The Fan-Shaped Destiny of William Seabrook answers the most fervent prayer of all mankind, for another chance--but chance is all there is, ever--in one world or many.
"To the one who perhaps cared the most."
(To learn more about Wm Seabrook and the Fan-Shaped Destiny, read Paul Pipkin's "Things Done by Shadows" in the February 2003 issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction.)
In the twilight of the 20th century, a young woman broods over a cryptic birthright, an inheritance addressed to her before she was born. Shaped by an abusive past, she seeks intense sensations to unchain her heart.
Meanwhile, a nameless, corroded Sixties malcontent orbits the far point of his life. As his reason unravels, he pines for the redemption of an exhausted history.
And in a darkening yesterday, William Seabrook, an all-but-forgotten writer of the Lost Generation--expatriate, explorer, suicide--wrestles with more remorse than one life can contain.
Behind, and up ahead, and in-between these strange travelers, an old woman is dying in a decaying Victorian home. At the terminus of a full life, her memories warp and twist like the adjacent rooms, their doors remaining just a little bit ajar.
In an odyssey that morphs extension and duration, blown upon storms of synchronicity, two improbable lovers bond in a sexual obsession with the dead, chasing the ghosts of fantasies become all-too-real. At the end of their quest--or is it the beginning?--waits the fatidic document called The Fan-Shaped Destiny.
The past has caught up with the present.
"One of the exotic denizens of the Village who frequented Tony's studio was the infamous Aleister Crowley, who billed himself as a black magician and was suspected of being a German operative. Willie had early warned me against Crowley, which was passing strange. For one thing, I was almost sure that had been before he had in fact met Crowley himself. Also, Willie was a Republican and had no interest in the political charges against the man.
"Moreover, after Frank Harris had introduced them over lunch at Mouquon's, Willie had become quite taken with Crowley. Learning that Crowley was reputed to employ sadistic rituals in his magic, I was absolutely sizzling when Willie refused to take me around...
"I was young and impetuous; even my worship of Willie would side-track me for only so long. At a venture, I pestered Sarg for an introduction. Finally, in the late summer of 1918, Tony's own nefarious purposes were served by recommending me as a 'companion' to A.C., as we called Crowley, on a river trip up the Hudson. I up and went!
"...Some months after the river trip, A.C. invited Willie to his rooms on Washington Square. Willie met and, I would presume, played with A.C.'s new protegee, a woman called Leah, who became a fixture of A.C.'s career. Willie would later write of A.C. and Leah with awe and intrigue, but what I remember is this:
"Later that night, he came to my apartment with a bottle of gin as if to celebrate. Then things turned strange, nice, but strange. He made love to me with a tenderness and a joy unlike I would have expected from Willie. Then he held me in his arms painfully tight, as tightly as he had ever fettered me. Then he cried till he went to sleep.
"Not for decades, till the end of another great war, when I myself wept over the revelations of his last written words, would I understand that his tears had been of the most infinite relief. Neither could I have known, nor would I have believed, what Willie had at last convinced himself that he had spared me."
(from the "Testament of Madeleine Leiris" in the sixth chapter.)