Burke wrote this autobiographical novel because, he said (in a note he left for his doctors before committing suicide), “I would like a separate reality besides my fantasy, a factual description.” At various stages a hippie searcher/druggie, convict (for a crime committed while in a delusional state), institutionalized tranquilizee, and student, the book's narrator Sphere searches for love, sex, companionship and meaning like any other earnest and adventurous person, but is increasingly hobbled by terrifying hallucinations and delusions. His descriptions of “the dream” blend seamlessly with his philosophy, personal allegory and humor into a tale of struggle and pain.
The many accounts of sparkling moments and prosaic epiphanies produced by mushrooms, acid, pot, and alcohol provide a time capsule of ’60s Aussie hippiedom. However, Sphere's mental illness increasingly reveals itself asa separate animal: he is the only one among his friends (whom Burke has named Baron Wasteland, Magic Star Flower, etc.) whose drug experiences begin to dovetail into a kind of crushing, psychedelic blackness that seems like it will never end. As his story goes on, and the illness becomes increasingly florid, Sphere's isolation grows. His friends deteriorate into hepatitis-ridden geriatric cases, and their mutual love sometimes resembles depressing toleration: “The five bacteria came into the room and Magic spoke: 'We've brought an astrologer to heal you, Sphere.'”
Burke's drive to live life to its fullest permeates this story and the unexpected rhythms and clever surprises of its prose. Passages which at first might appear inaccessible often prove precise and beautiful: “Hours go by before the electric current is barbed and meshed into circuits that leave the victim in a crusty shell of irrational forces.”
Paperback: 256 pages