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The Great Night Acclaimed as a “gifted courageous writer” The New York Times Chris Adrian brings all his extraordinary talents to bear in The Great Night—a brilliant and mesmerizing retelling of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”On Midsummer Eve 2008 three people each on the run from a failed relationship become trapped in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park the secret home of Titania Oberon and their court On this night something awful is happening in the faerie kingdom in a fit of sadness over the end of her marriage which broke up in the wake of the death of her adopted son Titania has set loose an ancient menace and the chaos that ensues will threaten the lives of immortals and mortals alike Selected by The New Yorker as one the best young writers in America Adrian has created a singularly playful heartbreaking and humorous novel—a story that charts the borders between reality and dreams love and magic and mortality and immortality

  • Kindle Edition
  • 316 pages
  • The Great Night
  • Chris Adrian
  • English
  • 26 March 2014

About the Author: Chris Adrian

Chris Adrian was born in Washington DC A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop he attended Harvard Divinity School and is currently a pediatric fellow at UCSF He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2009 In 2010 he was chosen as one of the 20 best writers under 40 by The New Yorker

10 thoughts on “The Great Night

  1. Mir Mir says:

    This book takes place hereMy parents used to take me to this park as a kid not often it was farther away than the Panhandle As a little urban child I thought it was like the real forest And it is the real forest in The Great Night the forest that is endless and dangerous and beautiful the forest where you lose your way and find yourself or a horde of crazy fairies or some bums putting on a play of Soylent Green or some other heartbroken souls lost on their ways to a party none of you wanted to go to

  2. Hugh Hugh says:

    Sometimes a book makes me feel utterly inadeuate as a reader and this was one of them It is undoubtedly clever imaginative and original but for me much of it made little sense perhaps because I have never studied A Midsummer Night's Dream and knew nothing whatsoever about the dystopian fantasy film Soylent Green which is another major influence and is discussed several times Perhaps the problem is that without the grounding in Shakespeare any attempt to transplant one of his nonsensical plots into a modern setting in this case San Francisco in the near future is bound to be difficult to follow even without the layers of alternative realities and the long dense paragraphs The best part of the book was the first part which centres on a surreal fantasy in which Titania and Oberon have a child in hospital dying of leukemia and in this section the traumas associated with Adrian's day job are most apparentI hope that the current discussion in the 21st Century Literature group will help to clarify my thoughts and perhaps even change my mind

  3. Tim Tim says:

    I admit I was a little worried that The Great Night wouldn't be in the same league with Chris Adrian's other two novels Gob's Grief nearly great and The Children's Hospital stone cold great Tepid ratings on Goodreads for instance coupled with what seemed to me to be a plot description fraught with potential peril gave me pause Here's the pitch a modern day re imagining of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream set in San Francisco featuring faeries from the play faerie ueen Titania having unleashed an ancient menace; and three mortals trapped in Buena Vista Park by Titania's actions along with a group of homeless actors putting on a production of Soylent GreenI needn't have fretted The Great Night is excellent; no Children's Hospital to be sure but enjoyable even to those who aren't that into Shakespeare I count myself as not being all that knowledgable or especially nuts about the Bard dodging your slings and arrows now but I plunked down 2 at my favorite local used bookseller for a Midsummer Night's Cliff's Notes horrors and with a uick read of the synopsis did just fine It's likely to resonate with Shakespeare freaks than with those who are notThe Great Night isn't as different from Adrian's other works as I had supposed Adrian a pediatric oncologist continues to soak his books with the magical and the medical In Gob's Grief a man with the help of Walt Whitman tries to construct a machine that will bring back his dead brother along with all the Civil War dead; the sprawling Children's Hospital includes a modern retelling of Noah's ark set in the structure of the title and is replete with angels and children and medicine and the impossible In this latest novel the death of Titania and Oberon's changeling child starts the story's fantastical chain of events The faerie ueen and king now residing in a hill in a San Francisco park along with all manner of faeries often had stolen mortal children unbeknownst to their glamoured parents But Boy sickened and died in a San Francisco hospital while the two faeries watched Boy's death planted a wedge between Titania and Oberon who disappeared and in a fit of grief Titania frees the fool Puck from his restraints Puck who has a grudge against Titania is set on using his considerable powers for vengeance Three grief stricken and broken people become trapped in Buena Vista Park by Titania's magics and are caught up in the swirl as faerie creatures of every description from a treelike being to a boy with the bottom half of a bunny flee from the Beast Puck These mortals are Molly a woman with a troubled family past and a dark guilt whose boyfriend killed himself; Will an arborist who once had a relationship with Carolina the sister of Molly's dead boyfriend; and Henry a gay man who works at a hospital and who recently broke up with his boyfriend and who had a haunted lost youth scarred by an abduction he doesn't remember Then there are the five determined to put on their own version of the movie Soylent Green people as food as a warning convinced that the mayor of San Francisco has hatched an evil plot a song goes People People who eat people are the loneliest people in the worldAdrian weaves in flashbacks from the pasts of Molly Will and Henry with their experiences in the faerie world encountering strange creatures and fleeing the Beast who appears to each person as he or she whom they most fear or are most haunted by We're very much in Alice in Wonderland territory during these scenes and I wonder whether a labeling of this book as a fantasy though it doesn't really deserve it would lead to a prepared reading public and higher ratings here I guess I'd call the book a mixture of Alice Shakespeare and for its occasional oddness and sexuality John Irving I might add that my knowledge limited to a little perusal of Cliff's Notes would make me assess The Great Night as less of a modern retelling of Midsummer Night's than a novel that takes its jumping off point from some of the characters in it though the Soylent Green players are obvious echoes of the mechanicals of the play Adrian's flashbacks often bleed into each other; it can be tough at times to see where one time period ends and another begins though the book as a whole is not difficult The first half of the book is not as strong as its conclusion and it takes time to build up momentum as Adrian hops from the story of the faerie king and ueen to the mortals trapped in the park and their backstories The Great Night is filled with wonders depravity humor weirdness warmth and sadness blending delightful hijinks among the faeries with stories of heartbreak Adrian's earlier books had been populated by people wanting to beatovercome death; there is not as much of a weight of mortality here though it includes the death of people and the death of dreams as well as dreams of happiness Adrian's story doesn't always flow seamlessly but his way with words is as expected thrilling I won't spoil the story by telling the point at which everything comes together and the novel turns from merely uite good to astonishing but it encompasses the book's final third Adrian brings everything home with a brilliance that at times is staggering If we get there in sometimes choppy steps the destination is well worth it Adrian one of The New Yorker's 20 under 40 which spotlights our best young writers continues to prove that he is in fact one of our most talented storytellers His humanity his unusual odd if you will scenarios and approaches his startlingly beautiful observations and turns of phrase make him three novels in one of my very favorites

  4. Alissa Alissa says:

    This book is literally a clusterfuck; as in people and faeries are clustered together Fucking They are also masturbating having sex with trees spying on people masturbating and spying on people masturbating on treesWell I see that you're kerflummoxed as to why I gave this book a lowly three stars Truthfully I was thinking two until the tree sex scene So anyway what is going on in this beautiful disaster of a mind f ing? A bunch of heartbroken lonely ass people stumble into Buena Vista Park in San Franciscosome of them are doing a homeless person remake of Soylent Green others are getting drunk off faerie wine and others arerunning around having sex with Titania who's mourning the loss ofcrap who caresI'm going to go see if anyone in the bum park outside my apartment is remaking Soylent Green or having sex with a tree I suggest you do something similar instead of reading this book

  5. amanda eve amanda eve says:

    I give the fuck up I strongly disliked the book as a whole but the whole cougarteenage boy salad tossingueefing scene made me want to throw my Kindle across the room This book is dreary and tedious as fuck The scenes with Titania and her court were by far the most interesting parts; I even liked Demon Puck The humans are just horrible and their stories were so dull and repetitive I get the sense that Adrian in an attempt to make this a truly uniue spin on Shakespeare confused spin with subversion What you get is not really subversive it's a weak attempt at what Adrian thinks might be inflammatory Molly rebelling against her wacko Christian family by falsely accusing her black foster brother of rape is not so much creatively subversive as it is out and out offensive The aforementioned ueefing scene and the descriptions of marshmallow genitalia were just stupidMolly Henry and Will reminiscing about their lost loves were sweet and a refreshing change from the overall bleakness of the story Ultimately I honestly don't think Adrian is as creative or as enchanting a writer as he thinks he is I want my 999 back

  6. Oriana Oriana says:

    Jesus this took me forever I have my reasons but the upshot is that it was really hard for me to keep this all together because it's a crazy sprawl I'm not sure how much of it was my general distractedness but honestly I think he was trying to do way way way too much here with too many characters and too much backstory especially since it was all scrimmed over with fantastical and evil faeries and a retooling of Midsummer Night's Dream I didn't dislike it but I definitely got lost a lot with who was sleeping with whom and whose brother died and who had a silver barked tree and who was in which orgy Like you do I guess

  7. Maria Headley Maria Headley says:

    Basically Chris Adrian ranks in my personal pantheon of author rockstars I love people who write this way both beautifully on a sentence by sentence level and with elements of the unreal incorporated in the text I had about ten years of reading books set exclusively in naturalistic universes and honestly I've come to the conclusion that the universe even the one we know and see and accept as unmagical IS rich and strange and unlikely I appreciate Adrian's work because he seems to feel this way too Amazing things open up out of the ordinary in his books Great Night is a riff on Midsummer Night's Dream set in San Francisco It's not a direct riff as in it's not a contemporized version of Shakespeare's story but it has character overlap Puck Titania Oberon And some lovers parallel ish to the lovers in the original I read a chapter of this book as a freestanding short story in the New Yorker a few years ago and was totally blown away That chapter involves Titania and Oberon and their changeling boy who gets sick They spend the chapter in a children's ward of a hospital dragged into the broken universe of children with cancer their parents and their caretakers It's an amazing story Different from very different as it also involves fairies and magic but on par with Lorrie Moore's incredible story People Like That Are The Only People Here published in Birds of AmericaI wouldn't say Great Night is easy The plot leaps around and it's uite surreal in many places There were sections I had to reread to understand what was going on But reading it was absolutely worth it It's got elements of Peter Pan and of the classic under the hill narratives about fairyland as well as a lot about what it means to experience absolute pleasure and then come out the other side of it Some of the characters in Great Night have been to fairyland and then were cast out This is a useful metaphor for all kinds of things and very germane to SF and its history the characters span all class strata though in this book it is literal It's a pleasure to read it Lots of reviewers have focused on the sex in the book hello Midsummer Night's Dream is ALL ABOUT SEX and yes there's lots It's hot too another feat in my opinion It's hard to write hot sex in a surreal book The only uibble I have and in truth I forgive it because what comes before is so stunning is that the end becomes a bit frantic I felt this way when reading Adrian's similarly wonderful The Children's Hospital as well I was with him I could have had an extra fifty pages inserted in the last section if it might have made things a bit clear There's a problem of bounty here many characters many storylines and as a result the last 50 pages or so feel frenetic and tangled and not particularly cogent Still though there's plenty of glory there and the book is uite gorgeous and strange Recommended and one thing Fantasy readers? You should read this It wasn't marketed as an urban fantasy novel but it absolutely is in the Jonathan Carroll vein It has monsters and fairies and fairyland Literally Not as metaphors This is a book in which the people under the hill exist This is a book in which Puck is a beast You're gonna dig it

  8. switterbug (Betsey) switterbug (Betsey) says:

    In this phantasmagorical tale Chris Adrian reshaped “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” into a mammoth messy tilted erotic meandering reimagining of Shakespeare’s comedy into an elaborate feast of faeries and monsters Lilliputians and giants demons and derelicts heart broken humans and a group of outspoken homeless people who are staging a musical reenactment of SOYLENT GREEN And that is just a segment of the odd and atavistic population of characters that you will meet in this multiple narrative tale of loss love and exile As you enter San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park during this millennial summer solstice the moon shines eerie and luminous over creatures large and small and a thick wall of fog sluggishly spreads its fingers during the celebration known to the faerie kingdom as the “Great Night” Adrian’s visionary epic expands on his short story “A Tiny Feast” centering on King Oberon and the ruthless ueen Titania and their changeling son Boy who suffered from leukemia At the start of this novel Titania is inconsolable after the death of Boy and the subseuent departure of Oberon She unleashes a malevolent force of magic by removing the controlling constraints of Puck thereby allowing his demonic urges to run rampant through the park Meanwhile three heartbroken people with doleful memories of forsaken loved ones are lost and trapped in the park on their way to a summer solstice party The tangled backstories unleash the bitter coils of pain and loss and the mortals and immortals eventually interlock with loose springs Molly grew up in a pious gospel singing family fuel for unresolved trauma that preys on her like a ghost and she remains stuck and heartsick over the suicide of her lover Ryan Will is a tree surgeon who was dumped by Carolina the only woman he has ever loved Henry has a black past with memory holes; he was abducted as a child and has forgotten the terror of those years Meanwhile his obsessive cleaning and hand washing which serves him well as a physician has cost him a relationship with pediatrician Bobby the man of his dreams and now ex boyfriendAdrian flashes backward into the lives of the mortal three and alternates that with the captivity at the park and the faerie kingdom tale There were shades of John Crowley’s LITTLE BIG as both books use some similar unrealistic elements and fantasy to enhance the realistic elements and emotional heft However Crowley’s faeries are subtle and subconscious and don’t violate the moral codes of humanity as wickedly as Adrian’s Crowley also combines a Carrollian and Dickensian wit and artistry that would have been welcome in Adrian’s story The essential problem I had with this book is that the fantastic elements were crowded with too much symbolism and I had difficulty getting a purchase on the concepts The visual surrealism rather than taking me seamlessly to a deeper consciousness and serving as a metaphor or counterpoint began to pile up and distract me I was often bewildered with the action and commotion of the faeries Rather than surrendering to the story I had a cerebral and exhausting experience I lost control of the narrative—or did Adrian? I was taken with his scuttling energy and the peering furtive faces; I felt the oppressive weight of the shadowed victims But I was also dizzy blindfolded and drugged by too much screwball humor adjacent to tragedy and the clarity I was seeking was etherized Adrian’s prose is rich and layered with raucous ribald wit and multiple motifs It was eventually difficult to identify the core of the story The fate of Molly Will and Henry was subverted by an anticlimactic ending amid black humor and zany twists of immortal madcap magic and erotic mayhem However the story resonated with me at many turns There is a bizarre and churlish glee to the prose and a willingness to take the reader to unknown zones of scary emotional wilderness Despite the novel’s flabby focus I shall inevitably look for of this esteemed “20 under 40” writer’s works in the future He captured me with his perversely baroue and insane merriment

  9. Sam Ruddock Sam Ruddock says:

    The Great Night is one of those rare books that I’m impossibly grateful to have found A modern reworking of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream it is conceptually daring stylistically exciting and presents a view of humanity that is stark and powerful and unlike anything I’ve read beforeIt is Midsummer’s Eve in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park where Oberon Titania and their faerie kingdom have set up court But the Great Night celebrations do not go uite as planned Unable to deal with the all too human feelings of grief and loss that have assailed her on the death of their adopted son and subseuent failing of her marriage Titania sets free an ancient menace that threatens to bring an end mortal and immortal life alikeIt is on this night just after dark that Henry Molly and Will separately walk into that same park and find themselves utterly lost Like Titania they are each struggling and failing to overcome romantic losses Henry kidnapped as a child and now paralysingly obsessive compulsive has driven away Bobby the one person he’s ever loved Molly is rebelling against her extreme upbringing but unable to escape the suicide of her boyfriend nearly two years earlier And Will a tree surgeon is desperate to patch up his relationship with Carolina who discovered his infidelity and left him All three have encountered magic before but nothing like the faerie magic they are about to be caught up in tonightSuch an introduction inevitably sounds bleaker than the book is The Great Night is often laugh out loud funny and utterly absurd Puck is given a new ominous role and the Mechanicals make an appearance in the guise of a group of homeless people who believe they can bring down the mayor and stop his evil plot by staging a musical production of Soylent GreenSimultaneously The Great Night is existentially mundane and magically extravagant It charts the luminal space between dreams and reality Through magic Adrian presents the profound realities of mortal life through humour the unremitting sadness of loss It is a book of opposites “at the same time one of the strangest and most ordinary things” I’ve ever readChris Adrian named in the New Yorker as one of the 20 best writers under 40 years old certainly lives up to that billing A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and now a fellow in paediatric haematology ongcology he marries literary craft with a visceral understanding of the human body to create one of the most explicitly embodied books I’ve read The Great Night is psychologically explicit mortally explicit sexually explicit His prose is unassuming and easy to read a coherent medium through which to convey his uniue view of the worldI read The Great Night on the back of two stunning reviews in The Independent and The Guardian It is a beautiful book to hold and to read and the praise on the jacket fizzes and pops with effervescent exuberance Yet just as there are those who think that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is about as comic as experimental pile surgery The Great Night is likely to divide opinion From such a brilliant premise the plot sometimes gets indulgently lost and the back stories of Henry Molly and Will can feel a little forced at times For some it will feel a little too like a male sex fantasy in faerie landBut for all who hate The Great Night there will be those who love it I’ll certainly be exploring Chris Adrian’s back catalogue further and looking forward to future books from him This is an intriguing work from a writer who in a world where too many books feel like they were written from a ‘how to write fiction’ guide offers a fresh view of the world He’s a storyteller with an almost unbounded imagination and he routes his story in the very human lives of his characters This is exactly what modern fiction can and should be

  10. Rebecca Rebecca says:

    Chris Adrian had a great premise take A Midsummer Night’s Dream and transplant it to San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park people it with three heartbroken losers and a host of fairies and see what happens I can’t uite put my finger on why it completely doesn’t work The intersecting backstories of the three characters – particularly Molly who grew up in a large family of Jesus freak musicians and is haunted by a brief sexual encounter with her black foster brother Peabo – are fairly interesting and Titania is intriguingly reimagined as the grieving mother of an adopted son who died of leukaemia But the novel is a weird jumble of past and present horrific reality and harmless dreaming innocent play and distasteful sexual indulgence He gets the balance all wrong such that it’s neither one thing nor the other neither fantasy novel nor realist novel; neither clever Shakespearean parody nor pleasingly original; and so onThe best part of the novel was the first few chapters when Titania and Oberon in the guise of ordinary redneck Americans endure hospital treatment with their Boy Adrian is a doctor himself specializing in child leukaemia so he hits this realistic section spot on It gives one hopes for his previous novel The Children’s Hospital about a floating paediatric care unit that survives the Apocalypse and yet judging from Goodreads comments it seems that it may be another case of a brilliant idea let down by poor execution

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