This was actually the novel I set out to write. When it became clear that this was not the direction the novel was taking, that I was stuck willy nilly with the kind of fluid society that famously fails to lend itself to the novel of manners, I called it Pacific Distances for a while. On the day I stopped writing it my husband read it, and suggested calling it Democracy, which seemed right.
I notice that I said 'the day I stopped writing it', not the day I 'finished' it. In fact this novel never seemed to 'finish' in the sense other novels have. I came to love it but I never had a good time with it, never felt it take off and take me with it. Quite often I would resort to starting over, page one, trying to locate another layer, a new thread to pull.
Sometimes the thing ('the thing' was how I came to think of it, a stubborn presence in my household) would just run out, stall and I would flee, go do something else. At one point I did Salvador in lieu of confronting this recalcitrant novel even one more day. Each time I left it I returned with dread.
Still, I liked Inez Victor. I liked her daughter Jessie, I liked Inez's sister Janet, I liked their uncle Dwight Christian. I liked Jack Lovett, I liked Billy Dillon, I liked everybody. I even liked Harry Victor. I especially liked doing the fall of Saigon, and drew up hour-by- hour chronologies of the final weeks, with charts and maps and time lines. In the end not every reader noticed the fall of Saigon, since I did it offstage, but I knew it was there, and that was how I came to think of Democracy, as my novel about the fall of Saigon. It occurs to me that a novel about the fall of Saigon may have been a study in provincial manners after all.Reuse content