Gordon applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Mystery Girl, and reported the following:
From Page 69:Learn more about the book and author at David Gordon's blog.It was MJ. Apparently she hadn’t gone home after all. I knocked. The voice stopped abruptly, and a brown eye, bright but glazed with a wine reduction, appeared in the little tear. I waved at the eyeball and it blinked. The door opened. She looked a little off, with a crooked smile and a bottle in her hand.Hmm. Well first let me admit that I cheated slightly. Too lazy to type in the text, and without a final copy handy, I cut and pasted this from a proof so it may include a wee bit of page 70 too, but it looked like a good place to stop. It is an odd but perhaps fitting sample. MJ is the protagonist’s friend and former employer, a gay woman who owned a bookshop and did grad work on Modernist poetry. Sam, the narrator, is an aspiring (and despairing) experimental fiction writer who ends up working as a detective after his wife leaves him and MJ’s bookshop closes. Here he finds MJ drunk in her now empty shop, and they are arguing about writing, so it has little direct bearing on the plot, but it does I think give us a glimpse of the kind of people I wanted to write about: smart, foolish, passionate, desperate, angry, horny, heartsick and obsessed with literature, life, love but not having much success solving the mystery of any of it. But don’t worry; there are shoot-outs, sex scenes, succubi and Satanists in the book as well, so it is a proper mystery and not just an emotional and existential thriller.
“Why are you still here?”
I gathered from her mutterings that she’d been fighting with her girlfriend, which helped explain her bitter take on relationships earlier in the evening. Drawn by nostalgia, she’d remained in the empty bookstore to drink, recite poetry, and curse womankind, and we ended up moping side by side on the bookstore’s back steps, where her old desk and abandoned belongings had been dumped by the painters. I found such conversations enormously rewarding, being able to rage against my wife, love, and female inconstancy, without threatening my image of myself as a liberated, prowoman type, though I was still too inhibited to refer to “bitches” with MJ’s utter contempt.
In the end, however, even my anti-life-partner turned on me. “You know what your problem is? How come no one wants to read your books?” She drunkenly poked my heart with her finger. “You can’t tell a fucking story.” Especially when drunk, MJ cursed with the relish of the deeply uptight, savoring the juice of her sin, while a degenerate like Milo, who might ask your aunt to please pass the fucking salt, didn’t even realize he might offend.
“What do you mean can’t?” I asked.
“Contraction of can fucking not.”
“I just told you the whole sad story of my marriage.”
“That was a goddamn bummer. A boring bummer. A borner, which is the opposite of a boner.”
“I agree. That’s my point. I choose not to tell stories. They’re borners. Traditional narrative structure seems totally irrelevant to actual experience today. I mean, what in your life has a regular beginning, middle, and end?”
She shrugged. “How about the part where I’m born, live awhile and die? With blank pages before and after.”
“OK, point taken. But then what about all those poets you read? They don’t make sense either.”
“Poems are short. They don’t have to make sense. Like a day at the beach or a quick fuck. Novels take forever. Like life or marriage or grad school. They need some kind of payoff. A reason to go on.”
“Maybe you’re right.” I sighed. “Maybe I’ve just wasted the last twenty years.”
“Well don’t fill another novel bitching about it.” She punched my arm, kind of hard. “Let’s just fuck.”
The Page 69 Test: The Serialist.
Writers Read: David Gordon.