Phosphor in Dreamland

Phosphor in Dreamland

by Rikki Ducornet
     
 

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Wildly comic, erotic, and perverse, Rikki Ducornet’s dazzling novel, Phosphor in Dreamland, explores the relationship between power and madness, nature and its exploitation, pornography and art, innocence and depravity.

Set on the imaginary Caribbean island of Birdland, the novel takes the form of a series of letters from a current resident to an old friend

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Overview

Wildly comic, erotic, and perverse, Rikki Ducornet’s dazzling novel, Phosphor in Dreamland, explores the relationship between power and madness, nature and its exploitation, pornography and art, innocence and depravity.

Set on the imaginary Caribbean island of Birdland, the novel takes the form of a series of letters from a current resident to an old friend describing the island’s 17th-century history that brings together the violent Inquisition, the thoughtless extinction of the island’s exotic fauna, and the amorous story of the deformed artist-philosopher-inventor Phosphor and his impassioned, obsessional love for the beautiful Extravaganza.

The Jade Cabinet, Ducornet’s previous novel (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), was described by one reviewer as “Jane Austen meets Angela Carter via Lewis Carroll.” Phosphor in Dreamland can be described as Jonathan Swift meets Angela Carter via Jorge Luis Borges. This is Ducornet at her magical best.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[Ducornet] writes like a stunned time-traveler, testifying in breathless fragments to exotic ages that have gone or never were.... It's startling and refreshing to encounter a writer whose work insists so relentlessly upon the magic of making tales." -- Robert Chatain, Chicago Tribune

Dalkey Archive Press

"Ducornet's novel is both incoherent and astonishing, a complex fantasia redolent of Swift and Borges, but stranger than both." -- The London Times

Dalkey Archive Press

"Phosphor in Dreamland is one of the finest persuasions to date for the life of the erotic, the sensual.... Rikki Ducornet is a writer whose work deserves our joyous attention." -- Los Angeles Times

Dalkey Archive Press

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although Ducornet's Tetralogy of Elements ended in 1993 with the NBCC nominee The Jade Cabinet, her wondrous new novel might represent the most unpredictable property of all: light. In letters to a friend, the lonely narrator describes the fantastical history of his native Birdland. In the mid-17th century, a clubfooted, cross-eyed baby was abandoned on the doorstep of the island's unsavory and unique prelate, Fogginus. Nicknamed Phosphor for his fancied luminosity, the child spends much of his youth locked away in his guardian's sea trunk, where he re-discovers the camera obscura, gradually embellishing its images with a third dimension and permanence. Together with Fogginus and his patron, Fango Fantasma, a particularly noxious local grandee, Phosphor sets out to document Birdland both in images (through which Fantasma believes he will possess the island) and in an epic poem about his homeland. Phosphor in Dreamland is filled with wry references to Swift (a scholarly double biography titled A Swift and Phosphorous Eye is alluded to), and like that satirist's, Ducornet's humor is sly and sharp. Unlike Swift, though, she also conveys a tender melancholy: for the last of the aboriginal lplps, a giant bird tended by an arboreal barber, and for Birdland's past, which is preserved only by Phosphor's invention. ``Thanks to this wonderful machine, a city that exists no more, a world still even to sublimity, is contained as if by magic on flat pieces of glass.'' (Oct.)
Library Journal
In Ducornet's (The Jade Cabinet, LJ 2/1/93) fifth novel, Australia meets Birdland (an imaginary Caribbean island), the 20th century intersects with the 17th, and magical realism confronts a lit-crit parody of famed satirist Jonathan Swift. This engaging novel, although extremely well written, lacks the tension and plot-driven engine that will keep you awake all night. But for those interested in a more playful pace, it details the invention of the ocularscope (an early forerunner of the camera) and the brutal slaying of the last loplop on earth, a bird that begged for mercy in an almost human-sounding voice. While moving from brilliant fantasy to brilliant fantasy-my favorite is the arboreal barbershop-this novel's prose comes alive with images. Judging from her skill with language displayed here, it's obvious that Ducornet is also a poet. The characters-Seor Fantasma; his strongman, Yahoo Clay; the professor, Tardanza; the boy-child, Pulco; the poet, Phosphor; and his bride, Extravaganza-represent archetypes. "If Fantasma was cursed with anxiety, Yahoo Clay was damned with rage." This is an adventure tale-the exploration of Birdland-and also a love story: Phosphor and Extravaganza, newly married, share their dreams each morning upon awakening. Indeed, the whole book is an inquiry into the nature of dreaming. And, as Professor Tardanza wisely acknowledges, "Dreams are the key to the human soul." Recommended for larger fiction collections.-Doris Lynch, Bloomington P.L., Ind.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781564780843
Publisher:
Dalkey Archive Press
Publication date:
10/28/1995
Series:
American Literature (Dalkey Archive) Series
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.48(h) x 0.53(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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