend. A misty Harris tweed jacket; necktie drooping below the open collar button of a Brooks Brothers shirt; gray trousers which had been pressed by being stretched out seam to seam beneath a mattress. I know he washed his handkerchiefs in the sink and dried them by flattening them onto the tiles. In the morning he could peel them off like big white leaves, give them a shake, and fold one into his pocket.
“Ah, old pal,” he said, standing up, and the light reflected from the mirror behind the bar silvered the extra inches of skin above his forehead. I saw that he was still trim and muscular-looking, in spite of the permanent weariness which had etched the lines a little more deeply around his eyes. He held out a hand, and I felt as I shook it the thickness of scar tissue on his palm, which was always a rough surprise, encountered on a hand so smooth. “Glad you called me,” he said.
“I heard you were in town. It’s nice to see you again.”
“One gratifying thing about meeting you,” he said. “You never ask ‘How’s tricks?’”
He was the best magician I ever saw.
“With you, I don’t have to ask,” I said.
“Oh, I keep my hand in,” he said, and pulled a pack of cards from his pocket. “Do you feel like trying again?”
“Give me one more chance,” I said.
He shuffled the cards one-handed, then two-handed, cut them into three piles, and then reassembled the pack in a different order. “Okay?”
“Okay,” I said, and he pushed the cards toward me.
I picked up two-thirds of the pack and turned the card now on top. It was the jack of clubs.
“Put it back.” Tom sipped at his beer, not looking.
I slid the card into a different place in the deck.
“Better watch closely.” Tom smiled at me. “This is where the old hocus-pocus comes in.” He tapped the top of the deck hard enough to make a thudding noise. “It’s coming up. I can feel it.” He tapped again and winked at me. Then he lifted the top card off the deck and turned it to me without bothering to look at it himself.
“I can’t figure out how you do that,” I said. If he had wanted to, he could have pulled it out of my pocket, his pocket, or from a sealed box in a locked briefcase: it was more effective when done simply.
“If you didn’t see it then, you never will. Stick to writing novels.”
“But you couldn’t have palmed it. You never even touched it.”
“It’s a good trick. But no good on stage—not much good in a club. They can’t get close enough. Paying customers think card tricks are dull anyhow.” Tom looked out over the rows of empty tables and then up at the stage, as if measuring the distance between them, and while he pondered the uselessness of skills it took a decade to perfect, I measured another distance: that between the present man and the boy he had been. No one who had known him then, when his red-blond head seemed to shoot off sparks and his whole young body communicated the vibrancy of the personality it encased, could have predicted Tom Flanagan’s future.
Of course those of our teachers still alive thought of him as a baffling failure, and so did most of our classmates. Flanagan was not our most tragic failure, that was Marcus Reilly, who had shot himself in his car while we were all in our early thirties; but he might easily have been the most puzzling. Others had taken wrong directions and failed so gently that you could still hear the sigh; one, a bank officer named Tom Pinfold, had gone down with a crash when auditors found hundreds of thousands of depositors’ dollars missing from their accounts; only Tom Flanagan had seemed to turn his back deliberately and uncaringly on success.
Almost as if Tom could read my mind, he asked me if I had seen anyone from the school lately, and we talked for a moment about Hogan and Fielding and Sherman, friends of the present day and the passionate, witty fellow-sufferers of twenty years past. Then Tom asked me what I was working on.
“Well, actually,” I said, “I was going to start a book about that summer you and Del spent together.”
Tom leaned back and looked at me with wholly feigned shock.
“Don’t try that,” I warned. “Nearly every time I’ve seen you the past five or six years, you’ve gone out of your way to tease me with that story. You asked enigmatic questions, dropped little hints—you wanted me to write about it.”
He smiled briefly, dazzlingly, and for a second was his boyhood self, pumping out energy. “Okay. I thought it might be something you could use.”
“Just that?” I challenged him. “Just something I could use?”
“After all this time you must realize that it’s more or less in your...Revue de presse :
“Gripping.”— The Memphis Commercial Appeal
“Savor the novel to the fullest.”—Dayton Daily News
“You will be transported.”—Houston Chronicle
“A masterpiece.”—Richmond News-Leader
“A blend of…the old horrors that crouch in the dark corners of the adult mind.”—John Lutz, author of Jericho Man
“I thought it was creepy from page one. I loved it.”—Stephen King
Les informations fournies dans la section « A propos du livre » peuvent faire référence à une autre édition de ce titre.
Description du livre État : Brand New. Book Condition: Brand New. N° de réf. du libraire 97806981104581.0
Description du livre Coward Mc Cann, 1980. Hardcover. État : New. N° de réf. du libraire P110698110455
Description du livre Coward Mc Cann, 1980. Hardcover. État : New. Brand New, Gift conditionWe Ship Every Day! Free Tracking Number Included! International Buyers Are Welcome! Satisfaction Guaranteed!. N° de réf. du libraire 343093567t
Description du livre Coward Mc Cann, 1980. Hardcover. État : New. First Edition. N° de réf. du libraire DADAX0698110455
Description du livre Coward Mc Cann, 1980. Hardcover. État : New. book. N° de réf. du libraire 0698110455