Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Ben Dolnick -- who has worked as a zookeeper at the Central Park Zoo, a bookseller, a research assistant in an immunology lab, and a tutor -- is the author of Zoology, his first novel.

He applied the "page 69 test" to the book and reported the following:
At page 69 of Zoology, the narrator, Henry, is trying to track down the cute girl he just met at the pool.

Sameer didn't know about a little boy and a tall girl, so I came back again after the shift change and asked Richie. Richie was the oldest doorman, and he took the job more seriously than anyone else. If you walked in with a suitcase, he practically tackled you to get it out of your hands. Whenever he saw me he gave a hard, short nod and said, "Sir."

"Do you know if there's a little black-haired boy who lives in the building with a tall girl with brown hair?"

He nodded, not taking his hands from behind his back. "You're looking for Matthew Marsen in twelve-F, I believe. And the young lady -- whose name, unfortunately, slips my mind -- is the Marsens' goddaughter. Just here for the summer."

That night David and Lucy were out to dinner with friends, and when they came home David was a little drunk. He laughs a lot when he's drunk, and his cheeks get splotchy. He sat down with me on the couch, smelling like alcohol and cologne.

Doing this test (which I'd applied to hundreds of other peoples' books, but never my own), reminds me of a great speech about Saul Bellow by Martin Amis -- who I think is one of the smartest critics around. Amis says: "When Bellow reads More Die of Heartbreak he isn't reading; he is squirming and smarting, feeling the pulls and shoves and aftershocks of a million decisions. For him the book is a million clues to a million skirmishes -- scars, craters, bullet-holes." I'm no Saul Bellow, it goes without saying, but that's how rereading page 69 -- or any page -- of my book feels. It's like looking at old snapshots of yourself; only other people can do it with enough distance to have any insight.
Read an excerpt from Zoology and visit Ben Dolnick's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue