Thursday, October 3, 2013


Michael Farris Smith is a native Mississippian who has spent time living abroad in France and Switzerland. He has been awarded the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellowship, the Transatlantic Review Award for Fiction, the Alabama Arts Council Fellowship Award for Literature, and the Brick Streets Press Short Story Award. His short fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his essays have appeared with the New York Times, University Press of Mississippi, and more.

Smith applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Rivers, and reported the following:
I’ve heard about this test but never tried it until now and I was excited to open up Rivers and find that page 69 is a big movement in the story. Besides the unrelenting hurricanes, the violent and lawless region, the crazed, snake-handling preacher, the hijacked and left-for-dead central character of Cohen, page 69 of Rivers introduces rumors of buried casino money which has brought reckless, treasure-hunting hoards into the fray:
Those with a chance, if there was actually anything to be found, had the guns, had youth, had the vehicles to get through, or across, or over. Men in army green jeeps and trucks, four-wheel drive vehicles made for war, with gadgets that detected metal underneath the ground. Men who possessed the physical strength and training to work hard, dig deep, make haste. Men who had been left behind by their government, stuck in outposts in the region below the Line, for God knows what. To help those that didn’t want to be helped. To protect those who didn’t want protection. To sit in steel-braced, cinderblock outposts, day after day, ducking from the storms, watching the rain, listening to the snap of lightning and the moan of thunder, staring at the walls and staring at the floors, so that the same government that abandoned the region could still maintain an authority over it, even though there was no law to be followed. No law to be made other than what seemed right at the time. These were the men who sat there day after day, because they had been ordered to by other men who lived on dry land, and now they had grown restless and anxious and this was their opportunity to get out and go and do something.... The coast was crawling with them and they all came after the same thing – the buried casino money.
This was a significant shift in the “what’s happening” aspect of Rivers. There is already plenty for Cohen and others who have chosen to stay below the Line to deal with. And now, there is greed. I liked the addition of the rumors of the casino money because it’s far-fetched and a dangerous thing to go after. All are armed, and one hurricane follows another, and roads and bridges are washed away, but man wants money and will do anything for money, and a violent, unpredictable landscape became more so on page 69.
Learn more about the book and author at Michael Farris Smith's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue