“No one does history-meets-the-fantastic like Morrow. The Asylum of Dr. Caligari is a great example—Impressionism versus expressionism, psychology in the asylum of ‘dreams,’ the weaponization of art, big laughs and big ideas, a wild imagination, and smooth, subtle writing.”
—Jeffrey Ford, author of A Natural History of Hell
It is the summer of 1914. As the world teeters on the brink of the Great War, a callow American painter, Francis Wyndham, arrives at a renowned European insane asylum, where he begins offering art therapy under the auspices of Alessandro Caligari—sinister psychiatrist, maniacal artist, alleged sorcerer. And determined to turn the impending cataclysm to his financial advantage, Dr. Caligari will—for a price—allow governments to parade their troops past his masterpiece: a painting so mesmerizing it can incite entire regiments to rush headlong into battle.
The Asylum of Dr. Caligari is a timely tale that is by turns funny and erotic, tender and bayonet-sharp—but ultimately emerges as a love letter to that mysterious, indispensable thing called art.
Entrancing prose enhances the unusual plot of Morrow's successful melding of history and fantasy. Francis Wyndham, a self-described "bookish farm boy from central Pennsylvania," had his life changed, in 1913, by an inspirational visit to a modern art exhibition. Wyndham heads to Paris, where he adopts the identity of a descendant of "a line of North American gypsies famous for their spare but powerful folk art." His initial efforts to get access to the giants of the age ends poorly, but he gets a new lease on life in 1914 when he's offered the chance to serve as an art therapist at an asylum run by Dr. Alessandro Caligari. Despite Caligari's poor opinion of Wyndham's work, Wyndham lands the job, only to learn that his employer, who views WWI as a "grand-scale Nietzschean work of art," has produced a painting, Ecstatic Wisdom, with unsettling powers that the American feels compelled to counter. Readers with a taste for the bizarre and unexpected will be satisfied.