The sudden death of Perry Gregson's chronically ill little sister impels him to return from a semester abroad in Amsterdam to Southern California, his newfound emotional growth stunted by guilt and the parental modeling from which he had just begun to break free. Years later at the University of Washington he reconnects with his Amsterdam girlfriend, though his failure to have developed a capacity for true intimacy dooms their love. Eventually obtaining a PhD in philosophy and a history professorship, he enters into a relationship with a student, wherein the insidious patterns of Perry's life continue to play out, even as her adoration of Pink Floyd and ways of coping with his existential doubt offer him escape from his cell of self.
The intricately interconnected 100+ sections of The Use of Regret are a (re)collection of Perry's life as formed by Perry himself as truths and fictions and fantasies in (to quote a seminal mind theorist within the novel) "an imaginative reconstruction, or construction, built out of the relation of our attitude towards a whole active mass of organized past reactions or experience." With a substratum of meditations on the paradoxical unions of singularity and plurality, separateness and togetherness, language and the non-linguistic, The Use of Regret is Perry's attempt to find within a life already lived, a life in which (as The Cure sang during his childhood) "no one ever knows or loves another," a means to connect with the already-lost, "to atone, to make amends, pay tribute to your failures, you can't really make restitution but you do your best, put in the effort anyway, willingly, that's how you want to be now, no regrets, no regrets."
How it begins:
We Came In[sec. 1]
For example, we can revolve around a character, me, you, anyone can play, speak for them or let them speak for themselves, sing for their supper, try, let them try. Choose a story among numberless stories, tell it however you choose, then another and another again.
These are life as I imagine it, collected, recollected, the world as it was and could not have been, as it appears now and will come to be, uneclipsed, that life, mine (and yours). This is me putting back together what was never all apart, the way, the story, let me tell you, how I wish, this story, let me tell you.