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The School of Illusions
Karl Toepfer, author

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

In 1969-1970, the unnamed narrator, a film student at UCLA, begins a homosexual affair with another student of film, Victor, a Jewish political activist engaged in the organization of demonstrations against the Vietnam War. They plunge into eerie, complex erotic pleasures. But the narrator continues his sexual relationship with a Jewish girl, Rachel, a philosophy student, and harbors amorous feeling toward another young woman, Laurie, a chemistry student. Victor, too, pursues an erotic relationship with a biology student, Tamara. The film students believe their bisexual orientation opens up new ways of seeing the world cinematically and politically. Key events from the narrator’s childhood and adolescence in San Francisco and San Mateo reveal the genesis of his mysterious bisexual identity and his distinctive way of seeing. As his feelings toward Victor, Rachel, and Laurie intensify, he embarks on a student film project that uses unique camera movements to reveal his emotional “view” of four women: Rachel, Laurie, his mother, and a fourth woman, Vera. The women, however, assume a great deal of control over their images, forming their own erotic counterpoint to their images in his cinematic sexual fantasies. But the narrator's sexual and artistic desires expose sadomasochistic tensions between cinematic vision and political illusions as the making of the film intersects with turbulent student demonstrations.