OUT ON THE BAYOU
FEBRUARY 4, 2000 • HOUSTON VOICE
Out In Print
Modern epistolary recalls star-crossed love
by VINCENT KOVAR
"Dunno where to begin. Dunno really how
to write a letter! We buried him, Jerome."
And so the exchange begins. Award winning New Zealand author, William Taylor,
has written another rending story of young
love, star-crossed with the irrevocable realities left behind after a death. This short (96
page) novella is written with a modem twist
on the classic epistolary tale.
Confused and emotionally shattered by
the death of their friend, Jerome, the
remaining pair of an intimate trio span
thousands of miles through e-mail, faxes
and on-line chat sessions. Across the distance of both miles and misunderstanding,
Marco and Katie find a caustic closeness
that strips away their preconceptions and
erodes the illusions that kept them apart,
even under the facade of togetherness.
Marco, in New Zealand, grows to understand that the friends' lifelong connections
were pieces of a puzzle whose illustrations
only appear when broken apart.
the book is not about Jerome, though his
death precipitates the story. Instead, Taylor
tells a tale about the two still left behind.
Marco is a punk, an adolescent rogue
whose charm is diminished after the death of
his friend. He must struggle to understand his
homophobia both in regards Katie's lesbianism and her former relationship with Jerome.
"You are going to miss him so much
your—'other half.' I used to laugh at the two
of you. You were so close ... I loved him, too,
Marco, altho' maybe not quite in the way you
think," she writes.
In America, Katie, the more mature of the
two, finds her adolescent crushes blossoming
into adult love with Ann, an African-
American woman who completes her in a
way Jerome could not. "She is part of me and
I am part of her," Katie writes.
Eventually, their correspondence brings
Katie face-to-face with Marco over the
Christmas holiday. The two at last confront
the futility of denial and bring the tragedy of
errors and mistrust to its heartrending finish. Although these moments take them further from the death of their friend and bring
them closer to each other, Katie and Marco
also find the hidden truth of Jerome's own
desire for closeness, deepening the mystery
of both his death and his life.
The two tear open their souls atop Jerome's
grave, drinking dieap champagne and smoking American cigarettes. "There was only one
... he ever wanted, Marco," Katie reveals,
"Only one ... that Jerome Winter Fucking
lived and breathed for... Look!" she points at
a photo. "Who the fuck was he looking at
with that beautiful, beautiful smile across his
face and that shine in his eye?"
As the novel draws to a close, Katie's
developing love draws her back to Am-
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erica. Marco is left wilh Ihe painful truth of
what might have been and an uncertain
luture where he must choose between lacing life alone or embracing the lacts he
doesn't want to deal with.
The epistolary form and the novel's
length make it a quick read, but don't mistake it for fluff. The immediacy of the faxes
and e-mails give the book a lifelike element
wherein the characters both think and talk
in way that is less literary lhan lifelike.
This form is difficult, and while one or
two chapters are made unsteady by inconsistent points of view, overall Taylor uses
the technique lo deftly create tension.
What makes this form crucial to the
novel and prevents it from being merely
a gimmick is the honesty with which the
The sense of separation inevitable in modem communication gives the characters' feelings and dialogue time and space to develop.
Readers who are used to Ihe immediacy
of half-hour TV dramas might find this initially slow, but the pace and brevity ol the
book keep it from dragging. These elements
also make the book accessible to both
young adull and older readers, though its
realistic language would probably be inappropriate for those younger than 14.
Though William Taylor is known mostly
for his humor writing ("Agnes Ihe Sheep"),
"Jerome" is his most striking (oray in to the
crucible ol young love since his novel "The
Blue Ijwn," which garnered him the AIM
Senior Fiction Award.
"Jerome" is a fast read, and while il is
somewhat predictable in its development,
the story has the same effect as a doctor's
needle—you see it coming, but it still
makes you flinch and stings your insides.
by William Taylor
Alyson Publication, $9.95
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