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From Barnes & NobleThe 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.