Thursday, April 17, 2008

"The Book of Dahlia"

Elisa Albert is the author of the novel, The Book of Dahlia, and the short story collection, How This Night is Different.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Book of Dahlia and reported the following:
Dahlia Finger is a classic fuck up. She’s a really easy girl to judge, disapprove of, and dislike. She doesn’t root for herself, so why would you root for her? Dahlia is 29 years old and has yet to become the person she should be: happy, self-sufficient, evolved, content, productive, fulfilled, for starters.

So life sucks, and she sucks, and everything sucks. And insult to injury: she’s just been struck by the lightening bolt of a terminal illness diagnosis. A quarter-life crisis on crack, if you will. Dramatic stuff, to be sure.

So what if she’s going to die? She could get hit by a bus tomorrow and die. She could outlive anyone, everyone. The old, old man on that bench at the mall is totally going to bite it before Dahlia does, and look at him there, licking his rapidly melting ice cream cone with such revelry.

One was much more typically ‘upset’ when it was happening to somebody else. ...How do you ever approach anybody else’s travesty? Your own, though: with your own you could have some fun.

So, what does this kind of crazy-dramatic turn mean for someone who, to begin with, is really fucked up? Does imminent death confer instant nobility and a regal bearing? Might being covered in a cosmic pile of poo make Dahlia a better person? Or will she remain the disconnected, apathetic, destroyed girl she was in the first place? How do we continue to be quintessentially ourselves even as life hands us those proverbial lemons? What are our options, beyond making the proverbial lemonade? What if we don’t have a juicer or cup?

It’s decidedly bizarre, when the Worst Thing happens and you find yourself still conscious, still breathing. She was still blinking, still swallowing, still scratching the itch on her neck, still reminding herself to sit up straighter, still wondering what was for lunch, still coveting the pretty earrings on the girl who had made her latte weeks earlier. Oh, but she was going to die. Still, what was for lunch?

Page 69, conveniently enough, seems to me a great representative sample of The Book of Dahlia. By page 69 Dahlia has begun to try to wrap her mind around her new reality, and has begun to deal - or, more to the point, not deal - with it.
Read an excerpt from The Book of Dahlia, and learn more about the author and her work at Elisa Albert's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue