Ancient History: A Paraphase by Joseph McElroy

By Joseph McElroy

An uninvited visitor, coming into the empty manhattan condo of a guy identified to intimates as "Dom," proceeds to write down for his absent host a curious confession. Its shut bills of friendship considering that boyhood with males absolutely unknown to Dom and positively to one another is interleaved with the tale of Dom himself.

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3 It is also this narrativized intelligibility that renders agents accountable for the actions they author: because, precisely, actions derive from a human agent’s motives and intentions, they are carried out and apprehended by others within an intelligible moral context, within which an account of these actions can then be demanded. And it is narrative, too, that gives the whole of a human life its unity, and that constructs the personal identity of an individual. These come together in the notion of selfhood, the “concept of a self whose unity resides in the unity of a narrative which links birth to life to death as narrative beginning to middle to end”.

He comes across as evasive and disengaged in these conversations, as if he had little to say to either of these men, and seeks only to keep them at bay with his eager-to-agree, non-committal responses. Frank is, moreover, perfectly aware of his isolation from others. He keeps a boarder to “ward off awful loneliness” (30), and, to X’s remark that he has “awfully odd relationships”, Frank responds: “I don’t have any relationships at all” (328). The Easter weekend will only serve to confirm this remoteness of Frank from others.

Frank is comfortable in the “out-of-the-mainstream feeling” (48) that exists in Haddam and is reassured by its distance from the “genuine woven intricacy” of big cities and its absence of “challenge or double-ranked complexity” (103). In keeping with his aversion to complexity, Frank feels at home in its “façades-only” landscape (31). Frank also claims to find in the suburban simplicity of Haddam a repository of civic, social and moral values that engender in him a sense of tribal belonging and identification.

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