Which is worse? The lies we tell each other or the lies we tell ourselves? This is the provocative theme of Uptown, Jack Gardner’s satiric portrait of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Although Charlotte is the second largest banking center in the U.S., after New York, and will be the site of the Democratic presidential convention next summer, it has a curiously low profile on the national scene. And yet, as Uptown vividly demonstrates, Charlotte is an ambitious New South city, envious of Atlanta, and wanting nothing more than to simply be noticed.
“The entire city has an inferiority complex,” Gardner says, “which makes it a fascinating study. Uptown is the first work of fiction to seriously take Charlotte as its subject.”
The story centers around Stephen Rayfield, a young, gay history professor, who has recently moved to Charlotte. When he attends a dinner party at the home of his wealthy aunt and uncle, he begins a journey through a social minefield. In the tradition of Edith Wharton, Uptown is a novel of pretense and betrayal and examines the tension between social and individual identity.
Julie Rold, award-winning playwright and author of Foreign Lands, Familiar Places, has praised Uptown as “a remarkable debut novel, impressive both in its scope and its ambition. The novel is entertaining, funny, moving, sensitive, wonderfully written—all the things we want the best fiction to be—but its most wonderful achievement is its humanity.”
Gardner is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and obtained his MSW at Chapel Hill in 1981. He worked for many years as a geriatric social worker in North Carolina, California and Colorado. He also has served as a U.S. Senate aide. He currently lives in Arlington, Va.
Uptown is 366 pages and available for $14.95 from Main Street Rag Publishing Company.