Daemonomania

Crowley, John.

Published by Bantam, 2000
ISBN 10: 0553100041 / ISBN 13: 9780553100044
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Synopsis: For the past two decades, John Crowley has created some of the most beautiful and evocative fiction written anywhere. A recipient of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, he has written yet another masterpiece that brings together his distinctive blend of magic, mystery, adventure, and wonder.

When the world ends, it ends somewhat differently for each soul then alive to see it; the end doesn't come all at once but passes and repasses over the world like the shivers that pass over a horse's skin.

For the people in this novel, the concerns of everyday life -- children and love affairs, work and friendship -- are beginning to transmute into the extraordinary and to reveal the forces, dark and light, that truly govern their lives.

So it is for Pierce Moffett, would-be historian and author, who has moved from New York to the Faraway Hills, where he seems to discover -- or rediscover -- a path into magic, past and present. And so it is for Rosie Rasmussen, a single mother grappling with her mysterious uncle's legacy and her young daughter Samantha's inexplicable seizures. For Pierce's lover Rose Ryder, whose life is lived half in dream, another path unfolds: she's drawn into a cult that promises to exorcise her demons.

A great cycle of time is ending, as it did once before, in the bygone days of witchcraft and wars of religion. The lives of Renaissance wizard John Dee and rogue philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake, haunt the present: their stories, true and false, are being reenacted in the peaceful Faraway Hills and may hold the key to the future.

It is the dark of the year, between Halloween and the winter solstice, and the gateway is open between the worlds of the living and the dead. Pierce and Rosie, Samantha and Rose Ryder, and their enemies and allies -- who have powers hidden until now--must take sides in an age-old war that is approaching the final battle.

Or is it? In a John Crowley novel, nothing is as it seems. Crowley draws us into a cosmic tug-of-war between familiarity and strangeness, couples us with characters much like ourselves, and then works his own potent magic on the proceedings. Daemonomania is a journey into the very mystery of existence: what is, what went before, and what could break through at any moment in our lives.

Review: John Crowley's powerfully mysterious Dæmonomania adds flesh to the world he imagined in Ægypt and Love and Sleep. In this book, as in all his books, Crowley transports faithful readers to a place where time, place, and meaning come unstuck. It is in some ways the story of the end of the world as it might be, or might have been, a novel of history, eschatology, and faith with unforgettable characters and hauntingly lovely sentences. If the world's end is neither bang nor whimper but "like the shivers that pass over a horse's skin," how is it perceived by the people living through it?

Historian Pierce Moffett finds his key to understanding in New York state's Faraway Hills, as do his lover, Rose Ryder, and single mom Rosie Rasmussen, whose daughter seems to suffer from dæmonomania--spiritual possession by Renaissance magician John Dee. Each character must pick a careful path between the colliding juggernauts of past and present, magic and mundane. The wind of apocalypse is blowing:

"Scary wind.... What if it's the one?" she said.

"What one?" he said.... He in fact knew what one, for it was from him that she had heard mythologies of wind, how it bloweth where it listeth, one part of Nature not under God's thumb and therefore perhaps at the disposal of our Enemy; she had heard his stories about changer winds, how one had once blown away the Spanish Armada and thus saved England from Catholic conquest, a famous wind which if you went to look for it in the records of the time wasn't there.

In typical Crowley style, magic is seamlessly woven into the narrative. Pierce is writing the story of the end of the world while it happens, Rose joins a cult that promises salvation, and Rosie inherits a spooky legacy that might hold the secret to saving her daughter. All are involved in deep exchanges of power, and all must yield to what Crowley calls the "queasy pressure of Fate."

Crowley describes Dæmonomania best when he writes about Pierce's book: "The book... was about magic, secret histories, and the End of the World, an event that Pierce would suggest was under way undetectably even as he wrote, as the reader read." This is a complex, disturbing, and beautiful book, one that will bear rereading. Crowley's writing is gorgeous in places, frustrating in others, but always irresistible. --Therese Littleton

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Daemonomania
Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: 2000
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Fine
Edition: First Edition.

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