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Never Fade AwayReview - Never Fade Away
A Novel
by William Hart
Daniel & Daniel, 2002
Review by Su Terry
Dec 18th 2002 (Volume 6, Issue 51)

Never Fade Away: A Novel by William Hart is serious yet often humorous novel about a remedial English college instructor and his Vietnamese student. The novel describes a year in their lives as they fight an oppressive bureaucratic system aimed at failing ESL students.

Never Fade Away by William Hart is set at California State University, Maravilla (CSUM) during the academic year 1985/86.  John Goddard is an untenured remedial English teacher, traumatized Vietnam veteran, and struggling author. Tina Le is a very bright Vietnamese student majoring in mathematics who faces being removed from the college if she failing her remedial English course for a second time. (The policy of CSUM is that students must pass English or each course in the remedial language sequence (ENG 001, ENG 002, & ENG 101) in two tries or be withdrawn from the university.) Tina, who has excellent grades in her mathematics and science courses, is on her second attempt at ENG 002. In Mr. Goddard, she finds a compassionate teacher willing to assist his students to write better. Goddard, however, is fighting programmatic policies for remedial English instructors dictated by the English Department juggernaut Professor Mary Hughes Parcell, aka MHP and “the Humper” that seems geared towards failing the bulk of the ESL students taking the remedial English sequence. Parcell is tenured and thus wields a certain amount of power over her untenured colleagues. Not unsurprisingly, most of the non-tenured English faculty has opted to give her their silent support. With Mr. Goddard’s support, Tina writes a short story about her brother entitled, “Minh and Dao” that he believes is good enough to be published and assists her to submit it to the school literary journal. A standardized final for ENG 002, designed by Parcell fails 23 of Goddard’s 30 students including Tina. Determined to assist Tina and another ESL student, Goddard changes their final grades based upon their excellent work during the semester. While this ease’s Goddard’s anger and assuages Tina fear of failure, it raises the ire of Parcell and her bureaucratic flunkies.  The spring semester proves to be the toughest yet, as Tina struggles with a different teacher for ENG 101 and Goddard is forced to face the wrath of Parcell.

      Never Fade Away is told through journal entries alternating between Tina and Goddard. While Goddard writes about his struggles with his desire to help his students, his publishing deadlines, his new interest in Ambrose Bierce, and his inner demons from Vietnam; Tina writes about her struggles to grasp her reading assignments, her struggles with writing, her life with Rayneece and her amorous exploits, and her own demons from her escape as a “boat person” from Vietnam. Tina entries are often humorous in her outsider’s descriptions and interpretations of the oddities of American culture. Goddard’s humor is much more satirical. This is true when he describes his war memories and as he describes the often petty squabbles of scholars within the academe. He is also “right on target” about academic politics that it is hard not to laugh at its universality. While the demons that drive Parcell’s destructive program are hardly laughable, anyone who has worked in a collegiate setting will be able to identify with the situation. 

There are many walking wounded in this story. For most, it is the demon of shame that haunts their lives. Tina’s painful saga, when it is finally revealed, is heart-breaking. She is afraid that others will discover the secret about her escape from Vietnam. Tina responds to her tragedy, however, with acceptance and hopeful optimism. Goddard also has suffered because of the “Vietnam Conflict”. His war stories and the stories about the deaths of his friends are tragic, but equally tragic are his perceptions of how others, including his family, view him and his military involvement in the “Vietnam conflict.” Goddard uses his writing and humor to face his tragedies. Robert/Roberto, Tina’s computer room supervisor, is determined to succeed. When he fails ENG 002, he is devastated. Through his friendship with Tina and his acquaintance with Goddard, he is forces him to face his feelings about his Latino heritage and to struggle for a renewed acceptance of his heritage. Rayneece believes that she needs a man in order to find fulfillment. Her revolving door romances and her fears that she is following in her mother’s footsteps down the lover strewn path to unfulfilled loneliness, leads her to evaluate her assumptions about her future prospects. Unfortunately, the reader can only speculate about the inner demons that drive Parcell, however, every college/university has at least one Parcell clone and most faculty can share their own war stories and show their battle scars from their encounter with him/her.

“William Hart earned a doctorate in English at USC and has taught basic writing/ESL at Los Angeles universities. His stories and poems appear widely in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. He is the author of several poetry collections, including, Monsoon (1991) and Paris (1996) which won a Merit Book Award from the Haiku Society of America. Hart also writes scripts, most often for his wife, PBS documentary filmmaker, Jayasri Majumdar.” Never Fade Away (2002) is his first novel.

Never Fade Away is a wonderful book about enculturation and academic politics. It should be required reading for every new faculty person and be force fed to quite a few tenured ones. Hart definitely makes the grade with this one! Dare I hope for his next writing assignment? Highly recommended.

 

 

Links:

·          William Hart's home page

·          Study guide for Never Fade Away

 

© 2002 Su Terry

Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY. Interests in Mental Health: She is interested in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area of research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian mystics.


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