Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Big Machine"

Victor LaValle is the author of the short-story collection Slapboxing with Jesus and the novel The Ecstatic, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award.

He applied the “Page 69 Test” to his new novel, Big Machine, and reported the following:
“Six months later I barely remembered a time when I didn’t dress in three-piece suits.”

Page 69 in my new novel, Big Machine, is actually the start of a chapter and the sentence above is the first line on the page. I’d say it was pretty representative of the book because the book is about change. Personal change, political change, moral and ethical transformation. A whole bunch of changes occur in and around the two main characters: Ricky Rice and Adele Henry. It’s also about some of the profound changes in present day American culture.

Ricky Rice, your humble narrator throughout most of the book, starts as an ex-heroin addict and petty criminal, a janitor at a bus station in Utica, New York. At work he receives a mysterious envelope with a note and a bus ticket. The ticket takes him to northeastern Vermont and there he joins a secret society called the Washburn Library. By page 69 he’s already been there for six months and he’s changed, both inside and out. The three piece-suit he’s wearing is a gift from the Library, but it’s become a kind of uniform too. He’s no longer that man who cleaned bus stations, but when he’s called up to meet his boss and given a very dangerous assignment he’s faced with a new concern: what kind of man would he like to become?
Read an excerpt from Big Machine and learn more about the book and author at Victor LaValle's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue