“The Quiet One” by Dan David (New Zealand)

There is a group of novels and short stories that concern themselves with the social traumas suffered by adolescents – especially by the kind of adolescents that grow up to be writers of novels and stories. And, for the first two thirds of “The Quiet One,” we assume that Dan Davin has simply made another contribution to this already well-populated genre. Like most narrators of stories in this genre, Ned is a sensitive young man, set apart from his somewhat loutish companions by his ability to perceive and articulate the pattern of these empty weekend nights. Again, typically, he is not capable of walking away from this pattern, even though he recognizes it as a “the game.”

Not until his encounter with Marty does Ned (and Davin’s story) break away from the self-enclosed world of adolescent agonies. The terrible fact of Dulcie’s abortion and death interrupts “the game,” with its bruising, but at the same time protective, rules. Hearing of her death, Ned suddenly finds himself in that “other country” where “the sort of thing that happens once the gloves are off” actually takes place, where he is sized up by someone he admires and is not found wanting, where not knowing what to say is somehow the right response. Ned has the maturity to know that although this is the place he yearned to be, he would rather be “anyplace else in the world.” Davin’s accomplishment is that he reminds us that a boy grows up, not in a steady purposeful ascent to maturity, but through a slow accumulation of inglorious episodes like this one.