Black Light

Black Light

by Elizabeth Hand


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Black Light is the book Elizabeth Hand's growing legions of fans have been awaiting -- her most mature, most gripping, and most deeply arousing novel to date.

Like her friends in upstate Kamensic, Charlotte "Lit" Moylan is a child of privilege. Blessed with famous parents, Lit is ready to enjoy one last wild fling before college and adulthood. She is far from alone. In fact, the whole town is ready to party, for legendary film director Alex Kern, Lit's godfather, is coming back to reopen his fabulous mansion, Bolerium. He's throwing the Halloween party of the decade.of the century, and everyone is invited -- especially the beautiful Lit and her best friends.

But other, more disturbing guests are arriving daily, seen at the edges of the forest, at the margins of the night. Unknown to Lit and the others, Kern's connections extend far beyond Hollywood, beyond even the modern age, deep into dark and mystical realms.and in Bolerium's echoing halls a fearsome confrontation is gathering: a fierce battle between ancient powers and the immortals sworn to stop them no matter what the sacrifice. Even Youth. And certainly Innocence.

In this haunting story of a young woman trembling on the brink of adulthood, Elizabeth Hand captures, as no writer has since J. D. Salinger, the stark terror and ineffable promise of youth's first sunset, and final dawn.

The winner of both the Nebula and the World Fantasy awards, Elizabeth Hand is the author of Winterlog, Waking the Moon, and most recently, Glimmering.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061057328
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/01/2000
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.77(h) x 1.12(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Helter Skelter

My mother claimed to have been on the set of Darkness Visible when Axel Kern fired a revolver into the air, not to goad his actors but out of frustration with a scriptgirl who repeatedly handed him the wrong pages, My mother had, indeed, very briefly worked as a scriptgirl for Kern--this was before she settled into her eternal and prosperous run as Livia on Perilous Lives--so it wasn't considered good form to doubt her, or even to demonstrate normal curiosity upon hearing the anecdote repeated whenever the subject of artistic temperaments arose; which, in our family, was often.

My father was friends with Kern long before Axel became a world-famous director. When I was born in 1957, Kern was my godfather. When I was a child he was around our house a good deal, and my parents dined often at Bolerium, his vast decaying estate atop Muscanth Mountain. But as I grew older Kern stayed less often in Kamensic, and by the time I was a teenager it had been years since I'd seen him. He and my father had a long history, as drinking buddies and fellow members of a loosely allied, free-floating group of bibulous Broadway and Hollywood people. Most of them are dead now; certainly their vices have gone out of style, except as veteris vestigia flammoe. Only Kern made the leap gracefully from the old Hollywood to the new, which in those days wasn't Hollywood at all, but New York: Radical Chic New York, Andy Warhol's Factory New York, Black Light New York.

He was always a seeker after the main chance, my godfather. When, for a moment in the late '60s it looked as though the movie industry was turning back tothe city--where, of course, it had begun when the century was new, in warehouses and a brownstone on East Fourteenth Street--well, then Axel moved back, too, inhabiting a corner of a Bowery block that could best be described not so much as crumbling as collapsed. Exposed beams and girders laced with rust, sagging tin ceilings that exposed the building's innards: particle board and oak beams riddled with dry rot and carpenter ants. The place was infested with vermin, rats and mice and bugs and stray cats; but there were also people living in the rafters, extras from the stream of low-budget experimental films Axel was filming in the city. Some had followed Axel out from the West Coast, but most of them were young people who had been living on the street, or in tenth-floor walk-ups in a part of the city that was light-years away from being gentrified. Speed freaks with noms du cinema like Joey Face and Electric Velvet; trustfund junkies like Caresse "Kissy" Hardwick and her lover Angelique; a bouquet of sometime prostitutes, male and female, who named themselves after flowers: Liatris, CeCe Anemone, Hazy Clover. They were young enough, and there were enough of them, that Rex Reed christened Axel's production space the Nursery. The name stuck.

In the movies Axel shot back then--Skag, Creep, House of the Sleeping Beauties--you can see how a lot of those people were barely out of junior high school. Joey Face for one, and CeCe, were only a few years older than I was, with acne scars still visible beneath their Bonne Bell makeup and eyeliner inexpertly applied. None of them were beauties, except for Kissy Hardwick, who possessed the fragile greyhound bone structure and bedrock eccentricity of very old New England money. Axel seemed drawn to them solely by virtue of their youth and appetites: for food (the gloriously obese Wanda LaFlame); for amphetamines and heroin (Kissy, Joey, Page Franchini); for sex (everybody). In Hollywood, Axel had been legendary for always bringing his projects in under budget; quite a feat when you consider movies like Saragossa or You Come, Too, with their lavish costumes and soundstages that recreated Malaga during the Inquisition or fifteenth century Venice. Now, in New York, he was famous for letting a Super 8 camera run for six hours at a stretch in a blighted tenement loft, and having the results look as garishly archaic as Fellini Satyricon.

I visited the Nursery only once, for a Christmas party when I was twelve. Traditionally my parents held a party at our house in Kamensic, rich plum pudding-y parties where the children ran around in velvet dresses and miniature suit jackets and the grownups drank homemade eggnog so heavily spiked with brandy that a single glass was enough to set them off, playing riotously at blindman's buff and charades, singing show tunes and "The Wessex Mummer's Carol." Axel Kern was usually a guest at these holiday gatherings, but by 1969 he had set up shop at the Nursery and wanted to throw his own party there. In keeping with the pagan tenor of the times, it was a solstice celebration and not a Christmas party; but really it wasn't even that. It was a rout.

This was before my father achieved his commercial success as TV's Uncle Cosmo. He was signed to do summer rep at the Avalon Shakespeare Theater in Connecticut, and my mother was on one of her infrequent sabbaticals from Perilous Lives, Livia having shaved her raven tresses and joined an Ursuline convent in the French countryside. The birth of a new decade, 1969 swandiving into 1970, seemed almost as propitious as the birth of a new century. Radio DJs rifled through the hits of the last ten years and analyzed them as though they were tarot cards. In health class we watched grainy films that showed teenagers who took LSD, staring transfixed at candle flames ("look at the pretty blue flower!') before they went mad and were trundled off to the loony bin in an ambulance.

What People are Saying About This

Peg Aloi

Black Light demonstrates the author's superior craftsmanship of mood, of setting, of character, of imagery. Hand's heady vision and srupulous prose are breathtaking at times: cool, musty claret to parched throats craving the wines of ancient magic, youthful yearning, animistic visions, pagan sensuality, and thoroughly modern mythology, poured out from the ever-flowing, ever-transforming cauldron of an unafraid imagination.

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Black Light 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
the_one_who_reads More than 1 year ago
In a nutshell, if you like atmospheric, evocative explorations into the human condition, in a time and place not too long ago, this is the book for you. Elizabeth Hand takes us on a journey to Kamensic, Maine, where life is idyllic at best. A town full of actors, actresses, artisans, and musicians. We are introduced to Kamensic circa 1970 where we meet young Charlotte "Lit" Moylan at a party in a mansion called Bolerium. It is a fantastic place of sights and smells, of party revelers, of debauchery hinted at but not quite seen. In the middle of this is one Axel Kern, friend of the Moylan family, godfather to Lit. He's a filmmaker and a madman...and something more. As time goes on and Lit grows to teenage-hood, her godfather has returned to Kamensic to begin a new film project, and to open Bolerium up once again, and throw a party to end all of his previous efforts. Lit is caught up in a series of encounters that boggle the mind - there were times I started to wonder if Hand had dropped acid as she was writing as her set pieces became more and more fantastic. There are mysterious orders, the Benandanti and the Malandanti, both hinted at tantalizingly; one can't help but want to know more about them and how they play into the melange Hand so skillfully creates. What is Lit's place in all of this? That is where the mystery so beautifully lies. Is there anything really horrific about Black Light? At times, yes. At it's heart, it's a coming of age story about a young woman presented with a future that has been predestined for her...or has it? I've read other novels by Hand and am never disappointed at the way she weaves words together. Allow me to cite this paragraph: Everything gleamed with a primal intensity: the crimson and indigo of the carpet so saturated they looked wet, the gold letters on the spines of books sparkling like flame. Decanters on a small round table glowed as if they held paint rather than liqueurs - emerald green, blood-red, sunflower yellow. A daybed was heaped with tapestried pillows and there was a small cast-iron woodstove set into one wall, its isinglass window glowing beneath one of several beautifully carved plaques inscribed with Latin phrases... Black Light is a voyage into the dark fantastic, some of the finer dark fantasy writing available today. Try Elizabeth Hand. You won't be disappointed.
kraaivrouw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a follow-up to Hand's amazing & wonderful Waking the Moon. The themes are similar & Balthazar Warnick makes an appearance which is nice for those of us fond of the other book & this character.I guess this is categorized as horror, although I've never really been able to decide what category Hand is in. She's in her own category with slightly psychedelic & overtly lush writing & odd twisty plots that meander through myth & modernity.Just as in Waking the Moon, the idea here is that there is an ongoing struggle between the followers of order & those of chaos. In both books the main character is asked to choose between the two &, quite simply, refuses to do so.Black Light throws the world of the '70s into clear relief as it explores the world of these sheltered & maybe not so privileged teenagers. Privilege is in a very sense a limiting (& sometimes deadly) box for all them. In this sense Hand's characters recognize that hewing to a single path is full of pitfalls & she allows them to pick their way through the forest in unique & different ways.I've always related to her themes of difference, of lost & renewed love, of refusal to give in - that she is so interested in music & mythology is a huge bonus. I very much enjoyed this book & recommend it to anyone who spent their time as a teenager with Anais Nin, Rimbaud, & Iggy Pop in their heads. It's pretty fun for everybody else, too.
CheriePie69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first half of the book was pretty slow-going, and I found it hard to stick to at times, but things rapidly got better beginning with Kern's party, and from that point on, things were a lot more interesting. So if you're experiencing the same thing, you might want to hang in there and see if you like it once you get to the party.When certain events and scenes from a book remain with me up to 6 months or more after I've read it, like the dark scenes from this one did, I know that, in my mind at least, that was a book I enjoyed reading and will remember for a time to come. I wish I could recall the proper adjectives to describe this story though, dark is the only one that comes to mind, and I know that can have a wide range. I think you could also call it a sleeper too, or "a mind f&#k", which is a term I've used more for movies, like psychological thrillers, but I think applies very nicely to this book as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great story that will keep you intersted until the very end. Ms. Hand is a great writer who is able to create fantastic stories which keep you on the edge of your seat. When you get to the last page you'll be so disapointed that there isn't more to read. I gcouldn't put it down.