The Dream of the Black Topaze Chamber

Hugh Fox

 

“The moonlight hums around them, bodies give way to ectoplasmic spirit-forces, Inside oozes delicately-featured Out, the thousand-petalled lotus blooms on their foreheads, cross-legged on the bed factory-time stops, time becomes TIME, even when Magda puts the lights on again and there’s this enormous spider on the window screen. She touches its underside with her fingernail and it disappears away, under the Hood of Moon.”

 

Three women experience a ‘coming out’ only to have to re-shut themselves in, cocooning within their middle aged paranoia, making silk purses while they plan face lifts and belly tucks.

 

Their story is an experiential foray into a ménage-à-trois – three women opting out of the conventions of life and love to create their own sensual world on the fringes of the Brazilian jungle, a life which suspends desire, imagination and passion through a silky black dreamland of heightened reality.

 

The Dream of the Black Topaze Chamber shows the late Hugh Fox at his most sublime. With so many eminently quotable aphorisms and moments of bard-like inspiration he is able to explore the subtle underpinnings of relationships, the minute unspoken thought-flashes between friends, and the mute electricity of shared moments. He moves from the intimate to the universal seamlessly, where inert trivialities can explode into a political treatise or a sublime poetic reflection within a single breath. The Black Topaze Chamber becomes the hub of isolated souls finding some last spiritual union through the open eroticism of their bodies. What results is a lyrical novel of ecstatic sexual and sensual metamorphosis rendered through a poetic alchemy of Brazilian gemstones.

Hugh Fox was born in Chicago in 1932 and was raised by a Jewish grandmother who hid her Jewishness from him; he was raised as a fanatic Irish Catholic. It was only much later through his mother’s deathbed confession to a nurse that he learned that his grandmother had been a Jew – which inspired him to convert to Judaism.

 

Sadly Hugh died in 2011 but his lifetime’s accomplishments were extraordinary. He was a co-founder of the Pushcart Prize for Literature (alongside Anaïs Nin and others), a champion of small-press publishing and creator of the avant-garde literary magazine Ghost Dance. He was also a well-travelled authority on Latin American archaeology and spent many years living in Brazil. He had a PhD in American Literature from the University of Illinois, was a professor at Michigan State University for more than three decades, and author of some 80 published books ranging through literary fiction to experimental poetry, archaeology, memoirs, reviews and literary criticism.