Monday, June 18, 2007

"The Extinction of Desire"

Michael Boylan is Professor of Philosophy at Marymount University and author of The Extinction of Desire: A Tale of Enlightenment, "a novel that seeks to portray a philosophical depiction of the author’s worldview theory."

He applied the "page 69 test" to the book and reported the following:
The numbers six and nine are upside down transformations of each other. So it is on page sixty-nine of The Extinction of Desire.

The first half of the page conveys the first number, six. It represents the continued letter from Aisling (pronounced ‘Ash-ling,’ an Irish name) to her quasi fiancĂ©, Michael O’Meara, a high school history teacher who has just inherited $1,000,000. Aisling is studying at the University of London for a Ph.D. in English Literature.

Aisling writes:

Dear Michael,

Which do I prefer? John Donne, the rake, or Father Donne, the Dean of St. Paul’s? What a case of split personalities. In some way, the Valediction poems offer a link between these two. They are written by Donne, the younger, with the spirit and mind of Donne, the elder.

As I develop my analysis of these I will keep you informed.

My director, Dr. Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, is the most intelligent man I’ve ever met.... One of his central tenets is that art is decaying because of the presence of money. The pure power of art’s ability to express becomes perverted when the marketplace makes decisions that should be left to those who know. Hugh is really very elegant in his exposition. You should hear him sometime. He is a man who leaves an impression.


What is important about this passage is the emphasis upon the import that money has (a major theme of the book) and the apparent cooling of Aisling’s affection for Michael. (All previous letters had endearing expressions and were signed ‘love.’) This is not a promising sign. Michael’s love adventures (in the midst of his windfall of money on the first page of the book) is part of the driving commotion that keeps the plot moving.

The second half of the page (the ‘nine’) concerns Michael’s job as cross-country coach at the high school where he teaches, Fairview High School in Bethesda, Maryland (aka Laissez Faire or even Lazy Fair). This scene depicts some of Michel’s core values that come out as he talks to a boy on his team for whom he offered special help.

The book is about whether Michael will hook up with Aisling, and how Michael will combine his core values with the windfall of insurance money, $1,000,000 (circa 1990). How will these threads resolve themselves? Page sixty-nine offers a brief glimpse of these core plot devices.
Visit the publisher's website for more information about The Extinction of Desire.

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

--Marshal Zeringue