In Stevens’ (Ride a Bright and Shining Pony, 2013, etc.) short story, a writer attends a dinner full of mysterious characters.
An aging author is putting the finishing touches on what he believes will be his final novel when he receives an invitation to a Christmastime dinner party. He sends back an acceptance before continuing to work on his revisions. As a respected novelist, his life has become a sedate routine of writing and seeing his grandchildren on the weekends. But when the night of the party arrives, he finds himself confronted with a scene as intriguing as it is confounding. The elegant venue contains a motley crew of oddly familiar guests, including a dirty infant and elegantly dressed women, who seem to have little in common apart from their excitement at his presence. Soon enough, however, he realizes why they all seem familiar: They’re all characters from his own novels. He enjoys a surreal evening until he has a strange encounter with an enigmatic woman named Evadne—the only character he doesn’t recognize. Some of the five full-page, black-and-white illustrations that accompany Stevens’ short story have a certain charm. Mostly, though, they’re awkward and amateurish—particularly the images of women, whose anatomical proportions bear little resemblance to reality. The story’s tone and concept are reminiscent of a fairy tale’s, and at moments, it strikes just the right notes, as in the author’s ruminations about his success: “Once, not long before he had discovered her after dinner in her chair––dead––he recalled confiding to his wife: ‘You know, dear, I don’t write them—I only write them down.’ ” However, Stevens doesn’t do as much as she could with her tale’s conceit. For the most part, she simply describes her author’s characters instead of having them do anything interesting. Her romantic depiction of Evadne, meanwhile, is both predictable and tiresome.
A sometimes-effective parable about art that fails to exceed its modest ambitions.