Thursday, August 15, 2019

Just a faded reminder of who I used to be

Many years ago, like when it got released, I first read Christopher Rice's A Density of Souls. I just finished rereading it again today.

We open on Stephen, Meredith, Greg, and Brandon, still in Elementary School, playing hide and seek in one of New Orleans' cemeteries. Stephen doesn't play as much as he goes and sits in front of his father's tomb. A thunderstorm breaks out, Meredith stumbles on Greg grinding on top of Stephen. Brandon yells out as he hits home base, they discover the gate is locked, and they're trapped. Brandon freaks, Stephen calms them with a poem his father wrote.

Cut to first day of school at Cannon Academy as the gang starts their freshman year of high school. Stephen has fallen out of favor, as Brandon and Greg are football players and Meredith quickly joins the ranks of the popular girls. Stephen, effeminate and fey, becomes outcast. Meredith and Greg start dating, Stephen becomes a theater geek. The rift between the friends gets worse as Brandon affixes a note reading "FAG" on Stephen's back in English class. This leads Stephen to crying in the theater and introducing Jeff, a football player with theater pretensions, who gets kicked out by the teacher, who blames the athletic department for Stephen's ouster.

Freshman year passes, Stephen goes to Rome and sees handsome men he wants to sleep with. Sophomore year, Stephen gets a car that Brandon and Greg destroy and spray paint "Cocksuckr" across the windshield. Jeff picks up Stephen after school one day, takes him to the river with beer, and punches Stephen's V-card. While it snows in New Orleans. Anyway, Jeff's ulcers act up, so he has to sit out the Playoff game, making Greg quarterback for the last game before the state championship. Brandon gets kicked out of the game, shattering his helmet on the bench on his way out. Greg's parents are late arriving, and Greg's little brother gets run over by a garbage truck. At the funeral, Greg's mom goes nuts, and is escorted out. Later that evening, Greg commits suicide.

Then we skip ahead 5 years, and the southern gothic kicks in, as we have Jeff return to Stephen's life until he gets blown up by a bomb Brandon planted, Meredith goes to the asylum where Greg's mother is catatonic, and Brandon's older brother, Jordan enters the picture. We also get to see the rather pained relationship between Stephen's mom and Brandon's mom.

By the end, we finally find out everything that happened in the Bishop Polk bell tower the night Greg died,  we know the true relationship between certain characters, even as they remain blissfully unaware of it.

My initial response is about the same as it was several years ago, there's a heck of a lot of plot holes and a bunch of trying to imitate his mother, characters that are the worst sort of privileged white rich kids, adults who are as bad as their children, but.... much of Stephen resonates with me on many levels, which makes it a good read, even with the flaws.

On the other hand, rereading it managed to swing me back into some of the headspace I was in when I first read it, which wasn't a good place emotionally. But that discussion belongs elsewhere.

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