He applied the Page 69 Test to Sway, and reported the following:
Page 69… For a random page from my novel, Sway, page 69 is oddly suggestive. The book’s climax happens in 1969 — the year of the Manson murders and the Rolling Stones’ violent concert at Altamont — the year the Sixties ended numerically as well as culturally. It is an appropriately demonic number, 69, reminiscent of satanic 666 as well as a certain sexual position that would still be more or less unmentionable had it not been for the Sixties. On page 69 of Sway, a teenage boy walks into a rare bookshop and discovers an occult manual called The Sephiroth, written by a notorious drug addict and satanist (actually made up by me) based on Aleister Crowley. In its pages, the boy finds “the secret door into that parallel world he had always hoped was there.”Read more about Sway at the publisher's website.
According to The Sephiroth, the world was a shifting fabric of reality and dream. There were people who without knowing it took on the attributes of certain mythological figures or gods. This could make them purposeful and bold, like Prometheus or Cain, or could render them passive and wounded, like Vulcan, the archetype of the artist. There were cold, solitary spirits like the huntress Diana, and tricksters like Hermes and Pan, and communers with the dead, like Hecate and Persephone. There were stern, paternal figures, like Shiva or the risen Christ, and there were law-abiding slaves like Mary or Job. You had little choice as to which of these spirits inhabited you personally. Indeed, most people spent their whole lives in a futile effort to become someone they were not meant to be: powerful when they were born weak, wise when they were born to take commands. All unhappiness stemmed from just this misperception: the failure to know one’s true nature or the obstinate refusal to embrace it. Your date of birth, the letters of your name, the color of your eyes, the lines on the palms of your hands — everything in the world was encrypted with the secret and conflicting information that determined the kind of life you were meant to lead.
I would not want to read much more of this kind of thing (nor would I want to read much of The Sephiroth itself), but the boy in the novel is more fascinated by the occult than I am. Still, if the reader were to continue to read Sway, he or she might find that this little passage gets more interesting as the book unfolds, casting its particular light on the Sixties and on some of the mythological figures and all-too-real people who were caught in its sway.
Zachary Lazar graduated from Brown University, has been a Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Works Center, and received the Iowa Writers Workshops James Michener/Copernicus Society Prize.
Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.