The setting for Dale Peck's third novel is not one but two small, dying towns: Galatea, settled by the white citizens of Kenosha after a firestorm of biblical proportions destroyed their town, and Galatia, founded by black pioneers more than 100 years before. Galatea may have effectively erased the older town in the eyes of the world, but it did not remove it, and Galatia lives on as a kind of shadowy palimpsest. To this dusty corner of the prairie come two outsiders, Justin Time and his lover Colin Nieman. Fleeing from New York, where AIDS has killed the magic number of 500 of their friends, the two settle in Galatea for reasons that are not immediately apparent--though one Galatean lists five possible ones: "A-I-D-S were the first four and the fifth was: it ain't round here." Colin is a successful novelist with several books to his credit and enough money to buy the county's grandest house; Justin has nothing, not even his own name--that "bad joke," says Colin, "that refused to go away." |
Soon the pair are drawn into the legacy of Galatea's hate-filled racial past. Years ago, a black albino boy named Eric Johnson was lynched for supposedly molesting a little white girl; later, the same little girl, grown up into Galatea's homecoming queen, is raped, mutilated, and abducted while Justin looks on. Now It's Time To Say Goodbye is very different from the narrative experimentation of Peck's first two novels, Martin and John and The Law of Enclosures. Still, certain names--Susan, Martin, John, Bea--and vague corresponding character similarities recur in all three, to disorienting effect. Also like its predecessors, this is a deeply unconventional and disturbing book. Incest; murder; a love quadrangle that's driven by equal parts lust and art; characters with names like Webby Greeving, T.V. Daniels, Rosetta Stone, the artist Wade Painter and his paramour Divine--this is one thriller that reads like the postmodern literary love child of Faulkner and Poe.