Tuesday, March 30, 2010


James Hynes is the author of The Lecturer’s Tale, Wild Colonial Boy, Publish & Perish (all New York Times Notable Books of the Year), and the novel Kings of Infinite Space. He lives in Austin, Texas.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Next, and reported the following:
My new novel, Next, is the story of one day in the life of Kevin Quinn, a fiftysomething editor from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who has traveled to Austin, Texas, for a job interview. Kevin is at a crossroads in his life, and the novel continually shifts back and forth between his experiences in the subtropical heat of Austin and his review of his life so far. Page 69, as it happens, turns out to be pretty representative of the book as a whole, catching Kevin in mid-flashback to the “sweaty, paneled, suburban basements of his youth,” where he and his “tube- or halter-topped partner” are dancing to the “thumpa-thumpa Watts and Wyman beat” of the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar.” In fact, it’s actually a flashback within a flashback, since at the moment he’s remembering this, it’s a couple of years before his trip to Austin, the day he met his current lover, Stella, flirting in line with her at a coffee shop in Ann Arbor as the two of them listen to “Brown Sugar” playing over the shop’s sound system. Stella has just mistaken the Stones for the Black Crowes.
“It’s not the Black Crowes,” he murmured, inclining his head toward hers. “It’s the Rolling Stones.” Then he added, “The Black Crowes of their day,” never sure how much a young person would know of the music of the Pleistocene. “Sort of.”

“I know that,” said the young woman, and she unlaced the long fingers of one hand from the grip of her briefcase, her nails a deep but not unprofessional shade of red, and playfully rapped his arm with her knuckles. “How old are you?”
At that moment, the novel segues back to Kevin’s present in Austin, as he sweatily plods up Sixth Street after a much-younger Asian American woman who he sat next to on the plane and is now following around Austin. It’s actually a rather significant nexus moment in the novel, but to explain why, I’d have to say what came before, and what comes after, but that would take us beyond the margins of page 69.
Read an excerpt from Next, and learn more about the book and author at James Hynes's website and blog.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue