Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"Last Last Chance"

Fiona Maazel is a writer and freelance editor. Her work has appeared in Bomb, The Boston Book Review, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Mississippi Review, Pierogi Press, Salon.com, Tin House, The Village Voice, and The Yale Review.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Last Last Chance, her first novel, and reported the following:
Should I be wondering why 69 is the page watershed? I guess Marshall McLuhan, whom, I gather, came up with the idea, had some thoughts about reciprocity — like by page 69, a novel should have established between itself and reader an aesthetic and emotional rapport that is, as they say in the brothels, mutually loving. At the very least, mutually dismantling. My page 69? The narrator is at a twelve-step meeting, whose organizing ethos she does not quite trust:

There is talk of practicing these principles in all our affairs. There is talk of needing each other to stay clean. People around here tend to deploy the same phrases, which seems fascist after a while. Fascist in the way an orthodoxy will ply the language with bromides the rest of us are expected to use in lieu of original thought. Probably it’s not as evil as all that, but I do wonder at the numbing effect of using a prefab expression instead of coming up with your own.

I feel mildly embarrassed to be writing about my own characters, but then I suppose this, too, is part of the dismantling experience, always to be disclosing, undressing, and sharing of the stuff that makes us humane and ridiculous. Despite her reservations and frequent retreats into protest, this narrator (Lucy) is trying to recover from some fairly insurmountable problems. She’s a drug addict, her mom’s a drug addict, her dad’s a suicide and her adolescent sister is, well, disturbed. Also, there’s an immortal strain of plague savaging the country, which has given people good cause to think everyone might die real soon. And Lucy, she’s just trying to get better in this mess. And so are her peers:

From the back comes Allan, who runs a chop shop. Since I’ve known him, he’s had nine kids, then seven, then four, and now it’s down to one. Not that they died, but that his lying tends to improve in degrees. Today his son has stage-four colon cancer, which means he probably had a biopsy that hasn’t come back from the lab. Allan is saying that Let go, Let God is the best thing he’s ever been taught. Let God take my will.

So I guess page 69 is all about people offering up their stories and trying to use story as a means to recover. Somewhat pretentiously, I think that’s in large measure what Last Last Chance is about: the sharing of experiences and narrative that maybe helps people to hang in there.
Learn more about Last Last Chance and its author at Fiona Maazel's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue