Cover image for The spell : a romance
The spell : a romance
Clark, Tom, 1941-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Santa Rosa, CA : Black Sparrow Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
205 pages ; 24 cm


Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3553.L29 S74 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The hero of this American gothic nightmare comedy is a messianic hillbilly prophet whose onetime local glory as a high school football star gives way to a career of outlaw questing. With the mysterious disappearance of his main squeeze -- an edgy, spooky honkytonk chanteuse -- that quest becomes increasingly deviant and deranged.

The landscape through which the earnest, confused seeker chivvies his banged-up black pickup truck is a magical and timeless one, its dense woods and dark lakes charged with a heavy burden of industrially-produced hexes, curses and toxic spells. Mechanical animals and changeling species, subjected to continual torments of re-programming, run half wild through a menacing backwater of poisonous tarns, vicious factories and slimy swamps. Elders of strange religions exercise insidious, unpleasant influences, while witches in Secret Shacks broadcast bad vibrations that produce genetic alterations. In this mutated vision of "reality" now, there is a general spell under whicheverybody is bound.

The Spell: A Romance is a strange, haunting and funny poetic novel about the survival of medieval chivalric codes -- and their dangerous implications -- in a toxic-shocked modern world. It is also a tale of love and quest, betrayal and revenge. The mysterious protean voice of the book slips back and forth from comic narrative prose to spare lyrical poetry as it becomes the voice of legend: allusive, expansive, suspending disbelief.

Author Notes

Tom Clark was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 1, 1941. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1963 where he received a Hopwood Award for poetry. He was a poet, biographer, novelist, dramatist, reviewer, and sportswriter. He contributed to Poetry magazine and was a former poetry editor of the Paris Review. His books included Junkets on a Sad Planet: Scenes from the Life of John Keats; Jack Kerouac: A Biography; Sleepwalkers Fate: New and Selected Poems, 1965-1991; Charles Olson: The Allegory of a Poet's Life; Light and Shade: New and Selected Poems; and Champagne and Baloney: The Rise and Fall of Finley's A's. He was fatally struck by motorist and died on August 18, 2018 at the age of 77.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Billed as a poetic novel, this experimental tale is a hybrid of prose and poetry, medieval style and modern subject matter. Clark has published three earlier novels, 11 books of poetry, a collection of short stories, as well as several biographies and works of popular culture. The hero of Clark's strange new romance, Big Jesus Toomer's main claim to fame is his stint as a football star at Central Falls High School. Big Jesus travels through a bizarre world peopled by knights, witches, and puppet-dwarves as he searches for his missing girlfriend, the chanteuse. The formÄhumorous prose vignettes interspersed with short lyric poemsÄdoes not lend itself to narrative tension, and the choice of hillbilly names and myriad and bizarre adjectival clauses brings to mind country music. So do the episode titlesÄmore than a 100Äwhich include the following: "Heroic Sweat," "Born Under a Bud Sign," "The Hero Laments His Moniker," "Fleeting Promises (Nivene's Song)," "Dump Truck Night," and "The Hero Sacks Out at the Millennium Motel." Two-headed dogs howl by toxic lakes, witches haunt laundromats "puffing on dried pit-banana leaves and flapping their grizzled chaps." In the end, this novel never involves the reader, and the outrageous passages aren't nearly outrageous enough. It's a pastiche of too many discordant elements. Not recommended.ÄDoris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.