Winner of the William Faulkner Award for best first novel and filmed as WUSA in 1970, A Hall of Mirrors, as Stone says, takes the United States as its subject and has built into it “all . . . [Stone’s] quarrels with America,” but most particularly right-wing “exploitation of the electronic media.” Some have called it a story of the dark night of the American soul, or more particularly a distillation of the disparate elements that made up the 1960’s. Its title comes from Robert Lowell’s poem “Children of Light,” in which the puritan children of light become the corrupted, evil children of night, “the Serpent’s seeds,” and the whole world is inverted into a hideous hall of mirrors where “candles glitter,” a reflected image of “might-have-beens.” Thus, the children of the night in this novel, three rootless drifters seduced by illusions, must face a perverted potential, distorted and tainted. One of them, Rheinhardt, even turns the reference into a play on vampires and a bloodsucking world where all is not as it seems.
Once a brilliant classical clarinetist, now a failure and an alcoholic, Rheinhardt is down-and-out in New Orleans and happy to espouse any cause in order to be taken on as the rock disc jockey of a right-wing radio station, WUSA, whose motto, “The Truth Shall Make You Free,” is perverted by the reality of its racist message. Rheinhardt’s refrain is “I am not dead . . . I am—but hurt. Defend me friends, I am but hurt.” Stone calls him his “scapegoat” and “alter ego.” The second child of the night is a lonely, abused, and scarred country girl...
(The entire section is 667 words.)