"Do you know what the last four things are? In the
Christian catechism they are Death, Judgment, Heaven
and Hell. But in our secular age they should perhaps be
changed. I suggest - First Love, Friendship, Betrayal
and Death . . . These also happen to be the staples of
the novelist. Is that the sort of thing you want?"'
Thus Cornelius Marten asks the researcher who turns up one night
at his house. Cornelius has forgotten his invitation to the young
man. But the young woman who accompanies him seems strangely
familiar. Cornelius is flattered by their attention. He had thought
himself almost forgotten; his great works neglected. And Cornelius,
monstrously selfish, whisky glass constantly in hand, his mind
shifting between past and present, finds that his mysterious guests
release memories and truths he had preferred to forget.
The stories which follow Four Last Things complement and explore
some of the same themes: the poet who has published only one
poem; a bizarre stag night; a child who is haunted by his encounter
with the adult world of a religious maniac; a dreamed murder;
an academic who stirs the ghost of Byron in modern Venice;
the shifts and deceptions of language and memory; and in a great
jazzman's last wordless hurrah, a final flowering of beauty.
This irresistibly powerful volume by the author of The Good
Republic, Leporello and The Contract confirms William Palmer as
one of our finest writers.
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