Themes

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Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 755

The Prologue of the novel contains a passage we later discover to be written by Fellowes Kraft, a historical novelist Pierce Moffet read devotedly in his youth. "Once," writes Kraft, "the world was not as it has since become. Once it worked in a way different from the way it...

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The Prologue of the novel contains a passage we later discover to be written by Fellowes Kraft, a historical novelist Pierce Moffet read devotedly in his youth. "Once," writes Kraft, "the world was not as it has since become. Once it worked in a way different from the way it works now; its very flesh and bones, the physical laws that governed it, were ever so slightly different from the ones we know. It had a different history, too, from the history we know the world to have had, a history that implied a different future from the one that has actually come to be our present." These ideas become the core of Crowley's novel. Even before Pierce Moffet reads these words in an unpublished manuscript among the effects of Fellows Kraft, he believes he has important evidence that history and the physical laws governing the universe are subject to change. In a meeting with his literary agent, Julie Rosengarten, Pierce discusses writing a book which would present this theory of a changing history in which events as well as the laws of the universe shift. Pierce tells Julie that a shift took place sometime between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and that he believes another is about to occur as the twentieth century ends. Only those individuals whose lives straddle such temporal discontinuities could have memories of both histories. Pierce's proposed book will show that such changes have taken place in the past and will prepare its readers for the immanent new age. As Love & Sleep progresses, Pierce continues his search for signs that "the world was not as it has since become."

On a personal level, Pierce is embracing change as well. The novel opens in the early 1950s with Pierce newly relocated with his mother to Kentucky where he lives with his four cousins, Joe Boyd, Hildy, Bird, and Warren, as well as his uncle, Dr. Sam Oliphant. His separation from his father and integration in this extended family proves a difficult adjustment. Two events from this period in Kentucky affect him deeply. In burning the trash, his weekly chore, Pierce inadvertently starts a forest fire that burns for two days, destroying acres of Cumberland Mountain forest land. The accident scars both the landscape and Pierce. Later on, when his mother and uncle travel to Florida leaving the children in the care of a housekeeper, Pierce and his cousins "adopt" Bobby, a child whose fundamentalist grandfather has raised the girl in physical and intellectual poverty. Bobby is kept hidden from the housekeeper — also her relative — and fed and cared for by Pierce and the Oliphant children. When Bobby becomes seriously ill. Pierce and his cousins can no longer keep her presence in the household secret. Even though Bobby's grandfather, Floyd Shaftoe, disapproves, Bobby does remain with the Oliphants until she recovers.

Another section of Love & Sleep presents historical characters caught in the middle of a shift into a new age. This part of the novel, set in the 1580s, involves such historical personages as Giordano Bruno, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Francis Walsingham, and Doctor John Dee who are caught up in the political intrigues of the age. Significantly, Doctor John Dee and the sensitive Edward Kelley employ a special globe in which appears the angel Uriel who communicates through Kelley future events, among them the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scotts and the sailing of the Spanish Armada. This previous age was one in which alchemy and magic still had power and in which the supernatural world directly intervened in the events of the natural world. These events. Pierce discovers, are the subject of Fellowes Kraft's unpublished manuscript, and the reader eventually discovers that the crystal globe in Boney Rasmussen's possession may actually be the same one Edward Kelley used to contact the angel Uriel.

The differences between Pierce's youth in Kentucky and his present understanding of his past and between the extraordinary experiences of John Dee and our understanding of Renaissance history point to Crowley's interest in the magical power of memory and time. Tied to this intellectual theme is Pierce Moffet's search for personal fulfillment — love. He is not alone in that search. Rosie Rasmussen in the middle of a divorce lacks fulfillment as well. Even the title of the novel identifies love as an important issue. Since Love & Sleep is the second book in a four volume sequence, no resolution of any of the major themes takes place. That must wait for the final two books.

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