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DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH

Anton DiSclafani

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, ENGLISH

DiSclafani is the author of two novels, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls (Riverhead, 2013) and The After Party (Riverhead, 2016). The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls was named a “most-anticipated book of the year” by The Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, and USA Today, and a finalist for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize. The After Party was an IndieNext pick, and an Amazon Best Book of the Month in Literature and Fiction. DiSclafani’s work has been translated into thirteen languages.

The After Party is a continuation of both of my interest in Southern themes and settings and psychological suspense. I use historical settings to illuminate contemporary concerns while exploring Southern landscapes and moral codes. In this case, the wild, fantastic wealth of Houston in the 1950s and the obsessive friendship between two women provide the backdrop and subject, respectively, for my novel. My work focuses on the psychological effects of place upon character; recording histories of women; and writing about the delicate nuances of social class.

PROLOGUE

It’s the women who still ask me about Joan. Young women, who have stumbled upon her story, and my part in it. Old women, who used to admire her photographs in the gossip columns: Joan the jewel, a glimmer on some man’s arm. Frank Sinatra’s, Dick Krueger’s, Diamond Glenn’s. They want to know who she was. First, I tell them, she was Furlow Fortier’s little blond darling. From the very beginning, she was adored.

Then she was Houston’s most famous socialite. They won’t ever know what it was like to stand in her presence, but I try to paint a picture. There wasn’t anything subtle about Joan, a woman born to be looked at. She was slender, but she wasn’t a twig. Her dresses clung to her, drew attention to her shapely hips, her strong arms, her famous bosom. Wherever she went, champagne flowed like a fountain. She made people happy. She was beautiful, certainly, but she was more. She was lit from the inside.

I stop here. They want to know how she disappeared. But I can’t tell them that.

I don’t say that loving her was my earliest instinct, my first memory. I was her best friend since infancy, her modern-day lady-in-waiting, her sister in all but blood.

She disappeared for the first time in 1950 when we were seniors in high school. It didn’t take us long to figure out that she had run away to Hollywood to become a star. And if you had stood in a room with her at that time you would have been sure she’d make it. Because she was everyone’s dream, in those days; why not some studio executive’s? She was gone for a year, trying, and then she returned, and life as we all knew it resumed its orbit, with Joan at the bright, hot center. She disappeared in a thousand small ways after Hollywood. For a day, for an evening, for a week. Even when she was with me it felt as if she were vanishing.

It was the one constant in our friendship: she would leave and I would look for her. Until I would not.

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