Now It’s Time to Say Goodbye
The Kansas of Dale Peck’s NOW IT’S TIME TO SAY GOODBYE is not the one to which Dorothy returns in THE WIZARD OF OZ. What draws the blocked writer Colin Nieman and his young companion Justin Time to the racially divided town of Galatia (or Galatea, as the whites prefer to spell it) is not the wholesomeness of Auntie Em but its being equidistant from New York and San Francisco, the twin epicenters of the AIDS epidemic in America. Not that there is much refuge to be had in ominously named Cadavera County, where the landscape is unforgivingly flat and the secrets only superficially buried. Ten years before, an albino black teenager was tortured and lynched for having allegedly molested a seven-year-old girl. Soon after Colin and Justin’s arrival, the girl, now the depressed and depressing town’s homecoming queen, is abducted, and bits of her clothing and parts of her body begin showing up in mailboxes.
NOW IT’S TIME TO SAY GOODBYE is a mystery-thriller with a difference (and a gay novel with a difference as well). It is not so much the jigsaw puzzle-like narration that sets it apart as the way it combines popular forms with a literariness that manages to be grimly Gothic and jokingly grotesque, narratively riveting and stylistically brilliant all at once. The intertextual range of this amazingly hybrid novel is certainly impressive. There is much of William Faulkner and more of Edgar Allan Poe, a little of Homer’s ILIAD and Dante’s INFERNO and a lot of William Gass’s OMENSETTER’S LUCK (1966). There are echoes of Truman Capote’s IN COLD BLOOD (1965) and Elizabethan revenge tragedies, along with some offbeat, deadpan humor. Yet, for all its typically postmodern mimicry, Peck’s novel is an astonishingly original and at times achingly sad work. In its depiction of difference, distrust, and the potential for violence and its creation of “a vague enervated unease,” NOW IT’S TIME TO SAY GOODBYE is everything that PARADISE (1998) might have been had Toni Morrison’s writing been less melodramatically portentous and more self-aware.