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Last Magician

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To all the world, Charlie is a successful adult, an in-demand photographer. But he is stalked by a cruel childhood secret which he shares with three others--one shrouded in silence . . . until now. "An ambitious, intense and satisfying book".--New York Times Book Review.
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1992 Hard cover American ed. New in fine dust jacket. lt shelf wear-book appears unread Sewn binding. Paper over boards. 309 p. Audience: General/trade.

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Henry Holt and Company 1/1/1992. New hardcover. First US Edition. in Brand New jacket.

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Overview

To all the world, Charlie is a successful adult, an in-demand photographer. But he is stalked by a cruel childhood secret which he shares with three others--one shrouded in silence . . . until now. "An ambitious, intense and satisfying book".--New York Times Book Review.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this mesmerizing study of the effects of a dark secret on the people who must live with it, the author of Charades proves herself a magician with words and narrative structure. Moreover, she seems to have an artificer's skill for re-creating her fictional approach each time out: each of her novels is different from the others in theme, tone and method. The constants are her impeccable, sensuous prose and her fiercely intelligent imagination. Set in the rain forest near Brisbane and in the city of Sydney, in Hospital's native Australia, the narrative slowly unwinds in elliptical scenes and oblique references, like photos in which the subject is blurred but discernible, and will gradually come into focus. The ``last magician'' is Charlie Chang, a photographer and filmmaker who devotes himself to unraveling the puzzle at the heart of this tale. Twenty-five years ago, he was one of four children who witnessed the death of a fifth. One of them caused the event; blandly amoral, narcissistic and seemingly without guilt, Robinson Gray is now a famous judge, ``Australia's golden boy.'' Charlie and the others--one woman named Catherine and another named Cat--remain emotionally maimed. The judge's son and the woman who loves him become catalysts in reopening the drama and are sucked into the whirlpool of evil it again sets in motion. Hospital enriches her story with allusions ranging from Virgil and Dante to James Joyce and Christina Stead. She offers crackling social commentary as she contrasts the lives of the homeless squatters (who live underneath Sydney's streets in a warren of caverns and tunnels called ``the quarry'') with the cream of Sydney's society folk. Her characters' observations about truth and illusion, about memory and precognition and the nature of moral responsibility, are provocative and insightful. Most important, this novel is an example of the storyteller's magical art. 25,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour. (Sept.) .
Library Journal
This work is complex and disturbing, ultimately grappling with the darkest side of love. Readers who stick with her through the first slow pages will find themselves enmeshed in a chilling drama of personalities revealed through innuendo, reminiscence, and memory. Hospital pastes together her story like a photographic collage. The effect is disjointed and startling, requiring the reader to piece together the narrative, to make connections and find meaning. In barest outline, here are the lives of four people who share an ugly secret, a secret whose power becomes the driving force in each life. Charlie, a photographer, says, ``Photographs beckon . Photographs seduce.'' So too this novel. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/92.--Linda L. Rome, Middlefield P.L., Ohio
Bill Ott
""I will try, like any archivist or reader of entrails, to salvage the future and to predict the changeable past." So says Lucy, the narrator of Janette Turner Hospital's fifth and most compelling novel. Combining elements of a suspense thriller with many of the techniques of experimental fiction, Hospital takes us on a disorienting, seemingly rudderless trip through the interconnected pasts of a group of Australian characters, several of whom share a terrible secret from childhood that has been replaying itself throughout their adult lives. Producing the same kind of vertiginous effects that characterize the best of the Australian New Wave cinema (especially Peter Weir's "Picnic at Hanging Rock"), the novel centers on the charismatic Cat, a lower-class Brisbane girl whose unlikely friendship with upper-class Robbie and Catherine and with Chinese immigrant and later avant-garde photographer Charlie lead to at least one death and to the eventual disappearance of both Robbie's son, Gabriel, and Charlie. We learn of these events through the tangled memories of narrator Lucy, Gabriel's lover, who in turning time topsy-turvy, frees us from the "blinkered angle of vision" with which we usually see the world. ("Linear time, according to Charlie, was a filmmaker's gimmick, an "inferior "filmmaker's gimmick, and before that a gimmick of nineteenth-century novelists.") Throughout this hypnotic magic show of a novel, Hospital plays with her readers unmercifully; she gives us what we traditionally crave--characters to love and a story to follow--but then she withholds the tonic chord, the satisfying ending that allows meaning to emerge. She knows we want it, she wants it herself ("humankind cannot bear very much lack of meaning"), but it isn't there, not a nineteenth-century ending, nor even a modern ending, "indeterminate in a suggestively closed sort of way." No, we're left out of linear time, waiting for our next pass through the changeable past, our next stab at finding the ever-elusive pattern. And yet, in one final turn of the magic lantern, we realize that by denying us meaning, by failing to find the pattern, Hospital has taught us more about where life and literature come together and break apart than we've managed to learn from even the most meaningful of books.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805020977
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/4/1992
  • Edition description: 1st American ed
  • Pages: 320

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