By Megan McDonald
You may remember novelist Adam Davies from his story in our July 2011 issue—“The Kate I Knew,” about his friendship with Katharine Hepburn, for which he won a Florida Magazine Association "Best Feature" award—or from his stint as an adjunct writing professor at New College. This month Davies is back with a piece in our November “Sarasota After Dark” issue titled “Saranova and Me." The story follows a character Davies calls Sarasota's greatest Lothario on a late-night tour of bars and clubs.
Here, Davies discusses why he wanted to write this story, his thoughts on Sarasota’s nightlife and whether Saranova is—or isn’t—a real person.
What attracted you to this story?
Originally I wanted to write a sort of catalog or miscellany about the unappreciated or ignored aspects of Sarasota and the lives of its citizens—sort of a Sarasota version of Gay Talese's "New York is a City of Things Unnoticed"—but that kind of encyclopedic work really requires a long immersion in one place. I only had a few days in town in which to do research and so I had to narrow my focus.
I started thinking that Sarasota is a city that has many selves—the rich Midwestern retirees, the academics, the sailors, the singers and dancers and actors and artists, those who live in the hardscrabble streets that are so nearby to the fabulously wealthy neighborhoods. But what most interested me was the rhythm of its nightlife. To me it just felt like it’s a world that operates in shifts: the happy-hour drinkers, the older couples out for early dinner, then there is this sort of liminal phase in which the stragglers in one crowd cede the city to another crowd.
That was what I wanted to write about: the life of Sarasotan nightlife. And it seemed to me that the best way to engage in that study was to experience the night through the eyes—and, as it turned out, the liver—of one of the city's most dedicated rabblerousers.
Is Saranova real? If so, how did you meet him?
Oh yes, he's real, and will no doubt be identifiable to a large segment of the late-night population.
I met him in his natural habitat, of course.
What do you think readers will think about Saranova?
That's impossible to say. He is a complex and controversial figure, certainly, and there were times when I was writing the article when my heart quailed a little bit, or when I wondered if I should edit something out or abridge it in some way. But in the end my natural aversion to censorship and falsity required that I keep his character, and the events of the evening, unchanged.
What do you want readers to think?
It's far beyond the purview of a writer to want a reader to think any particular thing. My job is to be as faithful as I can be to the subject, and to write in a way that does the best service to the entire experience.
Is nightlife here different from other, larger cities—or is it basically all the same experience?
To me, Sarasota is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world. The experience of being out on the town, whether late at night or not, is full of al fresco delight. The weather, the sugarlike beaches, the brine in the air from the ocean, the rare combination of youthfulness and old age—to me it is very European.
In fact, in some ways Sarasota feels like a sister city to my own home, Savannah. Savannah is certainly an older history and much more historically intact—even the trees are so ancient that the whole place feels positively Jurassic—but they share the same soul.
Are you a nightlife guy yourself?
I am, but I'm not often a late-night nightlife guy. I like to be home before the evening becomes …Saranovan. Like moms and college football coaches always say: Nothing good happens after midnight. They're wrong, of course, but you reach a point in life when you're just not cut out for many errors in judgment that seem to accrue after that hour.
How do you give structure and color to unshaped reality like this—how did you make this into a story as well as reporting?
Ha, I don't know. Luckily I get to write about subjects that are naturally interesting to me, so I don't have to think too hard about anything except for how to capture the essence of the subject. In fact, this piece feels to me more like a photograph than a story—I just did my best to try to capture what was there.
What are you working on right now? What’s coming next for you?
Believe it or not I have a couple of TV programs that I'm working on—both are educational shows for kids; go figure—and finally, after four years, I think I'm warming up to another novel.