Re: Dark Rooms

In “Dark Rooms“, by Lisa Goldstein, the realistic but fictional Nathan Stevens encounters the fantastic but real George Méliès. Stevens meets Méliès in a dark room watching turn of the 20th century films, when cinema was in its infancy. Stevens has come to Paris to be an artist, and joins Méliès in the new art form. He helps Méliès get his camera working and together they develop simple special effects. Then things get difficult, and Stevens goes back to America, bearing a secret.

The first mention of Méliès makes me think of The Voyage to the Moon. Much of the story is occupied by retelling his life. (Looking up the anecdotes was like looking up the story of Unique Chicken Goes In Reverse.) In a series of letters, Méliès drops hints and finally demands clearly that Nathan publicly atone for his betrayal. By then, Nathan is so deep in denial, he has convinced himself that he did nothing wrong.

In the story, Méliès creates wonderful illusions on film and insists there is real magic outside the cinema. While I was interested in Méliès, I found Stephens a disagreeable character, from his jeaulousy of other artists to the way he treats other film-makers. I have to admit that toward the end I was counting how many pages before I would get to see him receive his comeuppance. And yes, he gets what he deserves, and yes, he makes amends, and yet I find it unsatisfying that it takes magic to do it.

A cool story, but I like the real parts more than the fantasy parts.