Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"Everything Matters!"

Ron Currie, Jr.'s first book, God is Dead, won the Young Lions Fiction Award from the New York Public Library and the Addison M. Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to Everything Matters!, his debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my novel Everything Matters! is representative of the whole of the book in that it details the first meeting of the two characters whose love serves as one of the story’s centerpieces. The protagonist, Junior Thibodeau, is in gifted and talented class on the day of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and like kids all over the country, he and his classmates are watching the launch live on closed-circuit television. But Junior can’t concentrate on the launch, because a girl named Amy has just been introduced as a transfer from the Catholic school across town, and Junior is instantly smitten. Amy sits next to him, and as the lights are dimmed Junior is ostensibly watching the television, but in actuality he can’t take any of his other senses off of Amy—he smells the fabric softener on her clothes, hears the whisper of her breath, even feels the heat from her body. Then, of course, his attention is wrenched away from Amy when the shuttle explodes, and as he watches in horror he feels Amy’s hand on his, and this is the manner in which their love is first consummated:

“You feel Amy’s palm slide down the back of your hand, and when her fingers interlace with yours and squeeze, you squeeze back. It is not nearly the thrill that it should be. It is bare comfort. And then, as the first pieces of the Challenger hit the water off Cape Canaveral, the PAO finally comes back on. Reluctantly, as though he’s being prodded with the point of a blade, he utters what may be one of the biggest understatements of the twentieth century: ‘Obviously,’ he says, ‘a major malfunction.’”

It’s a bad portent for Junior and Amy, who despite the fact that they love one another deeply are up against some pretty serious forces, both earthly and cosmic, that conspire to keep them apart. And these forces succeed, for a while and in a manner. After graduating from high school Amy gives Junior the boot and moves to California, while Junior takes up drinking in Chicago. Years pass, and through a series of circumstances the two find themselves together again, then again separated in a manner that seems final. Through a twist of plot, though, they get an unlikely third chance, and the outcome of Junior’s life more or less hinges on what he does with it.
Read an excerpt from Everything Matters!, and learn more about the book and author at Ron Currie, Jr.'s website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue