Daemonomania

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For the people in this novel, the concerns of everyday life 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 ...
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DAEMONOMANIA: Book Three of the Aegypt Cycle

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Overview

For the people in this novel, the concerns of everyday life 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, another path unfolds: she's drawn into a cult that promises to exorcise her demons -- the same cult that Samantha's father has joined.

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. A great cycle of time is ending, and Pierce and Rosie, Samantha and Rose Ryder must take sides in an age-old war that is approaching the final battle.... Or is it?

Winner of an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, Crowley in this tale conducts us on a journey into the very mystery of existence: what is, what went before, and what could break through at any moment into our lives.
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Editorial Reviews

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Our Review
In a perfect world, John Crowley would be universally recognized as one of our greatest living writers. His novels -- which include Little, Big, arguably the finest single volume fantasy of the past half century -- are intricate, beautifully composed creations that demand -- and repay -- repeated readings. We don't, of course, live in a perfect world, and so Crowley never has become a household name. He is, rather, the quintessential cult figure, the focal point of a relatively small, intensely devoted readership. His latest novel, Daemonomania, is unlikely to change this situation, but should provide the members of the Crowley cult with a legitimate, long-overdue reason to celebrate.

Daemonomania is the third installment -- after Aegypt (1987) and Love and Sleep (1994) -- in a massive, multi-volume novel that has occupied Crowley for almost 20 years. This latest volume (whose title derives from a 16th century treatise on sorcery and demonic possession) once again explores the little/big dichotomy so central to Crowley's work, neatly juxtaposing the "ordinary" lives of an ongoing cast of central characters against the gigantic backdrop of an infinite -- and infinitely strange -- universe. As always in Crowley's fiction, the further in you go, the bigger it gets.

A single, central conceit animates the entire sequence of novels: the notion that the universe itself is malleable, that each "World Age" is followed by a radically different age governed by radically different physical laws. An age dominated by magic can be followed by an age in which magic is -- and always was -- impossible. As each new epoch establishes itself, its past -- its history -- retrospectively realigns itself, conforming to the governing principles of the newborn age. Reality is -- sporadically, at least -- fluid, protean. And there is more than one history of the world.

Daemonomania and its predecessors all take place in what Crowley calls a "passage time," a brief period of limitless possibility between the end of one age and the beginning of the next. In passage times, the old rules -- the old limits -- sometimes give way, and certain individuals can comprehend -- and perhaps even influence -- the changes taking shape around them. One such individual is Pierce Moffett, the failed lover, failed teacher, and failed historian who stands at the center of this vast complex of interconnected narratives.

Pierce is, among other things, a seeker after Meaning. Early in the opening volume, he leaves his home in New York City and moves to the mythical, bucolic Faraway Hills, where he begins to write a pseudo-scholarly study of the various superstitions and systems of belief that have arisen throughout history. Once settled in his new home, Pierce finds himself caught up in a vast, ongoing Story that seems (maybe, possibly) to have been waiting just for him. Some of the stories nested within that larger Story concern the troubled lives and evolving relationships of Pierce's neighbors. Other stories concern older, more arcane matters, matters that Pierce -- by virtue of his peculiar past and eccentric erudition -- finds strangely, teasingly familiar.

The story begins in earnest when Rosie Rasmussen, another troubled seeker, hires Pierce to sort through the posthumous papers of Fellows Kraft, a once popular historical novelist who was one of the iconic figures of Pierce's childhood. Among these papers is an unfinished, perhaps unfinishable novel called Aegypt, which is set amidst the pervasive strangeness of 16th century Europe, an earlier World Age just then entering its own turbulent passage time. Kraft's novel follows the parallel, occasionally intersecting paths of two Renaissance mages, John Dee and Giordano Bruno. The world these men inhabit -- a world filled with angelic visitations and impossible acts of magical transformation -- contains numerous, subtle reflections of the late 20th century, a world that is itself (maybe, possibly) heading toward a moment of fundamental, irreversible change.

As Daemonomania shuttles back and forth between one age and another, one story and another, the tone of the narrative grows perceptibly darker. John Dee descends into a lonely old age marked by poverty and neglect, while Bruno -- a notorious heretic -- moves toward his inevitable -- and fatal -- encounter with the Roman Inquisition. Meanwhile, in the later, very different world of the Faraway Hills, Pierce struggles to survive a doomed, lacerating love affair; Rosie Rasmussen struggles with her daughter's illness, and with the competing custody claims of her estranged husband; and an ominous, seductive religious cult (The Powerhouse) gradually establishes a foothold in the community. As these events -- and others -- move slowly toward their various resolutions, a very literal wind of change blows through the novel, rearranging the world into a new -- as yet unglimpsed -- configuration.

This huge, ambitious novel -- which still has one volume to go -- is erudite, wonderfully well written, and endlessly fascinating. It works, with equal facility, on a number of levels: as a meditation on the nature of magic, and on the magical power of love and memory; as a corollary meditation on the endless human yearning for meaning and coherence; as a vast, metaphysical speculation on the nature and progress of human history; and as an equally vast metaphor for the nature and progress of the individual life. The result of all this is a dense, sometimes daunting work that is clearly not for everyone. But readers who approach these books with patience, energy, and openness of spirit will find themselves enriched, enlivened, and possibly even enlarged. Daemonomania -- together with Aegypt, Love and Sleep, Engine Summer and Little, Big -- has found a permanent place on my personal shelf of important, enduring novels. I hope it finds a similar place on yours.|

--Bill Sheehan

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Combining brilliant storytelling with mind-catching philosophical musings, Crowley's (Little, Big) latest novel pushes fantasy fiction toward its most thrilling, intelligent heights. Set in a time and place that are both invented and naggingly familiar, this tale tells of a collection of average people who begin to think their world's out of whack. From the small (misplaced keys that somehow turn up), to the mid-sized (a child who claims with chilling plausibility to have lived previously) and the large (the way causes seem to be following effects, not vice versa), things are just getting weird. At the outset, Pierce Moffett, 35, a failed history professor, has departed New York for Littleville--where he's living on a book advance, writing the manuscript of a speculative history. Meanwhile, he's casually falling in love with Rose Ryder, a 28-year-old who's having an early midlife crisis. Right there the plot gets skillfully complicated. Ryder, who's also sleeping with one Mike Mucho, gets entangled with a cult of coercive Christian "healers" led by Ray Honeybeare. Mucho, who's also a Honeybeare follower, is trying to wrest his young, epileptic daughter from his estranged wife, Rosie Rasmussen. And Rasmussen is planning a Halloween party that might bring about Honeybeare's doomsday plans. Crowley intersperses this set of stories with accounts of 17th-century heretics, like the Dominican monk Bruno, a wandering philosopher who believed each man's view of the world was relative to his position--which is the philosophy structuring Crowley's layered narrative, making it uncommonly reflective. Bruno's "Picatrix" manuscript, supposedly discovered by Moffett while writing his book, loosely ties Crowley's various story lines together as Rasmussen tries to save her daughter from Honeybeare, and Ryder runs off to find herself. Told in absorbing if occasionally dense, even difficult, prose, this novel is a satisfyingly long, intricate and unusually meditative offering from one of the field's finest. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
This third literary fantasy in Crowley's "Aegypt" series continues his trademark convoluted blend of past and present. The scenes in the novel move between the lives of historical figures such as philosopher/magician John Dee and Giordano Bruno and that of contemporary single mother Rosie Rasmussen, her daughter Sam, and the people surrounding her. Past, present, and people become intertwined in the age-old conflict between magic and Christianity, and everyday occurrences become somehow extraordinary. Crowley is at his best when illuminating the enchantment present in day-to-day life, yet in places he tends to allow his own cleverness to interfere with the stories of his characters. Purchase where there is interest in Crowley's other works or to continue the series. Recommended for public libraries.--Rachel Singer Gordon, Franklin Park P.L., IL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
From The Critics
John Crowley's newest book, Daemonomania is the third of a projected four-book cycle, the first two of which, Aegypt andLove and Sleep, aroused critical attention in their own right. This third work is somewhat dependent on the other two, as it continues the stories of Pierce Moffet, Rose Ryder, his lover, Rosie Rasmussen and her daughter and ex-husband.

The intertwined stories of people who have retreated from modern civilization to a small community in the Catskills is,

however, only part of Crowley's narrative. Their lives, littered with all the detritus of modern life, including childhood trauma, adult regrets, lost opportunities, family illnesses, neuroses and religions cults, make entertaining, affecting, and sometimes tragic reading. And Crowley is stylistically interesting, in fact, comparable, as I have done on occasion, to Umberto Eco, despite the fact that their ironies lie in different directions. In fact, Crowley's three titles to date compare in many useful ways to Eco's Foucault's Pendulum.

This comparison is apt from a contentual perspective because they both use a mysterious book to connect the modern world to the late 16th and early 17th centuries in Austria, Britain and Italy, or more specifically, to the Rosicrucians and the early formulations of science as alchemy. Crowley's technique is to juxtapose narratives from the lives of well-known alchemists such s Giordano Bruno and John Dee, with those of his anti-hero Pierce, and the people whose lives surround his.

Additionally, he uses emblems such as the book mentioned above, the unfinished work of Rosie Rasmussen's uncle's associate, Fellowes Kraft, and a mysteriously recovered cream-colored crystal to make the links seem more than literary.

Pierce finds Fellowes Kraft's manuscript at a time when he is considering writing a similar story. Rosie's young daughter,

Sam, is drawn to the crystal which seemed to have summoned demons for John Dee in the late 16th century Oxford workshops he shared with an Irishman, Kelly.

We are left to decipher the actual connections between Sam and John Dee, Pierce and the Rosicrucians, and their little Catskills community and Oxford of the past. Crowley leads us to look for the fantastic in everyday life as if it was a hunger that centuries could not satisfy. Along the way, he provides a number of fascinating stories of people surviving the political,

social and economic changes of the past and present and hints that we would do well to look to the epistemological changes of John Dee's era in an attempt to understand our own. Thus it is both the stylistic and philosophic that will draw readers to this book and to anticipate the production of the fourth, still to come.

Jan Bogstad Reviewer

Jeff Waggoner
John Crowley's new novel, Daemonomania, is just brilliant enough in spots to make you want to understand what the connection is between the fate of Samantha Mucho, a young girl of modern times who suffers from inexplicable seizures, and the adventures of a group of 16th-century heretics and cabalists...Daemonomania is the work of a talented writer...
New York Times Book Review
The New York Times Book Review
A major new novel from an author, whose writing is a dizzying experience, achieved with unerring, security of technique.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590200445
  • Publisher: Overlook
  • Publication date: 5/27/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 7.92 (w) x 10.96 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

John Crowley lives in the hills above the Connecticut River in northern Massachusetts with his wife and twin daughters. He is the author of Love & Sleep; Aegypt; Little, Big; Beasts; The Deep; and Engine Summer.
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Read an Excerpt

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. The coming of the end might at first lift and shake just one county, one neighborhood, and not the others around it; might feelably ripple beneath the feet of these churchgoers and not of these taverngoers down the street, shatter only the peace of this street, this family, this child of this family who at that moment lifts her eyes from the Sunday comics and knows for certain that nothing will ever be the same again.

But though the world ends sooner for some than for others, each one who passes through it — or through whom it passes — will be able to look back and know that he has moved from the old world to the new, where willy-nilly he will die: will know it though all around him his neighbors are still living in the old world, amid its old comforts and fears. And that will be the proof, that in his fellows' faces he can see that they have been left behind, can see in the way they look at him that he has crossed over alive.

All that summer a lethargy had lain over the county that comprises most of the Faraway Hills and their towns farms and waterways. In the heat and torpid silence unaccountable things came to be, small things perhaps and apparently wholly unrelated. A fisherman caught a large-mouth bass in Nickel Lake and saw words written in the fading iridescence of its flank; when he wrote them out for the librarian at Blackbury Jambs she said they were Latin. A Conurbana man building a summer cabin for himself and his family on a mountain road(was it Bug Hill Road? or Hopeful Hill?) couldn't one day find the lot he had bought, or the foundation he had begun the day before, though he was certain he was on the right road — he went back twice to the crossroads, twice on to the road's end, bewildered and rageful, it just was not there, until the next day he returned by the same road (he was quite sure) and there it was.

And other things. But these of course are always happening, whether the world is ending or is not. What was less noticed was that, here and there, effects were appearing before their causes. Not often, not consistently, or life would have become unintelligible: just here and there, now and then, and trivial mostly. Hummingbirds ceased suddenly to visit a flowering hedge by a path of the Sunset Nursing Home, saddening one of the women within, who loved to watch them; not long after, a fool handyman following what he thought were his instructions went and cut down the hedge. A mother hanging clothes to dry saw her little daughter, plastic backpack on her back, going down the road — out of her eye's corner, just disappearing over the hill's brow; and later that day the daughter decided secretly to run away from home.

If such things could be gathered and counted, how many would there have been? How many should there be, in a normal year? Can a sudden rise in pointless coincidences — say a briar springing up just here where last year I lost my briar pipe, or all the mothers and daughters in Fair Prospect happening to say the word "honey" at the same moment — be charted? Is there a secret unfolding in unnoticeable things, that might if we could reckon it give us warning of ends, and of beginnings?

"When two people say the same thing at the same time," Rosie Rasmussen told her daughter Sam, "they do this. Look. Hook your little finger around mine. No like this."

Sam, tongue between her teeth, succeeded in hooking her little finger around her mother's.

"Now answer," Rosie said. "'What goes up a chimney?'"

Sam thought. She shrugged.

"Well what does?"

"Smoke," Sam said.

"Right. 'What goes up a chimney?'"

"'Smoke.'"

"'May your wish and my wish never be broke.' Hold tight."

She tugged with her finger, and Sam with hers, until the strong link parted.

"There," Rosie said. "That's what you do."

"To get a wish?"

"Yup."

"What did you wish?"

"Well you're not supposed to tell," Rosie said. "It might not come true."

What had her own wish been? There had long been but one wish Rosie could formulate: a wish for something to wish for, something to fill the empty and unfeeling space where (it seemed) her feeling heart had once been. But then last fall she had gained something new to wish for, something to wish for on every evening star, to toot her horn for in every tunnel (hand on the car's roof as her father had taught her). And never to tell.

"I made a wish," Sam said.

"Good."

Sam slid across the broad smooth leather seat of the car, which was a Tigress, her mother's lawyer Allan Butterman's car. Allan up front alone drove, and Rosie and Sam played in the back, in the richness of the tinted windows and the honeyed music of the rear speakers.

"I'll tell you."

"It might not come true, though."

"It might."

"Well what is it?"

"Not to take medicine anymore."

"Aw Sam."

That was, in one form anyway, exactly Rosie's wish. In August Sam had first experienced something that her doctor thought might be an epileptic seizure, though for a month she'd had no more. Then, just past midnight on the autumn equinox — a night of wild wind — Sam had her second seizure, a worse one than the first, taking hold of her small body and all its contents for nearly a minute, and no doubt about it then. And next day in the splendor of the blue morning, amid a pageant of fast-moving white cloud and the trees still softly gesturing with their turning leaves, Rosie drove Sam again to the doctor's, and talked long with him; and then went to the drugstore in Blackbury Jambs. So now Sam took a small dose of phenobarbital elixir, three times a day. Too young at barely five to swallow pills. Rosie had the bitter liquid with her, and a little plastic syringe without a needle to draw it up with and squirt it into Sam's mouth, after a battle, always a battle.


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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2000

    Tremendously Satisfying Continuation of the 'Aegypt' Series

    I had been awaiting this new volume in Crowley's 'Aegypt' series with great anticipation for the last six years, since the publication of 'Love & Sleep.' It was well worth the wait. 'Daemonomania' answers some of the mysteries of the first two novels in the series, sets up a number of others, and leaves plenty of tantalizing threads hanging for the conclusion. While maintaining all of the essential elements- metaphysical, philosophical, structural- from the previous two novels, Crowley also touches, surprisingly and gratifingly, on some more concrete issues, such as fundamentalist movements of the late 20th century. This gives the effect that we are moving through the story's 'passage time' toward a more distinctly present-day world. Crowley also does a magnificent, even sometimes heartbreaking, job of implying the passage and its effects on his protagonists. Throughout, the characters are still well-drawn and enjoyable. Several who had been a bit shadowy in the earlier novels receive more attention, and there are some wonderful scenes between the most fully-fleshed denizens of this fantastic world, in particular, Pierce Moffett and Rosie Rasmussen. I'll admit to being a bit biased about John Crowley's work- I've never read anything of his that I didn't find absolutely wonderful- and I know that there are plenty of readers who find his writing too challenging, too strange, or simply not to their tastes. 'Daemonomania' is probably not going to win over anyone who doesn't enjoy a mix of fantasy, history, philosophy- even some kinky sex!- all rendered in prose that's allusive, poetic, and sometimes so densely packed with meaning that many passages bear multiple readings. However, for Crowley fans, this is all sheer heaven!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2000

    A Triumph of Art and Craftsmanship

    This third novel in the 'Aegypt' series is a triumph of art and craftsmanship over expectation. The expectation being the fear that you can never go back to a book and find it as wonderful as at first reading, when it was fresh and new -- or that succeeding books in a series can never continue as strong as the initial volume, the unexpected still all ahead. Crowley is now two-thirds of the way through this four-volume project, after a bit of disappointment in 'Love & Sleep.' That second in the series began with a remarkable set piece and then seemed to lose its focus. It is gratifying to find that 'Daemonomania' not only moves the major story frame forward, with reborn excitement and energy, but is very satisfying as a novel within itself -- a bitter-sweet love story resolved, a strange battle joined with modern-day practioners of magics that are just as dark as those of the earlier age that Crowley is so adept at creating. And the richness of idea, the scholarship, the absolutely stunning prose style that Crowley commands are joined in this novel with human interest at a level that he has not quite achieved so uniformly in the past -- from the sad late days of John Dee, to the burning of Bruno, to concern for a seizure-tormented contemporary little girl and her mother the other Rose, and the frequent tears, the wrong roads taken, the Donkey-headedness of Crowley's Quixotic hero. Let it please please Crowley to bring us the concluding volume, reaching now for the Gnostic gold and Dee's prophetic globe in Trismegistrian mountains, without another six years wait!

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