Flicker, by Theodore Roszak

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Before long, I was asking myself how a tiny, hole-in-the-wall operation like The Classic could possibly require so much work. What with repairing, replacing, purchasing, cleaning) Polishing, picking up and delivering, my unpaid labor was soon snowballing into a full-time job, most of it menial drudgery. Each morning at breakfast, as strictly as a general marshaling her army of one, Clare would tick off the chores I was expected to discharge that day. Order more coffee for the espresso machine, buy more toilet paper, replace the burnt-out light bulbs, fix the broken seats, tack down the carpet in the lobby, chase to the printers, the distributors, the post office, the bank. There came a point when I began to wonder if our love affair was really a way for Clare to make up for years of neglect to her capital investment with the benefit of cheap labor. So I complained, if feebly, reminding her that I did after all have classes to attend and assignments to do.

I picked this up from the freebies table at Novacon, and eventually got around to it as the most popular book on my unread sf pile as of the end of last year. (Yes, it’s now June.) I’d previously read the author’s Tiptree-winning Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, so I was prepared for some fairly dense prose. I wasn’t expecting to be left until quite a late stage before being able to decide if this was really an sfnal book or not; in the end, I decided that it is – the plot is about an obscure religious cult with cinematic ambitions, and the author’s gradual entanglement therewith. The blurb suggests that it’s a cross between Sunset Boulevard and The Name of the Rose, and I think that is probably fair, though I have not seen Sunset Boulevard.

I’m not a film buff, and my Oscar-winners project has been in part a journey to try and get into the minds of those who are. There are lots of other areas of human endeavour that leave me cold – I cannot get excited about makes of car, for instance, and sports events outside the major championships don’t do all that much for me. Roszak did in fact manage to convey to me what it is to care about films. The book dates from 1991, still a time when films physically existed entirely on celluloid; it’s weird to reflect how thoroughly the practice of digital storage has affected our experience of the cinema.

Anyway, it’s a bit rambling, but I liked the sense of geography (mostly California but with a bit of Europe and elsewhere) and the cult itself was an interesting concept. You can get it here.

Next on the unread sf pile was Mythos by Stephen Fry, which I have in fact read in the meantime, so you’ll see it coming up here soon.