Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy"

Charlotte Greig worked as a music journalist in print and radio before becoming a folk singer and songwriter. She has made five albums and written a book on girl groups, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?: Girl Groups from the 50s On. Greig is also a playwright, for radio and stage.

She applied the “Page 69 Test” to A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my novel A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy is, in my view, fairly representative of the rest of the book. The narrator, Susannah, comes over as a rather naïve young woman who is attracted to her boyfriend, Jason, because he’s glamorous and worldly, rather than because she feels any deep emotional connection with him. In fact, it is precisely the lack of emotional connection that, in the wake of her father’s death, draws her to him - although at this point, as in other aspects of her life, her unwillingness to engage has started to become constraining.

She describes their lovemaking in a characteristically unsentimental way as perfunctory and not very satisfying. There is a strong hint here that Jason is gay, although clearly, Susannah doesn’t realise it at this stage, and the reader, too, might well not pick up on it until later.

The fashionable retro clothes are described in detail, as is the antique necklace that Jason gives her, because I wanted to get a feel of the period, the early 1970s. I wondered if modern readers would believe that my central character, Susannah, could have a gay boyfriend and not realise it - which actually, was not that unusual at the time - but nobody seems to have complained about it so far.

One complaint I have had is that there is not enough philosophy in the book (others have complained that there is too much). There certainly isn’t any on this page, or on many of the others. That’s because the book is first and foremost a novel, a story. The protagonist happens to be a philosophy student, and when she becomes pregnant by mistake, she turns to her philosophy books - particularly Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling - for help. It’s not a primer. It’s about how ideas can shape and change our lives, especially when we’re young. I think that’s something different, and on that level, the philosophy is there to provide a commentary on, and hopefully illuminate, Susannah’s central dilemma about whether to have an abortion or not, which comes up later in the story.
Read an excerpt from A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy, and learn more about the author and her work--both words and music--at Charlotte Greig's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue