Life and art become strangely and gloriously confused when Harris' narrator, Alys, does some time traveling and falls in love with a star of the silent screen.
While Alys acknowledges that his name is an unusual one for a man, it suits him because he falls down a rabbit hole of sorts and winds up in a cinematic wonderland from the 1920s. He was orphaned at a young age, and his parents left him rich and able to indulge his artistic passions. One day he meets the mysterious Nesselrode, a film director of many years before. Nesselrode announces that he will henceforth be rooming at Alys’ capacious house and eventually leads Alys on a journey to the abandoned Alhambra Theater, where they step through the screen into an alternate black-and-white universe of silent films. Alys falls in love with Moira Silver, a gorgeous young actress who used to be Nesselrode's mistress. Alys is young and good-looking, both in the book's “present” reality as well as in the “past” reality of the '20s, and Nesselrode gets him a job working with the temperamental film director Reiter, a genius who supposedly invented the close-up and the dolly shot. Nesselrode then prods Reiter to put the handsome Alys into a small film role, a move that allows him to be closer to Moira. Eventually, he moves into the role he most aspires to—Moira’s lover. Art and life then conspire in cunning ways that lead Alys to bring Moira back to the bright and sunny reality of contemporary Los Angeles.
This novel hasn’t lost any of its luster since its original publication in 1982—it’s both ingeniously plotted and lyrically written.