Thoughts onBY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON
BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON
Each year at this time, the relentlessly demanding webmaster, who is a ruthless disciplinarian, requires from me some thoughts about my most recent book. If I am but one day late delivering said thoughts, ravens with cold anthracite eyes gather on the window sills of my house and peer in at me, five or six per window, and no room remains free from their gimlet-eyed observation. If I close the drapes, a pack of huge, blazing-eyed dogs with coats of purest midnight claw down my front door, roam the house, and shred the drapes, apparently in service to the ravens. Before the dogs leave, they want cookies. If I know what's good for me-and I do-I must give each of them not just one cookie but several, plus a good scratch behind the ears, and a $500 gift certificate at Petco.
I am always uncomfortable writing about my own work, and I would disappoint even the stern webmaster except for the tremendous cost of drapery replacement. Consequently, I will tell you a little about BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON, but not so much, I hope, that either of us will be embarrassed for me.
Of the several themes of this novel, the central one is expressed subtly by a quote from Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, which I place at the front of the novel: "And at his prow the pilot held within his hands his freight of lives, eyes wide open, full of moonlight." The same theme is more directly expressed by another quote from Faith and History by Reinhold Niebuhr: "Life has no meaning except in term of responsibility."
BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON is essentially a three-character story, although others come and go. Dylan O'Conner, 30, is an itinerant artist who travels the West and Southwest, selling his paintings at art festivals. Shepherd, his 20-year-old brother, is autistic. Dylan has been Shep's sole guardian for ten years, and both their lives have been shaped by Shep's autism. Jilly Jackson, 25, is a struggling comedian, playing second-rate comedy clubs throughout the Southwest. One night on the road, these three are separately victimized by a stranger who pretty much defines "strange" and who injects them with an initially unknown substance that changes them in ways astonishing and terrifying.
Thereafter, Dylan's abiding love for his damaged brother and his determination to protect Shep leads to a deepening of his already powerful sense of responsibility. And as Jilly feels a growing affection for these men, she discovers in herself more courage then she knew she had, as well as a sense of responsibility equal to Dylan's. They are suddenly running for their lives from dangerous men, and at the same time they are forced to cope with changes in themselves and with a new perception of reality and its structure that is more frightening than the assassins searching for them.
Among classic and modern classic authors whose best books I most admire, from Charles Dickens to James M. Cain, from Robert Louis Stevenson to Joseph Conrad to Raymond Chandler to Philip K. Dick, the story doesn't dawdle; it moves. Therefore, in addition to what else I think it is and what else it may be, BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON is an exercise in pace. I think it flies as dark-quick as a bat across a summer sky. I hope you agree.
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