Monday, September 27, 2010

"Dust"

Joan Frances Turner was born in Rhode Island and grew up in the Calumet Region of northwest Indiana. A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, she lives near the Indiana Dunes with her family and a garden full of spring onions and tiger lilies, weather permitting.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Dust, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69 of Dust:
Renee's grave was already pristine, the birthing hole filled in and covered with grass too even and green to be real. There's no gate guards, the alarm systems are defunct, the barbed wire's busted full of holes, weeds everywhere, but by God they still get those gravesites looking swank and undisturbed as soon as they humanly can. Maybe it's all people really care about, the handful that still come to visit. I hope the pay's good, if you've got that job. I bet it is. Nearly as good as a thano lab guard's. We crouched in a patch of woods above Calumet Memorial, waiting.
Dust is a story of the undead ("zombie" they consider derogatory) from their own point of view, as they exist hand-to-mouth in abandoned rural areas and try to avoid any contact with the living families they've left behind, lest terrible things happen on both sides. The undead, in this world, aren't virally created Johnny-come-latelies; an uneasy living/dead d├ętente has existed for centuries, with nobody understanding why or how some of the dead return. The thanatological ("thano") labs are working on it, though, with potentially disastrous consequences all around.

This excerpt pleases me because it sets the book's background swiftly, via Jessie's asides: Our lead characters are dead, the living know this and avoid them even as they try to mask the traces, the ordinary task of gravekeeping is a dangerous job and the dead can end up attending their own funerals. Her casual relation of these facts, none of them odd to her or her friend Renee even though fantastical to the reader, establish straight off this isn't the reader's reality, and our usual cultural assumptions about what death means are not just inapplicable, but irrelevant. For a random page-turn, my page 69 is quite a good and instructive introduction.
Read an excerpt from Dust, and learn more about the book and author at Joan Frances Turner's website and blog.

Writers Read: Joan Frances Turner.

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

--Marshal Zeringue