Friday, September 5, 2008

"What Happened to Anna K."

Irina Reyn is a fiction and nonfiction writer whose work has appeared in anthologies and publications such as The Forward, San Francisco Chronicle, The Moscow Times, Nextbook and Post Road. Born in Moscow, Irina was raised in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.

She applied the Page 69 Test to What Happened to Anna K., her debut novel, and reported the following:
On page 69 of What Happened to Anna K., poor, innocent Katia is mingling at a New Year's party where she expects her boyfriend will finally approach her traditional Bukharian Jewish parents for her hand in marriage. She is wearing a sweeping white dress, feeling confident and sexy: the belle of the ball. The last line of the page reads, "No, no one could compete with her tonight." Unfortunately for Katia, on the very top of page 70 that position of strength will quickly shift, as her mesmerizing cousin Anna K. makes her appearance at the party.

Much to my surprise (I wound up relieved the test did not apply to page 68!), I discovered that this particular page encapsulates the book's themes rather well, as my novel is about the futility of illusions and expectations. In the page 69 moment, the usually clear-headed Katia expects her life to mimic a romantic narrative and thus fails to anticipate the danger before her. Yet this romanticizing impulse is usually associated with Anna K. and the results tend to be disastrous. How do we "read" (and mis-read) the narrative of our lives? Who are we and how do we live? Those were questions so deeply delved into by Lev Tolstoy in his Anna Karenina, and I attempt to tackle these very same questions, still so relevant today, in What Happened to Anna K.

Here, toward the bottom of the page, is the final moment of Katia's hopes with David: "'You look beautiful, Katie,' he said, so she got up and ran around relatives so he could see her dress from every angle, the seam that ran down her back, the slight flare at her hips. She felt drunk with herself for the first time, irresponsible. Didn't she too deserve this, the things Oleg tried to strip from her? She took surreptitious sips of wine, looked at the other young women. No, no one could compete with her tonight."
Read an excerpt from What Happened to Anna K., and learn more about the book and author at Irina Reyn's website.

Visit Irina Reyn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue