- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Flamingo; First Edition edition (15 Nov. 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0006551246
- ISBN-13: 978-0006551249
- Package Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 2 cm
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,308,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Black Light Paperback – 15 Nov 1999
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Growing up means discovering that the world is different than one supposed; Charlotte, Lit to her friends, the central character of Black Light, experiences magic and other betrayals, but the unreliability of her parents and her world is more fundamental than that. Lit is a typical adolescent at the point where the hippy-dippy 60s started to turn to the punk 70s,growing up in a very untypical place--a haunted artists' colony with its own rituals and traditions, set in a landscape of vivid beauty and dark memories where natural forces loom threateningly in bestial shapes:
That I could be so insignificant, that it was possible for me to move through the world and have my presence as unremarked as that of a spider spinning its web in the tall grass. And like the spider I could be casually destroyed, my passing neither mourned nor noticed by this monstrous being. An arms-length away from me the horned man dipped his head closer toward the water's surface, as though he would drink there...
Lit and her friends find themselves caught up in the workings of Axel Kern, supposedly just an experimental director in the tradition of Warhol or Kenneth Anger, but actually, like Anger, aspiring to be something altogether more sinister. Nor are the forces of official good--the mystic brotherhood known as the Benandanti, whom we already know from Hand's earlier, award-winning Waking the Moon--significantly less sinister. This is a powerful evocation of the uncanny and the hard work of surviving it, with a young heroine strongly individualised while convincingly typical of her time and place. --Roz Kaveney
‘A potent socio-erotic story for our looming Millennium… Hand’s high-resolution narrative never falters’
‘Ms Hand is a superior stylist’
NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
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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.
Set back in the drug- and sex-crazed early 1970s, the book, crammed with Jungian references that won't scare you off, tells the story of Charlotte (Lit) Moylan, at the turning point between adolescence and womanhood, as she slides and glides her way through a most unusual Hallowe'en party held at a properly mysterious mansion (it's the centerpiece of a suburban New York town) presided over by a renegade film-maker, who happens to be Lit's godfather. Hand turns the gothic mansion, with its hidden passages and its motley crew of guests, into a symbol of the hideous era in which the book is set. And during the course of the long night Lit not only turns the corner into adulthood, but also transforms herself from used to user.
Terrifyingly terrific, superbly written, Hand's genre transcending novel is best read in late autumn, with Joni Mitchell's "Don't Give Up the Sorrow" on your stereo and with all the lights turned up bright.