Invisible World (from the British jacket copy)
A phone call from South America and a one-way ticket to Shanghai form the first threads of the mysterious and magical textile that is being woven around plumber Andrew Mann. Twenty years ago Andy’s boyhood companion Clayton Smith broke away from their prosaic existence and became a wildly successful artist in Tokyo. Now Clayton’s irresistible invitation to his own funeral in Hong Kong gives Andy one last chance to close the book on their unruly friendship.
Or so he thinks. He soon steps into Clayton’s world, a domain of artists, smugglers and seductive strangers, where the rare beauty of priceless ancient textiles is matched by the obsessions of the people who collect them. Andy unwittingly becomes enmeshed in Clayton’s search for a stunning Mongol tapestry: a map of the Invisible World. From Hong Kong to Shanghai and into the awe-inspiring vastness of Inner Mongolia, Andy chases the phantasm of his friend’s last bequest. As the lines between the material world and the invisible one begin to disappear, Andy finds himself on a journey in which the stakes are high and the only thing that sees 20/20 is the imagination.
We have a few of the hardcover U.S. First Edition books available for $25.00, which are autographed.
The Inside Story
Invisible World was my first novel, so I was never actually sure I could finish it. With that first one there’s that element of the impossible that you have to grapple with.
I wrote Invisible World at a bad time in my life. Inner Mongolia had become a metaphor for someplace cold and empty and far-away, but inside. I decided to go there in the dead of winter and to write a short story about the trip as I traveled. I started it in the bar of the New World Harborview Hotel, in Hong Kong, sitting there in this elegant glass and marble lobby with piano music washing through it, drinking a beer and looking out over the spectacular harbor. It was a moment that was romantic and lonely and nostalgic at the same time. I started thinking about a friend of mine who’d used to live in Hong Kong, writing about him in my journal, and that journal entry became Invisible World. I went all the way to Inner Mongolia, then turned around and went directly to South America, and much of the book was written in hotel rooms and airplanes on that and the following trip.
In those days I was traveling almost incessantly for months at a time, until I’d wake up in the morning not knowing where I was. This was before the days of the internet, so when you were out there you had little contact with home, and that feeling of isolation and the zen of travel is very much part of the book. It’s about the Invisible World formed by memory, fantasy, people far away, the imagination – a world that is sometimes more vivid than the world of the senses. It’s also about antique textiles, which embody a lot of those elements for me. More than anything, though, Invisible World is a book about the trip you never got a chance to take, and we’ve all got one of those.
Invisible World was published in 1998 and was translated into German, French, Dutch, Japanese and Czech. It did just well enough to give me a deep misunderstanding of how difficult this all was going to be.