cover image A Time to Dance

A Time to Dance

Walter Sullivan. Louisiana State University Press, $26.95 (195pp) ISBN 978-0-8071-1985-3

Sullivan (Sojourn of a Stranger) offers here a desultory little narrative of two fast-fading octogenarians retired to an outlying Nashville, Tenn., suburb: Max, a failed novelist, and his wife, Bunnie, a rather barmy literary academic who, having suffered her second stroke, is now wheelchair-ridden. Longstanding alcoholics looking forward to their 60th wedding anniversary, the couple is mainly preoccupied with keeping an anxious eye on their liquor supply. Nephew Julien, under the concerned direction of the family, has come to live with them in a Nashville apartment to serve as their factotum while he completes his college degree. He meets Shannon, a young nurse, when Bunnie is hospitalized for her stroke. Shannon is tortured by the specter of a friend killed in a car wreck in the aftermath of a teenage drugging and drinking spree. The novel alternates between internal musings by Max and Bunnie, which chronicle their respective declines into terminal alcoholism and flashback into their tawdry sexual histories. Contrapuntally intermingled is vacuous repartee between Shannon and ardent Julien. Eventually, all this ado about nothing comes to an end with the young couple's marriage, which coincides with Max and Bunnie's wedding anniversary celebration. (Mar.)