Alys, the narrator of this, Harris' tenth (and perhaps weakest) novel, is born the boy-child of two rich and leisuredly...



Alys, the narrator of this, Harris' tenth (and perhaps weakest) novel, is born the boy-child of two rich and leisuredly eccentric parents living in Los Angeles during the '50s. But Alys is orphaned at 18; and, alone in the large house, he amuses himself by becoming something of a bored connoisseur--of avant-garde literature, early baroque music, sexual pick-ups. Thus, Alys is oddly agreeable when a seedy old man named Julius Nesselrode arrives at his door one day, asking to be allowed to board there--especially when Alys discovers that Nesselrode was once (pre-1914) an influential movie producer, first in Europe and then in America. Furthermore, Nesselrode repeatedly asks, ""Do you want to be in pictures?""--and, intrigued, Alys is one day taken by Nesselrode into an abandoned movie house. There, hand in hand, they walk through ""the Screen"" and thus find themselves on a movie lot of some 60 years ago, where the films made are silent and the very world itself is in black-and-white only. And Alys, put to work as an actor, is smitten with the starlet Moira Silver--but their love can't be consummated until they somehow break back through the Screen and into reality again. This, then, as Harris readers will immediately recognize, is another of his elaborate genre mock-ups, another Art vs. Reality fiction-game. (Nesselrode is the angel of Art; a pest named Ziff is the agent of Reality who tries to keep Alys from going ""into a play of shadows that was totally conventional and fictive""--for to leave reality is to leave freedom.) But, with corny hand-me-down gimmicks (cf. Twilight Zone or dozens of Hollywood/sf stories) instead of the inventiveness shown in Hernia and Yukiko, this lazy diversion merely highlights the increasing thinness of Harris' work. So: a few spots of fun on a Twilight Zone level--but disappointing folderol, too self-conscious to soar, from a writer who has been capable of real narrative magic in the past.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1982

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