From the dustjacket:
The Rest is Done with Mirrors begins with a comic rape and ends – after much sexual swapping, wild parties, and sad betrayals – with two old friends (and lovers) staring at one another from opposite ends of a sofa, wondering what it all meant, anyway.
The Rest is Done with Mirrors is a novel about married graduate students at UCLA – how they live, breed, fornicate, study and how they are corrupted. It is more than that. It is one of the most stunningly blunt portraits of university life to appear in modern fiction; a trip through a maze of crumbling identities and substandard housing, tireless antagonisms and elusive government grants, half-forgotten dreams and half-satisfied passions.
Our guides through the maze are graduate students Edith Wong, the lower middle class WASP wife of Walter Wong, Chinese-American anthropologist; and Juan Ramirez, a Mexican-American biologist married to a painter. Their story is the story of a conspiracy between the university, the federal government and the great research-development organizations to absorb and use, for the purpose of Defense (death?), the talents and imaginations of our most gifted scientific graduate students.
The prime target of the conspiracy is Juan Ramirez, recruited by an organization called AXEL, and told to develop microbes that will destroy the enemy. What follows Juan’s recruitment are superbly etched episodes telling of Juan’s work as a spy for a black African country; his wife Lorraine’s flagrant infidelities; Edith Wong’s discovery of Walter fornicating with a strange girl on a gigantic bed of morning glories; and a great deal else, some of it very funny, much of it very true to life and true to the pain.
As the book closes, Edith and Juan are left to confront one another. The author writers that there were changes in their small lives, “but the general cast of characters remained the same. There are only two hundred people in the world … the rest is done with mirrors.”