The Great and Secret Show: The First Book of the Art Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 46 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Great and Secret Show.
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The Great and Secret Show: The First Book of the Art Summary & Study Guide Description

The Great and Secret Show: The First Book of the Art Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on The Great and Secret Show: The First Book of the Art by Clive Barker.

"The Great and Secret Show: The First Book of the Art" is a novel about human desires an extremes, following two great men as they battle against one another for the future of humanity. Jaffe has recently become a postal worker, having, in thirty-seven years of life, never held a job for more than a year and a half. He has always wanted great power and understanding, and discovers, in a mail sorting room in Omaha, that the occasional lost letter holds a profound secret about the world. He gathers these letters to learn more about them, just as his boss, Homer, becomes suspicious of him and confronts Jaffe over his activities. Jaffe kills Homer and sets fire to the sorting room. Escaping unharmed and unpursued, he wanders the country aimlessly, until finally he wanders into the New Mexico desert and finds Kissoon, a shaman who offers to teach him about the Quiddity—the dream sea—in exchange for use of Jaffe's body. Finding the old man repugnant and untrustworthy, Jaffe escapes him and resumes his quest in a new approach. He enlists the help of a Biologist named Fletcher, who uncovers the secret fluid responsible for evolution. Fearing his employers designs on the substance, Fletcher plans to destroy all of his work, but Jaffe stops him just in time to discover that Fletcher has accidentally broken open on the vials. Jaffe breaks one open himself, and the two evolve into godlike beings who use physical manifestations of good and evil, nightmares and dreams, to battle on another over the course of the next several years, until they crash into the small California town of Palomo Grove, where they enter a series of caves and keep each other from escaping. Soon, four girls encounter a body of water mysteriously arisen overnight, situated just above the caves. Each of them nearly drowns in the waters as Fletcher and the Jaff, as he has come to think of himself, pull them under. Over the next several months, one of the girls goes insane and is discovered to be barren, while the other three give birth to strange children. Three of the children survive, Tommy-Ray and Jo-Beth, who are twins, and Howard Katz, whose mother moved to Chicago to protect him from the truth. However, Howard grows old enough to have questions about his origins, and when he returns to Palomo Grove, he meets Jo-Beth, and falls instantly in love with her. Their romance sparks revulsion in Fletcher and the Jaff, who soon break loose from their prison and attempt to enlist their children's support in their continued battle. Jo-Beth and Howie both refuse to take part in their fight, but Tommy Ray agrees, and the Jaff soon collects an army of living nightmares to help him enter the Quiddity. Investigative reporter Grillo soon arrives in Palomo Grove to report on the death of famous comedian Buddy Vance, who fell into the cave when it was broken open, and soon learns that stranger things are happening in the town than anyone could imagine. He enlists the help of his friend, a screenwriter named Tesla, who arrives in town with just enough time to see Howie Katz wounded by one of the Jaff's creations. The two of them, alongside Grillo, rush to the mall at the center of town, to discover that Fletcher has soaked the grocery store in gasoline. The Jaff arrives and tries to stop Fletcher from setting himself on fire, but Tesla intervenes and ignites the flames, causing Fletcher to turn into a fountain of light that touches all the townspeople who have gathered there. The Jaff and Tommy-Ray flee the mall, but the evil incarnation has plans of his own. He sends Tommy-Ray to retrieve the last vial of Nuncio, still at the mission, just as Fletcher has sent Tesla to recover the same. The next morning, people in Palomo Grove discover that their dreams and fantasies have come to life, as celebrities prepare to gather at Buddy's former mansion for a memorial party in his honor. At the mission, Tesla meets Raul, who tries to help her defeat Tommy-Ray, but she is seriously wounded as Tommy-Ray breaks open the vial of Nuncio and uses most of it to become Death-Boy. In an attempt to save her life, Raul uses the rest of the Nuncio on her, and her spirit is immediately transported to Kissoon's loop in time, where he warns her of the coming Iad Uroburos, and implores her to allow him to use her body. Her spirit goes back to Raul, and they make their way to apartment in West Hollywood, where Kissoon again takes her to his loop. This time, she escapes and takes a wounded old woman with her. The old woman explains that she is one of the Shoal and that Kissoon murdered the others, but suddenly they are attacked by the Lix, servants of Kissoon. The old woman is killed and Raul disappears, leaving Tesla no choice but to return to Palomo Grove alone, where she confronts the Jaff with the others, just in time to see him tear a hole open into the Quiddity. Tommy-Ray, Jo-Beth, and Howie are pulled into the dreamsea. The Jaff realizes something dangerous is on the other side, and flees Buddy's mansion, leaving Tesla, Grillo, and Hotchkiss, a father of one of the other girls, to determine what needs to be done next. Tesla realizes they must retrieve the Jaff from the cave he fled back to. The group does so, and takes the Jaff back to the now badly ruined mansion. The Jaff tries to close the rift, but the Iad Uroburos grow very close and force it to stay open. Tesla realizes her one chance is to use the power the Nuncio gave her to move the whole area into Kissoon's Loop, where the Jaff kills the evil shaman just in time to release the Loop before the atomic bomb goes off, for Kissoon chose Trinity, New Mexico, to create the loop in time.

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