“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
--James Arthur Baldwin
How is the past dealt with? Or perhaps more aptly not dealt with? In this novella, weighing the decisions of the night before is avoided all together—until it becomes the looming spectre, the tripwire, the bile that won’t be pushed into the stomach, even as it disintegrates the throat. One fears spraying the night-grey rose bushes of an unimpressed acquaintance with undigested debri. It shouldn’t be freed—yet it must be. When a thing is faced, the feeling is transformative, even when the feeling is disgust.
This ro·man à clef is constructed into five segments or “parties.” Over the course of an eventful weekend, a reunion of sorts, each section delves more deeply into the dynamic between old friends. But how much the reader learns about the characters is questionable. The narrator, Sydney March, is unreliable at best; even her own motivations aren’t apparent. Akin to Ford Madox Ford’s John Dowell, she tells the story in a sequence of flashbacks and time shifts that obfuscate as much as they reveal. But throughout the intermingling of time, there is a trajectory. It is an emotional movement from denial towards acceptance.
The setting is a college town, populated with college youth. But the placement of the story is paramount. Each of the parties shows another face to Athens, Georgia; a city that is as much a character as its inhabitants. The out-of-time, scenic excitement is reminiscent of the Lost Generation’s Paris, but scaled down to a liberal bubble floating delicately atop southern conservatism. Athens culture. It’s a microcosm that presents an alternate lifestyle to the adulting world, and maintains a locals-only gravitas. Every bar and street corner reveals a memory that provokes the narrator. In her alma mater, Sydney is both an interloper and a ghost. As she struggles to reconcile a present self with a former life, it is evident that the she is out of step with the mad scene she has re-entered. At the edge of the party, she is harried by spectres—the perpetually young.