Sleeping in Flame
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2009)|
first edition cover
|Cover artist||Mel Odom|
|LC Class||PS3553.A7646 S54 1989|
|Preceded by||Bones of the Moon|
|Followed by||A Child Across the Sky|
Explanation of the novel's title
The book's title is a reference to the cremation of Nicholas, who (after seeing Luc off in style with the help of a couple of actor friends) is tragically killed at an airport in a terrorist raid.
||This article reads like a review rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (May 2008)|
Although that is one literal translation of the book's title, it could also have a number of other meanings, along the lines of the fairy tale imagery throughout the novel. The oxymoron of the image—to sleep in fire—is like something out of a Grimm Brothers tale. Also, phoenix imagery comes to mind as well, in that a being emerges reborn from flames.Carroll often has very vivid titles to his novels but they don't always make sense literally, even if they come from direct quotes from the novels themselves. In many ways like Symbolist poetry, they are meant to stick in the reader's mind and stimulate their imagination, rather than guide it to a specific place or idea.
The narrator, Walker Easterling, is a film actor and screenwriter. His director friend Nicholas Sylvian introduces him to Maris York, a sculptress who makes model cities and who is freeing herself from Luc, her abusive partner. On the day Maris and Walker meet, Luc has just threatened to kill her, so Walker and Nicholas take her away to Vienna, where Maris and Walker commence a relationship. Walker, who knows nothing about his parents or family background, discovers that he can perform magical acts and has dreams of inhabiting another identity, that of an Austrian named Moritz Benedikt who fought in the First World War and was subsequently murdered. After Maris' brother Ingram loses his lover in an earthquake, Walker is able to foretell, or induce, Ingram's meeting with a certain Michael Billa, who will be a significant person in Ingram's life. (The consequences of Ingram's and Billa's friendship are recounted in Black Cocktail.) Through an acquaintance, screenwriter Philip Strayhorn, Walker meets Venasque, a mystic and teacher who appears in several other Carroll books. With Venasque's help, Walker learns to control his talent, but inadvertently causes Venasque's death because of the strength of his powers. He is contacted by his real father, a little man with no genitals whose name he does not know. The little man is an immortal (and the real-life source of the Rumpelstiltskin legend) who has murdered all Walker's previous incarnations, the last of whom was Moritz Benedikt, because they kept falling in love with women and repudiating the little man's sterile immortality. His father tries to persuade Walker to leave Maris by telling him that she'll mourn him forever and never love anyone else; this above all persuades Walker that his father is selfish and evil. Thanks to his and Maris' complete understanding of each other, Walker is able to discover his father's name in a city which Maris is building him as a birthday present. Walker uses his magic powers to call up the two sisters who originally told the Rumpelstiltskin story to the Grimm brothers. The sisters retell the story, changing it to end with the little man's death. Soon after Maris' and Walker's son is born, a little girl (apparently the original source of the Little Red Riding Hood story) appears on the doorstep and tells Walker: "You're dangerous." As Walker observes that "nothing in life is done without regret", it seems that his and Maris' son has been affected in some way by the vengeful immortals.
References in other Carroll novels
Like most of Carroll's books, Sleeping in Flame includes a number of highly detailed characters, some of whom appear in other novels. At one point Walker works on a film with director Weber Gregston, who appears in Bones of the Moon and is the narrator of A Child Across the Sky, which also features Philip Strayhorn.
Venasque and the Easterlings appear in Outside the Dog Museum. The protagonist of Outside the Dog Museum, Harry Radcliffe, is the subject of an anecdote Venasque tells Walker in "Sleeping in Flame", and also appears briefly in the hospital scene.
Walker and Maris also appear briefly in Carroll's 1995 novel From the Teeth of Angels, in which they have a baby son, Nicholas, who was born with a hole in the heart. Gregston and Strayhorn also appear.
- "1989 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-27.
- Sleeping in Flames at Worlds Without End