Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"MacGregor Tells the World"

Elizabeth McKenzie is the author of Stop That Girl and the just-released novel, MacGregor Tells the World.

She applied the "page 69 test" to MacGregor and reported the following:
Could one page stand naked with any dignity? Or would it shrivel pulled from the shadows of pages 68 and 70? I checked it out and found pg 69 serving up, legitimately, some of the themes and tensions of the novel. The page starts in transition: Mac on one of his voyages to San Francisco, alive to everything in the way only an outsider can be, longing to escape his frumpy cousin’s life in the ‘burbs, full of desire for Carolyn Ware and everything she stands for.

“Driving out of Redwood City, past the neon martini sign and the do it yourself dog wash, past the shrill used car lots and the diesel clouds of tractor trailers idling on side streets for the night, he happily joined the crowd going north on 101. He never tired of approaching the city. Everyone complained about the summer fog but these were the complaints of proud parents apologizing with smiles for the brattish deeds of their children. Ultimately, San Francisco did no wrong in the eyes of the people who lived there, and it was true, the summer fog and chill had a charm all its own.”

My pg. 69 also introduces perhaps the most “evil” character in the novel, Charles Ware. (His nasty doings will blow up Mac’s world later on.) Though Mac’s been girding his loins to meet the guy ever since he began seeing his daughter Carolyn, the meeting is as bad, or even worse, than he expected.

Arriving at the house, Carolyn has vanished (not the first time, and not the last), thus throwing him face to face with Charles Ware, author of Tangier, iconic figure, flanked by two young sycophants, gulping down everything he says. Setting eyes on him, Mac reports a “man who looked rather like an aged boy, a pituitary case, a replica of his former self with too much skin. Puttied old cheeks crowded his small features; blue gray slugs rested beneath his eyes; thin, monkey-red hair ….” All the while, Mac feels “pimply and adolescent” coming to call like this.

Red flags are popping up all along the merry way. Why does she still live with her parents? What’s her trip anyway, with her annoying sister? Why did his mother write all those letters to this house? These questions have become the subtext of Mac’s visits and of this particular scene, and despite the thrills of being with Carolyn, continue to shadow him during the summer leading unexpectedly to his past.
McKenzie's writing has appeared in the New York Times, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Pushcart Prize XXV, Other Voices, Threepenny Review, TriQuarterly, and ZYZZYVA. Her stories have been performed at Symphony Space in New York and Stories on Stage in Chicago, and recorded for NPR's "Selected Shorts." She is a former staff editor at The Atlantic Monthly.

Visit Elizabeth McKenzie's website and read an excerpt from MacGregor Tells the World.

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

--Marshal Zeringue