Monday, July 28, 2008

"Love and Other Impossible Pursuits"

Ayelet Waldman is the author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, Daughter's Keeper, and the Mommy-Track Mysteries. Her personal essays have been published in a wide variety of periodicals, including the New York Times, Elle Magazine, and the Guardian.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Love and Other Impossible Pursuits and reported the following:
My novel, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, tells the story of Emilia Greenleaf and her stepson William. When Emilia's newborn daughter dies of SIDS, the sight of any child brings her to tears. Wednesday afternoons with William -- an obsessive, know-it-all preschooler and his mother's mouthpiece -- are pushing her over the edge. Emilia is at a total loss. Doesn't anyone understand that self-pity is a full time job? The novel charts the course of this relationship as it unravels and then, ultimately, comes together, as each realizes that the other is their only road to happiness.

Page 69 tells a mini-story about Emilia's parents. They are divorced, having separated not long ago because of Emilia's father's infidelities and his frequenting of strip clubs and prostitutes. In this scene, a flashback, Emilia forces her mother to throw her father out. She then finds herself obsessively thinking about her father and his Russian prostitute. There is a line which I think perfectly encapsulates who Emilia is. She says, "I know I have a very active and vivid imagination, torqued and twisted by too much television, a steady diet of gothic novels, and an Electra complex worth of twenty year's on Freud's couch." Emilia is very self aware. She knows how narcissistic she is. She knows how damaging her grief is both to herself and to others, but she cannot manage to force herself to stop.

I think the page is also remarkably representative of my writing style, which is a combination of straightforward prose, and a kind of formality, twisted with dark humor. My descriptions tend to dwell on the odd detail -- like the way I describe Emilia's father's back as "skin loose and gray, pocked with brown birthmarks."

In all, I'd have to say that if you like this page, are intrigued by it, you'll probably enjoy the book. If it makes you uncomfortable, or if you just hate it, then that will define your experience of the rest of the novel, too.
Read an excerpt from Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, and learn more about the author and her work at Ayelet Waldman's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue