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The Great Night by Chris Adrian - Fiction
Acclaimed as a "gifted, courageous writer"(The New York Times), Chris Adrian brings all his extraordinary talents to bear in The Great Night—a brilliant and mesmerizing retelling of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
On Midsummer Eve 2008, three people, each on the run from a failed relationship, become trapped in San Francisco's Buena Vista Park, the secret home of Titania, Oberon, and their court. On this night, something awful is happening in the faerie kingdom: in a fit of sadness over the end of her marriage, which broke up in the wake of the death of her adopted son, Titania has set loose an ancient menace, and the chaos that ensues will threaten the lives of immortals and mortals alike.
Selected by The New Yorker as one the best young writers in America, Adrian has created a singularly playful, heartbreaking, and humorous novel—a story that charts the borders between reality and dreams, love and magic, and mortality and immortality.
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One night in the middle of June, three brokenhearted people walked into Buena Vista Park at nearly the same time, just after dark. One came from the north, out of the Haight, another climbed up out of the Castro from the east, and the last came from the west, out of the Sunset and Cole Valley: this one was already going in the wrong direction, and shortly all three of them would be lost. They were going to a seasonal party of the famously convivial Jordan Sasscock, at his home at 88 Buena Vista West (Molly was headed, mistakenly, to 88 Buena Vista East). Jordan's parties were as famously convivial as he was, and the invitations, while prized, were not exactly exclusive, because it was in the nature of his conviviality never to leave anyone feeling left out. There were swarms of people who trudged up the hill in the middle of every summer to drink Jordan's beer and wine and stand on his roof and dance in his expansive garden. He was a lowly resident at the hospital nearby, but his grandmother had died five years before when he was still a medical student, leaving him the house and the garden and all the treasures and garbage she had stuffed intoit in the eighty-nine years she had lived there: ruined priceless furniture and money under the mattresses and case after case of fancy cat food in the basement, and fifteen cats, only five of which were still alive on the night of the party, because, affable as he was, Jordan didn't much like cats, and he didn't take very good care of them.
Henry, like the other two people entering the park, was late. He was not even sure he was entirely invited, though it seemed that everyone at the hospital was invited, just as he wasn't sure that Jordan Sasscock liked him, though Jordan seemed to like everybody. They happened to be working together that month on the Pediatric Oncology service, and here and there a flail or a mistake had occurred that was almost certainly Henry's fault, and yet somehow the blame had spilled onto Jordan. Henry generally sought out blame, being comfortable with it, having been blamed for all sorts of things his whole life long and having accepted responsibility for all sorts of crimes he had only barely committed, at ease in the habit of culpability because he had an abiding suspicion, fostered by an unusual amount of blank history in his childhood, that he had once done something unforgivably wrong.
Three months before, he would have stayed home on a night like this, in the context of an invitation like this, entertaining potential scenes of confrontation or humiliation or trickery: Jordan telling him quietly to leave, or asking from the middle of a group of encircling unfriendly faces if he could see Henry's invitation; didn't Henry know an invitation was necessary to come to the party? But Henry had turned over a new leaf since his lover had issued his latest and most final rejection. He was spending less time imprisoned in imaginary scenarios, and through no recognizable effort of his own he was becoming, day by day, a better man. It was a shame, really, that all the faults and neuroses and quite considerable pathologies that hadhelped spoil the relationship were finally lifting from him just in time to be too late. The timing was ridiculous, and it added significantly to his heartbreak that it had done no good to demonstrate his renaissance to Bobby, who had been out to San Francisco for a month to work (and expressly not, he said, to visit Henry). Bobby had issued his most detailed, hope-abolishing rejection on the day before he left, and they hadn't talked in all...
The Great NightBy: Chris Adrian