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It begins in a Detroit steel factory, where a forbidden love affair ignites. Magnitude Hortense Zappa, a worker, seduces the narrator, a teenage heir to the steel factory. When the steel factory owner is killed by one of his workers, the love affair abruptly ends, leaving a wasteland of unresolved emotion. The narrators own identity is only slowly revealed, as the lovers face 'their affair' 20 years later, when they cross paths at a San Francisco film festival.
Through innovative narrative structure, the story offers multiple points of view, ambiguous sexual and romantic perspectives, cinematic scenarios, love letters, case history notes, dramatic dialogues, unusual film history, textual flipbooks, and unreliable memories. The story traces the lovers' shifting identities, and the psychological landscape where conscious and unconscious associations of loss and love intermingle. Until their eventual reunion, the lovers compulsions unravel through their constant inability to be in the same place at the same time, whether in actual geographical space, the space of memory, or in the space of their conflicting obsessions with sight and sound.