Someday I’d like to organize a writers’ party for Raymond St. Elmo. Most of the guests
would be dead. Well, Peter S. Beagle might make it, but he is getting along a bit.
Still, the evening would be lively. R.A. Lafferty would be sipping whiskey by the
fireside, swapping tall tales with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Jorge Luis Borges, after the
third glass of wine, would provide an entertaining explanation of why he is not
actually Borges, but everyone else is. And possibly Rene Daumal might stop by, though
he’s a troublesome guest, tending to pour whatever he’s drinking into the nearest
Reading a St. Elmo story is much like entering a labyrinth. When you finally emerge you find yourself, usually, in some place resembling Texas. Well, it might be an island, or some kind of odd otherworld, but then Texas does have close affinities with islands and odd otherworlds. In any case, there will be a protagonist, likely named Clarence, who pursues the eternal feminine in the form of a young lady named K, like some sort of mathematical constant of romance.
Which brings us to Stations of the Angels. This story introduces Angelica, a little town in Texas not far from Hell, while Theory is another piece down the road. The town was apparently founded as a Utopian community of sorts, with this critical difference from the many failed Utopias that litter the landscape of America: it tapped into some source of magic that made everything work.
Thus did Circle Street come into being: an image of all creation, a sort of orrery that mimics the dance of the spheres, and perhaps even calls the tune. A wild zodiac of houses here embodies Platonic (and some not so Platonic) ideals: among them the House of Knives, the House of Fire, the House of the Lion, the House of Lust, and the most thoroughly Haunted House you can imagine.
Those who are fated move to Angelica and take possession of one of these houses. Sometimes the houses take possession of them.
Otherwise, Angelica is like any other small town, with people complaining that nothing ever happens. But all the while, children are growing up and coming of age in these magic houses. We hear many of their stories, told in their own voices. Along with such everyday challenges as screaming ghosts or burning bedrooms, they suffer the usual adolescent humiliations: homework, gym class, shame-faced crushes, feuding siblings.
But as the story goes on, something changes, some balance is disturbed. Romances flower and wither (yes, including the aforementioned Clarence and K); a certain Egg stirs and threatens to hatch apocalypse; and there is an epic chase scene from house to house, from one state of being to another.
There are several possible outcomes: the end of the world as we know it (and you have to wonder if we ever really knew it at all); an underground (literally) party to end all parties; or perhaps we’ll awaken and find that all along, it was only a dream.
Or it could be some combination of all of these things.
After all, many sages have held that existence itself is a dream. But if we dream as vividly as St. Elmo, then when we finally awaken, we’ll have few regrets.