Monday, July 7, 2008


Roxana Robinson is the author of Cost, three earlier novels, and three short-story collections, as well as a biography of Georgia O’Keeffe. Four of these were named Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, the New York Times, Best American Short Stories, and Vogue, among other publications. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the MacDowell Colony.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Cost and reported the following:
From Page 69:

After dinner, they all went out to the back porch. Julia put the chairs in a row, and they sat watching the sky for shooting stars.

At first they could see nothing. The night around them was opaque, a dense and uninflected black. It held them muffled and sightless. Slowly, their stares softened into gazes, and the nocturnal world emerged. The watchers became aware of the dark openness above the meadow, with the quiet shushing of the invisible water beyond, and gradually they could see the revelation of the starlit sky overhead, black, transparent, scattered with glitter, endlessly deep.

Anyone reading this page would get a strong sense of what the writing's like, and also they'd know how I feel about the landscape. They'd know that the scene takes place in summertime, because of those shooting stars that show up obligingly every August, when we're in the mood to watch them, and it's warm enough to do so.

What someone reading just this page wouldn't know is what the connections are between these people, how complicated and troubling they are. How dangerous it is to sit among your family, in the dark, even on the porch of an old farmhouse in Maine. What this page doesn't yet reveal is how dark this family's view will become, or how they will struggle toward some kind of shared vision. Watching for shooting stars is not a simple task! What they wouldn't know, from reading this page, would be the connections that exist, between this porch in Maine and the dingy, cluttered streets of Brooklyn, between a peaceful summer visit and a desperate kind of plummeting fall.

But if they went on reading they'd learn all this.
Read an excerpt from Cost, and learn more about the book and author at Roxana Robinson’s website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue