Lord Byron’s Prophecy
One part of this strangely structured novel involves Lord Byron and Percy Shelley between 1816 and 1824. A larger portion concerns an American university professor named Adam Fane in the year 2011, with sections taking us back to the Kennedy era and forward for a glimpse of the year 2027. Fane was found guilty of sex with a student in violation of 75 130 b.1, a code number with which he is taunted as he walks through the campus. His son, a star basketball player, is conspicuously involved with his female professor, another violation.
Much of the narrative consists of visions, hallucinations, dreams, appearances by the dead, dialogues with ghosts, fantasies under anesthesia, ravings in old age dementia and remembered snatches of Byron, mostly from “Darkness.” This poem was inspired by the volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora that blocked the sun over much of the earth. The prophecy seems to be that mankind will not do well after the sun disappears.
The connection between the eras seems to be sexuality. In the modern section, heterosexual males are viciously exploitive and contemptuous of women. Homosexual incidents are shy and furtive, such as caressing the underwear of the object of desire. Byron’s legendary collection of women serves to mask his gay impulses. Fane’s repressed sexuality leads to a fatal disaster in his teens, and later sets off a chain of events leading to family tragedies. There’s not much optimism to be found here and very little joy, but what can be expected from a prophecy of mankind’s doom? Emphatically not recommended.