Friday, May 13, 2011

"A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism"

Peter Mountford's short fiction has appeared in Best New American Voices 2008, Conjunctions, The Normal School, Michigan Quarterly Review, Seattle Review, Phoebe, and Boston Review, where he won second place in the 2007 contest, judged by George Saunders.

Mountford applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism, and reported the following:
On page 69, my hero/anti-hero Gabriel is visiting his love-interest Lenka at her office—she is the press liaison for the soon-to-be Bolivian president, Evo Morales. This is a couple weeks before Evo wins the election, but it’s clear he’s going to win. Gabriel and Lenka have been on a pseudo-date already, and now they’re going to lunch, but things are getting more flirtatious now. On page 69, he arrives at her office and then meets her.

One of the central tensions of the book is Gabriel’s relationship with Lenka and other people, like his mother, who are potentially “valuable” assets for him in his new job—he has recently been hired at a notoriously rapacious hedge fund; his job is to pursue tangible investment leads as a researcher or analyst. Of course, although Lenka has the potential to be hugely useful in his job, he wants to avoid muddying their relationship by making it professional, but it’s a difficult balance. And as his professional pressures mount, it’s harder and harder for him to justify keeping their relationship separated from his work.

Here he is flirting with her, a bit, but you can sort of feel the tension already between the professional and personal.
He asked the receptionist in Spanish if Lenka Villarobles was in.

She looked him up and down. Her lips were as glossy as glazed pottery. Her crimped hair looked like the dark tendrils of a sea plant that had dried stiff at low tide.

“She is expecting me,” he said.

The receptionist dialed a number, then turned away and whispered into the phone, glancing back at him.

He picked up a campaign circular and sat down. On the cover, Evo, visiting a mine, wore a yellow hardhat. In the background little boys spattered in slate-colored mud, burgundy hardhats on their heads, too-big rubber boots on their feet, stared at Evo in wonder. Gabriel flipped the page. More of the mines: a glimpse at a chillier and darker atrium in hell’s labyrinth. It was an infinite landscape of gray: pebbles, boulders, and sheets of slate; gentle shale, half mulched, as if attacked by an army of rock-eating termites. There was nothing else. Just as Gabriel began wondering if Lenka had anything to do with this leaflet, she appeared.

He stood and lunged into the greeting awkwardly. She flinched, almost, then leaned in, and they kissed each other on the cheek quickly. Though acutely aware of the many eyes on them, he had no idea if the attention was as a result of something she’d said about him, or if this was just because a young man had arrived and seemed to know her.

“You like that?” she said, referring to the brochure.

“Did you make it?”


“Then it’s just okay.”

She smiled at him and he caught a glimpse of warmth.

She led the way across the floor to her office, on the far side of the room. The only window in her office was a floor-to-ceiling sheet of glass facing the main floor. She sat in front of her computer. Her coworkers outside pretended not to stare.
View a trailer for the novel, and learn more about the book and author at Peter Mountford's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue