Monday, September 29, 2008

"The Dart League King"

Keith Lee Morris is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Clemson University. His short stories have been published in A Public Space, Southern Review, Ninth Letter, StoryQuarterly, New England Review, The Sun, and the Georgia Review, among other publications. The University of Nevada published his first two books: The Greyhound Gods (2003) and The Best Seats in the House (2004).

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, The Dart League King, and reported the following:
Well, there are five central characters, and I’d say page 69 is representative of at least one of them, Kelly Ashton. She’s a small-town heartthrob who’s been put out of commission temporarily by the birth of her daughter, Hayley. She’s now anxious to get back in the game, though—the “game” being to find a way to get the hell out of her Idaho hometown—and tonight that means preparing for a date with Tristan Mackey, an old flame who’s just arrived back home after finishing college. Tristan looks pretty good on paper but is actually big, big trouble, as the reader already knows by this point. The shifting weather between the two characters is central to the novel’s development. There’s also the perpetual annoyance and worry caused by Kelly’s alcoholic mother. Here’s Kelly giving her mother instructions before she leaves for the evening, from p. 69:

Did she know when bedtime was, would she make sure to take Hayley out of the playpen in no longer than half an hour, tops, and was she going to stop after this beer, mother, this one, not the next one and not the one after that, all right she didn’t have time to argue, she would call to check on Hayley soon. She opened the apartment door and stepped out onto the landing in the warm summer dusk and she took a deep breath and thought not in our stars but in ourselves, because there was still time and opportunity to be something bigger than she could be in Garnet Lake, Idaho. She had the looks and brains to make it happen.

Kelly is going to meet Tristan at the 321 Club, where he’s involved in his weekly dart league match. Almost the entire book takes place at the 321, and by the bottom of the page the reader returns there, where Kelly encounters another old flame, the titular hero, the dart league king, the one and only Russell Harmon. Upon seeing Russell for the first time on this particular night, which is the first night she’s seen him in a long time, she thinks of five adjectives to describe him—cheerful, good, sweet, silly, and stupid—all of which Russell lives up to at one point or another in the book. So that part is representative, too. And there’s the word “beer” on p. 69, which comes up a lot. The words “dart match.” “Idaho.” “Disappointment.” “Fuck.” All of these words come up a lot. The overuse of that last one has already gotten me banned from a bookstore in Spokane, Washington.

So yeah, I’d say page 69 is at least suggestive, if not entirely representative, of the whole on several counts.
Read an excerpt from The Dart League King, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue