The Persistence of Memory

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9780720610475: The Persistence of Memory

The setting is a wood at the turn of the century. A stranger, with the face of an old man but the innocence of a child, is pulled unconscious from a stream. When he comes to, he has no recollection of how he came to be there or who he is. His rescuer, laundress Elvia Witt, names him Farley LaRue after a long-lost lover and takes him home to her abusive husband and large family. Farley begins to experience flashes of a life he interprets as his own. They are not, however, the memories of the wandering Shakespearian actor he had been - rather, he is recalling the life of Hamlet, the melancholy prince whose concerns and history prove oddly consistent with the world in which he now finds himself. As his true face emerges from behind the actor's mask, Farley seeks to reconcile what might have been with what still might be. And as Elvia's yearning for her past love transfers itself onto Farley, he becomes transfixed by her daughter Chastity.

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About the Author:

Gordon McAlpine is a Senior Lecturer of English in the Master of Fine Arts programme at Chapman University, Orange, California.

From Publishers Weekly:

From its initial event--the appearance of a mysterious stranger in an alternate Langsdon, Ky., circa 1901--this slender but heavy-handed novel places itself in the fable mode, part Cinderella, part Southern gothic. The stranger is an (apparently) drowned man, pulled from a stream by Elvia Witt, a laundress of significant local reputation. So voluminous is Elvia's laundry washing, in fact, that she lives in a home composed entirely of laundry, a structure Waldo, her ill-tempered husband, calls his "linen castle." Elvia and Waldo share the linen castle with their 14 children (named for the cardinal virtues and deadly sins), the most prominent of whom is an attractive young woman who, with typically hammed-up irony, is named Chastity. When the stranger comes mysteriously back to life, Elvia names him Farley LaRue, after a Shakespearean actor who had once been Elvia's lover. Jealous Waldo can't abide Farley, however, and the entire surrounding town of Sweetbriar soon feels his displeasure. The book features some charming imagery--the linen castle, a boy surrounded by 10,000 glass figures--but is beset by maddeningly literal symbolism. Each new layer, such as Farley's true identity, suggests that McAlpine (Joy in Mudville) holds little trust in the reader's ability to glean a point.

Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Gordon McAlpine
Published by Peter Owen Ltd (1998)
ISBN 10: 0720610478 ISBN 13: 9780720610475
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
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Murray Media
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Book Description Peter Owen Ltd, 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110720610478

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