In the original edition of Party Out of Bounds, which was published by Penguin USA/Plume, I was asked to provide an epilogue summarizing what happened to the book’s major players after I’d dropped the curtain somewhere around 1987 or so.
I did what I could. It wasn’t easy. It was like tracking the path of each piece of shrapnel after a grenade exploded. All I managed in that edition was a pretty thin discography and some gossip about band breakups. I listed bands that had received the sacrament in the few years after I had left, but that was about it.
It was a suicide mission even then, so imagine attempting such a task today, twenty-five years after publication of the first edition of Party Out of Bounds.
So, how can I best sign off here in the edition that, per my skimming of the contract’s fine print, will remain comfortably ensconced in the University of Georgia Press’ backlist at least until the children of our children’s children manage to pull some Jurassic Park resurrection of the primeval world herein depicted?
I’ve got no standing to speak about those who’ve come and gone in the years since I came and went; so, instead, I figure this should be the place where I track what happened to the one Athens character I can claim to know best: this book itself.
I never asked to write Party Out of Bounds.
I would never have thought to ask. I was working as a writer, but I was never a music writer. I lived in Athens and hung out in the back of the clubs, but I didn’t own a record player. I crashed the parties with my friends, and I did what one did back then in that lost world where one fed on what one found, afterword licking one’s fingers in a slobbery barebacked satiety: I kept moving toward that house of fog which you can only find after one more day of seeking. . . . The bands—all of them—were soundtrack.
It was by accident that I stayed in Athens. My undergraduate degree was in linguistics from the University of Georgia. That led me straight to my first job: Kinko’s. Later, my test scores for graduate school earned me a full scholarship to the university’s school of journalism. That was good for another couple years. When I finished my masters, I moved away to find my place in the world. San Francisco. Washington, D.C. New York City.
All good; but I preferred Georgia. Athens didn’t work for me anymore, so I landed in Atlanta.
I looked for work. I visited all the newspapers. Nothing.
Then I called the local weekly. It just so happened that a huge protest march was about to take place in Forsyth County (racial conflict . . . details available elsewhere). I met with the editor, showed him my work, which included an article about going to a Klan rally in North Georgia, and I got my first assignment.
I went. I wrote. I filed my story. And I got a job.
A few months later, I came back from lunch. There was a message. A lady in New York wanted me to call back to “discuss an idea for a book.”
I called. We talked. I was stunned. Seems they were looking for someone to write a book about “this Athens thing.” Remember, this was 1987. To many, Athens was still a newsworthy anomaly.
Here was my chance to write down what I could remember of my dream. It was fading; so I banged out a proposal fast as I could.
Six months later, I had a draft. I mailed it. The editor hated it. I’d written about the Athens I knew. I’d written about my friends. The editor responded with a penciled scrawl: “The list of characters coming and going makes my eyes glaze over. Cut!”
So cut I did. Snip, snip, snip.
There went my favorite professors. Gone was a girl I once loved.
When I sent it back, the original editor had left and a new one had been assigned. He mailed back a note: “Love it!”
Unfortunately, by the time the book was published, 1991, the Athens story was, at least among hipster media types, yesterday’s meatloaf. The books sold a couple of thousand copies and dropped from view.
But then, by the late 1990s, I started getting e-mails from people asking where they could get a copy. Word of mouth, that marketing tool to beat all marketing tools, had given the few tattered paperbacks that little bit of aura that grows around a book that’s passed hand to hand to hand. Copies were selling on eBay for nearly one hundred dollars. For real.
What I think happened is this: Unlike the many oral histories, or fan-love hagiographies, or any typical book written by someone who comes from outside to write about what is inside, where there is always something lacking, something intangible, hard to put into words, this book had what I might term—if such a term can be given—authentic spirit.
Sure, I spelled a few names wrong. Maybe screwed up some dates. But what I did do was pack it with all the angst and joy and dreamy emotion and gut-slashing pain of the period, as I wrestled with that impossible challenge of capturing lightning in a Mason jar.
What I ended up with was not a book about Athens, but a book of Athens. It wasn’t a document about its time; it was a document of its time.
By the late 1990s and early 2000s, seeing that the book was a high-priced rarity, an old friend, Frank Reiss, started a small print-on-demand publishing imprint, everthemore books. Party Out of Bounds was his first title, and for more than ten years, the book trickled out in ones and twos. This time, it was the little brothers and sisters, the sons and daughters of those folks from back in the day. They liked it. Even older folks appreciated it. It reminded them of their glory days.
And so it came to pass that the University of Georgia Press chose to republish Party Out of Bounds.
I could not be more grateful, or more proud.