Now It's Time to Say Goodbye

Overview

In the flatlands of Kansas, a small town called Kenosha burned to the ground; in its stead two new towns were created on nearby land -- the all-white Galatea and the black Galatia. To this divided community come two disillusioned New Yorkers, Colin and his young lover Justin Time. Their arrival triggers a brutal string of events, all linked to secrets of long ago, including the uncertain circumstances surrounding the lynching of an albino black boy. With the sexual assault and kidnapping of a town cheerleader, ...
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Overview

In the flatlands of Kansas, a small town called Kenosha burned to the ground; in its stead two new towns were created on nearby land -- the all-white Galatea and the black Galatia. To this divided community come two disillusioned New Yorkers, Colin and his young lover Justin Time. Their arrival triggers a brutal string of events, all linked to secrets of long ago, including the uncertain circumstances surrounding the lynching of an albino black boy. With the sexual assault and kidnapping of a town cheerleader, Colin and Justin find themselves both victims and suspects, protagonists and scapegoats. And as they discover the inner demons of a town reborn from the ashes, they must ultimately embrace their own dark truths.
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Editorial Reviews

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The Barnes & Noble Review
Not many authors try their hand at the gothic literary novel, and few have succeeded as well as Dale Peck does in Now It's Time to Say Goodbye . This ambitious, experimental novel features a pair of unlikely lovers looking for refuge from their AIDS-stricken urban community who stumble upon a small town with its own unique horrors. Part mythos and part queerstory, Now It's Time to Say Goodbye was one of the most distinctive literary novels of 1998, and now it's out in an affordable trade paperback edition.

The gothic literary novel is something many greater and lesser writers have tried their hand at, each with some remarkable degree of success — although even in failure, a gothic story has its own way of succeeding. The bottom line of gothic horror, it seems to me, is that the psychologies of its players must somehow bleed the truth beneath their skins without ever having to tell anything of hidden secrets directly to each other. In essence, we the readers are part of the psychology of the gothic horror novel, too, for we bring our own understandings and complexities to the story in trying to figure out how the mysterious pieces come together. Dale Peck is a young writer who has been quick to establish himself in the literary world with his recent novels Martin and John and The Law of Enclosures. With his new one, Now It's Time to Say Goodbye , he has entered the ranks of first-rate literary novelists making a foray into a very nearly surreal gothic landscape, as far from the New York literary world as, well...Kansas, the setting ofthisnovel.

And it's a gay novel, as well.

Colin Nieman and Justin Time, lovers in New York who have the most unequal relationship in recent literary memory, are fed up with the world. Colin has compiled a list of their friends who have died of AIDS in the past several years. He has sworn that when the list reaches 500, they will move as far away from the urban world of epidemics and dying youth as possible. First, they take trips around the world to find such places, but there seems to be no haven from the disease. Then they find it in a small town in Kansas, very close to the center of the United States. It's a town that is truly forked, for half of it is called Galatea, the other half Galatia. The former is the white side of town, a part of the area that has no real history of its own and is in many ways completely ignorant of its other half. Galatia, on the other hand, is the historic area, a community founded before the Civil War by free blacks who felt that Kansas might be a paradise for them and their descendants. But Colin and Justin have their own forks in the roads of their lives, their own secrets, their own abuses and hostilities — toward each other and their pasts — all of which begin to unravel as they enter this brave new world of the Midwest.

It is on the black side of town that Colin and Justin arrive, meeting an array of characters that at first seem laboriously funky; but as the novel progresses, they become very real and extremely fascinating people. If you noted Justin's slightly jokey and pretentious name (Justin Time), you'll find it is just one abuse of names in the world of this novel. The essence of what a name is and what it does for a person's identity comes into question through the story, in which things are named in order to both cover up a secret and distinguish between "us" and "them." Oddly, I found something in the book that reminded me very much of Joyce Carol Oates's work, even while I saw no real similarities of plot or style. This book reads very spiritually, and I found myself caring deeply about the outcome of an involving and mysterious story about people who at first seemed shallow and uninvolved in life. The horror of the story derives from murders and rapes that are like a continuum of the Galatea-Galatia divergence, and the identity of the stalking monster who committed them and seems to control the imagination of all who live within this small Kansas town's boundaries.

Dale Peck's voice is clear and gorgeous, and his characters are like labyrinths waiting to be explored. Highly recommended.

—Douglas Clegg

Barcelona Review
Peck seems to try to balance his post-modern style and approach with the genre of thriller. Doesn't work....For those who enjoy a good thriller, the novel falls flat for lack of fulfilling that genre's prime criteria: a believable plot and, most importantly, a satisfactory denouement. For those who can forego the need for clear, even semi-logical explanations in hopes of gaining some deeper insight into, say, the creative process or whatever else the novel might spew up, then there are myriads of elliptical avenues to explore...this one's a big, fat turkey.
Celia McGee
[Peck] revists the places and pasts of his earlier fiction...with an emotional vengence, dramatic bredth and observant fervency that brings his every gift to frution.. It chills. That if falls unltimately into a pattern beautiful, affecting and rational strongly proves Peck's mastery as a writer.
LA Times Book Review
Michiko Kakutani
This dark, ferocious book reads like Twin Peaks and Pulp Fiction combined with Days of Heavenv and To Kill a Mockingbird, with some bits of Faulkner, Carson McCullers and Flannery O'Connor thrown in for good measure. [Peck] has given us a big, galvanic nove, a novel that stands as the capstone, thus far, of his impressive career.
New York Times
Rob Walker

Young American novelists strike many poses these days -- clever, savvy, confessional, shocking, pissed-off, self-aggrandizing, ironic (especially ironic) -- but what they rarely are is merely sincere. Dale Peck, however, is a young novelist whose first two novels struck many readers as remarkably sincere, as though he really believed he could win you over simply by stringing together one lovely sentence after another.

This is also true of Peck's third book, Now It's Time To Say Goodbye, despite the fact that its plot is both sensational and preposterous. Both of Peck's previous books pushed the envelope, but each did so through narrative experimentation more than over-the-top story lines. His first novel, Martin and John, was not so much about two characters as about two roles, to whom those names are applied in a variety of set pieces dealing with love and AIDS. John shows up again in Peck's second novel, The Law of Enclosures, which is mostly about a couple named Henry and Beatrice -- though their story is unceremoniously interrupted by a 50-page memoir from a character named Dale Peck.

This time out we get a sort of hyperpotboiler centered on Colin, a successful writer, and Justin, his ex-hustler lover. They say goodbye to New York City and the long roll call of friends lost to AIDS. They move to a small, racially divided Kansas town beset by its own plague of secrets and almost immediately get caught up in the tornado of crimes and misbehavior whose eye is the lynching of an albino black boy. There's enough violence and sex here for three or four novels. There are several savage beatings. A man gets shot; a dog gets shot. There's a fire and a hanging and someone is run off the road. At one point someone else is apparently ripped apart by pigs. Then the pigs get shot. Meanwhile, everyone gets laid. In the telling, Peck switches among more than a half-dozen narrators, black and white, intelligent and dim, young and old, straight and gay, male and female. A bit much? Sometimes, yes. But for the most part, the book works surprisingly well, partly because Peck is able to pile up some fantastic sentences. So even as it becomes clear that the town's vast and terrible secrets are neither plausible nor particularly illuminating on matters of race or sex, it's still hard not to get caught up in the onion peeling.

Inevitably, though, the book's conclusion doesn't match its unwieldy buildup. Peck goes overboard with loaded names, including a mysterious woman who calls herself Rosetta Stone. Add that to the invocation of the names Martin, John, Henry and Bea, and it finally feels like some sort of code, which I'd just as soon leave to grad students. Storywise, that's a distraction. But Peck's aim isn't so much to draw you into this tornado as to blow you away with his words, and it's impressive how often he actually does this. I suppose you could make a case that what I'm calling Peck's sincerity is as much a pose as anything else. But I prefer to think of it as a stance, which is something braver, and something different altogether. -- Salon

The New York Times
Now It's Time to Say Goodbye is that rare thing: an utterly gripping thriller -- crammed full of suspense, Gothic horror and often startling violence -- and a highly sophisticated piece of literary legerdemain. This dark, ferocious book reads like Twin Peaks and Pulp Fiction combined with Days of Heaven and To Kill a Mockingbird, with some bits of Faulkner, Carson McCullers and Flannery O'Connor thrown in for good measure.
John Brenkman
...has defied the boundaries of autobiography and novel... Few writers have Dale Peck's nerve. -- The Nation
Kirkus Reviews
Though it's not a fully successful novel, this fascinating melodrama of sexual and racial confusion, conflict, and injustice is both a bold departure from and a logical outgrowth of the brooding studies of gay angst (Martin and John, 1993; The Law of Enclosures, 1996) that established Peck as one of our most interesting younger writers. Thematic and other echoes of the earlier books resound throughout this big novel, which relates through a large chorus of townspeople's voices the explosive occurrences after writer Colin Nieman and his lover "Justin Time" flee AIDS-polluted New York for a rural Kansas town that's effectively divided into white and black subsections, Galatea and Galatia. The pair's interrelations with numerous bruised and guilty souls—a black hustler named Divine, a woman "archivist" obsessed with unearthing her town's secrets, and a wealthy matriarch who may have ordered a murder are prominent among them—reveal a dauntingly intricate heritage of violence: the lynching of a black teenager falsely accused of "touching" a young girl, the real crime that underlay the town's mania for "justice." The ambiguities in both of the novels Colin has written (and will write) and of the very one we're reading are—a bit affectedly—linked to that mystery. More persuasively, the infectious momentum here powerfully dramatizes what its characters call "humanity's need to reveal itself through written confession" and the truth that "most people have only one secret, and that secret is whom they truly love." Peck incorporates his story's grand mal particulars into a surprisingly tightly plotted narrative, weakened but not quite sunk by its penchant forexcess (the resolution of that lynching victim's story is both overwrought and opaque). And to its benefit and detriment (in almost equal measure), this very literary fiction is derivative, to varying degrees, of James Purdy, James Leo Herlihy, Erskine Caldwell, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. A rich, readable, frustrating mulligan stew of a novel. Peck has upped the ante impressively. After Kansas, one wonders where he'll take us next.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688168414
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/19/1999
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.11 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.25 (d)

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