ADELAIDE BOOKS is an imprint of the Adelaide Literary Magazine  





Paperback: 260 pages

Publisher: Adelaide Books
(November 2018)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1-949180-38-7

ISBN-13: 978-1-949180-38-1

Product Dimensions:
6 x 0,7 x 9 inches

Price: $19.60

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A novel

By Wes Payton

Study House, begins in January of 1995 and is set on the campus of an elite, Midwestern university. The residents of Study House, a sobriquet for the dorm that is home to those who are receiving scholarships for various mental disorders so as to enhance the diversity of the school’s student population, are returning from winter break and getting reacquainted at a mixer. A midyear transfer student, Vivian Lee (identified simply as “he” for most of Part 1), wishes to change his room assignment, so he approaches Vivien Leigh (identified as “she” for most of Part 1) in hopes that she might share the extra bed in her room with him.

During their first conversation (chapter 1), they discuss their backgrounds. He is a homosexual with father issues from a small town, she describes herself as “barely human” and unable to read people. She goes on to describe other residents of Study House: a schizophrenic, a psychopath, a personality shifter, and a genius who is attempting reinvent the English language. The pair makes a deal—she will share her room if he teaches her to figure out what people are thinking.

The two become fast friends. She complains about having to write a senior thesis, and he complains about his abusive father. He entertains her by showing off his skills at reading people in the cafeteria and on campus. There is a subplot about a resident of their dorm who is obsessed with his bowel movements. This culminates in an uproarious scene in which all the characters interact during an unusual celebration.

The amusing events of dorm life take a serious turn toward the end of Part One when Vivian’s father comes for a visit. Vivien is surprised to discover that her roommate’s dad is much different than she expected, and she in turn understands Vivian’s mental illness better. The father dies in the dorm after falling down some stairs. The character known as “the Psycho” is blamed for pushing the father to his death and is wrongfully sentenced to prison.

Unable to cope with his father’s untimely death and the circumstances surrounding it, Vivian commits suicide the day before he and Vivien were set to depart for a spring break trip. Having lost her best friend and the only person she ever loved, Vivien hides in her dorm room for the week of spring break. She is found on the verge of starvation at the end of the week and reunited with her estranged family.  

Part Two: The Middle Way, is set today in a large Midwestern city. In an interview for a newspaper writing job, it is revealed that the story of Part One was an eBook novella written by Vivien after graduating from college, and the events may not have actually occurred quite as they were described. Vivien becomes a freelance contributor for the paper, the latest position in her checkered writing career. She visits her friend Patty to celebrate.

Patty has a three-year old boy with the genius character, known as Digy, from Part One, though the two are not in a relationship. Digy was successful in his attempt to create a simplified version of English that is easy to teach and has designed an online course that people from around the world have used to learn English. The result has been an opening of Third-World markets hungry for merchandise from the West. Digy has gone on to create a successful, international cyber college that is tuition free, funded instead by online ads.

Part Two includes four newspaper columns written by Vivien that demonstrate her rich interior life. She is a good friend to Patty, who is despondent about motherhood and her non-existent relationship with her son’s father. Vivien and Digy have a confrontation, during which he reveals that he too is dissatisfied and that the school he created is not as successful as it seems. Digy confides that he has been contemplating suicide, which puts Vivien in mind of her old roommate whose death she’s never gotten over.  
The final chapter takes place at Digy’s funeral. Vivien is now pregnant and in a relationship with a former classmate from Study House. Vivien’s last column, an obituary for Digy, is read as part of the eulogy. It is revealed that Patty and Vivien have grown apart. Vivien expresses a desire to repair their relationship, but the story ends with Patty rejecting her offer of friendship…she too has become lost, and Vivien—who was “barely human” in the beginning—has now become perhaps the most human character of all.

Wes Payton has a B.A. in Rhetoric/Philosophy and an M.A. in English, having written a play for his master's thesis. His play Way Station was selected for a Next Draft reading in 2015, and What Does a Question Weigh? was selected for a staged reading as part of the 2017 Chicago New Work Festival. His first novel, Lead Tears, was released in 2016, and his second novel, Darkling Spinster, was published in 2017 by an imprint of Start Media. He has also been a short-story presenter for the Illinois Philological Association. Standing in Doorways is his third novel.


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