Monday, January 5, 2009

"Songs for the Missing"

Stewart O'Nan's award-winning fiction includes Snow Angels, The Speed Queen, A Prayer for the Dying, and Last Night at the Lobster. Granta named him one of the twenty Best Young American Novelists in 1995.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Songs for the Missing, and reported the following:
It's funny, the Page 69 Test, because page 69 of Songs for the Missing is both representative and an anomaly. Songs is written for the most part in a third-person subjective, the stand-alone sections emphasizing the isolation of the characters during the hard days and weeks and months after a young woman, Kim Larsen, disappears from her small town. I try to stay close to the characters as they try to find her, and their own feelings for what's going on, to let the reader be intimate with them in some very quiet moments, but here on p. 69 I'm using an omniscient third, and halfway down the page I pull away from Fran's (the mother's) POV and move to Lindsay's (the daughter's) as she escapes the conversation and goes upstairs to be alone. It's one of maybe three times I do it in the entire book. So the movement from one character to another is both representative, since we go into several lives, but also anomalous, in that I rarely do it so overtly within a single section. But that absolute, businesslike concentration that Fran brings to the task of getting her daughter back ('All day she'd been documenting their efforts, and couldn't stop, as if distilling their thoughts on paper gave them more power.'), and Lindsay's avoidance of her parents' love and terror, in the name of self-preservation ('Downstairs one of them would sit next to her and want to talk. Upstairs she could stare at her bedspread and no one would care.'), are perfect encapsulations of their personalities.
Listen to an excerpt from Songs for the Missing, and learn more about the author and his work at Stewart O'Nan's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue