Friday, August 10, 2012

"The Book of Jonas"

Stephen Dau is originally from western Pennsylvania. He worked for ten years in postwar reconstruction and international development before studying creative writing at Johns Hopkins University and Bennington College, where he received an MFA. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on MSNBC, and elsewhere. Dau lives in Brussels, Belgium, with his family.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Book of Jonas, his first novel, and reported the following:
I'm not sure if page 69 of The Book of Jonas is representative or not. It takes place after Jonas comes to America, just after he begins college, and it recounts his first love. This is truly dangerous territory for a writer, as it's a subject that has been done so many times that finding anything fresh and un-clich├ęd to say is difficult. At the same time, familiar love-story tropes can be appropriate, especially in a book that is not, at it's core, a love story. It gives the reader something to hang onto. So this then, was my best stab at describing the exhilaration and exclusion of Jonas falling in love.

Page 69 excerpt:
He soon finds that, except to those in the middle of it, being in love is the most boring thing, the most incomprehensible thing in the world.

They dine at a secluded corner table on a red-and-white paper tablecloth, upon which the food before them either loses all meaning or becomes their entire existence. Her hands fly around as she talks, seeming to push the words through the air in front of her, and he hangs from them like a strand of over-cooked fettuccini.

She tells him that, were the earth the size of an apple, its surface would be as smooth as its skin. This bit of trivia feels vitally important to him, as though it says something fundamental about their lives. He finds it amusing when she tries to show him the correct way to hold a fork. He tells her that if you hold your hand at arms length out to the night sky, an area of the night equivalent to the space of your thumbnail would contain a million stars, most of which cannot even be seen by the naked eye. By which he means that present between them are infinite possibilities.

And they are only dimly aware that, to an outside observer, someone lacking their interest or enthusiasm or imagination, they are talking a kind of silly code, a special language known only to them.
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen Dau's website.

--Marshal Zeringue