Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It"

Maile Meloy is the author of the story collection Half in Love, and the novels Liars and Saints, shortlisted for the 2005 Orange Prize, and A Family Daughter. Meloy’s stories have been published in The New Yorker, and she has received The Paris Review’s Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2007, Meloy was chosen as one of Granta’s Best American Novelists under 35.

She applied the “Page 69 Test” to her new book, the story collection Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, and reported the following:
This is a long paragraph from page 69 of my story collection Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It. It’s in a story called “Spy vs. Spy.” Aaron’s brother George has invited him skiing, but it turns out he invited Aaron’s college-age daughter (George’s niece) first:

Aaron hung up and spent the rest of the evening fuming at George’s presumption. Aaron’s daughter, Claire, was now a sophomore in college, but he didn’t think of her as someone who could be invited separately on a trip. She was the little girl who had climbed on his head, who had asked him if people could see inside her mind, who had loved his old Mad magazines as he thought no girl had ever loved Mad, giggling at them while he read the paper, asking sometimes to have things explained. Into her teens she had stayed home on weekend nights and watched old movies with him, curled under his arm on the couch, while Bea wandered off, losing interest. He could still feel the weight of his daughter’s head against his chest, and see, cast in silver light from the TV, the rapt absorption with which she watched. The only movie they disagreed on was Rebecca. It was his least favorite Hitchcock, but she loved the sweet, simple girl meeting the rich man with the dark secrets: “I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool,” shouted from his hotel dressing room.

It’s about the way parents struggle to adjust to their children growing up, which is an element in a lot of my stories. I like writing about fathers and daughters, and I like reading about them. Plots about fathers always get to me in movies: I may be the only person who cried at the end of Armageddon.

The story “Spy vs. Spy” is about sibling rivalry, and the girl becomes the center of the struggle between the two brothers. I realized when I was writing the stories in this book that my characters spar in all kinds of ways, but they almost never actually fight. Instead of careful reserve and restraint and tension, I wanted to have a story with an all-out, clumsy, grappling fistfight—on skis, so it’s even clumsier.

The story first appeared on Dave Daley’s site, which serializes short stories. His idea was that we all waste time going online and checking out celebrity photos and gossip sites, so why not read five minutes of a short story? He gets great stories from great writers. Ideally there would be links that said Red Carpet Fashion Disaster! that took you straight there.
Read an excerpt from Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, and learn more about the author and her work at Maile Meloy's website.

The Page 99 Test: Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It.

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

--Marshal Zeringue