Thursday, October 22, 2009

"New World Monkeys"

Nancy Mauro is a writer and has worked as a creative director at a Manhattan advertising agency. She has lived and worked in Toronto and in Vancouver where she was a fellow and graduate of the University of British Columbia's MFA program in creative writing. She is the recipient of several Ontario Art Council grants as well as Canadian Council grants for emerging writers. Her work has been nominated for the prestigious McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize, received gold at the Western Magazine Awards, and placed in the international Toronto Star Fiction Contest. Mauro's short stories and nonfiction have appeared in various magazines, anthologies and newspapers.

She applied the Page 69 Test to New World Monkeys, her debut novel, and reported the following:
The Pervert on the Page

There’s a pervert on Page 69. He’s there on page 68 and continues through to page 70. In fact, open a copy of New World Monkeys to any chapter and you’ll find him: Lloyd, the intellectual, pear-shaped Peeping Tom and resident library pervert with a penchant for school girls in hiked-up kilts.

Page 69 reveals Lloyd deep in a getting-to-know you conversation with Lily, the female protagonist. Lily has just witnessed his botched lechery attempt on a teenage girl in the Osterhagen Lending Library stacks. But instead of repulsion—rather than report him to the librarian—she agrees to have a smoke with him in the courtyard. Now, this scene may signal to the squeamish reader that it’s time to put the book down. After all, what would possess Lily to do such a thing? Well, the truth is Lily’s a tightly wound young academic whose Ph.D. dissertation and marriage are both floundering. She’s sequestered herself in a small, upstate library in order to turn one (or both) around, but finds herself languishing and distracted.

“And you were impressed with my technique in the stacks? Unimpressed?” Lloyd gestures to the building.


“Which is it? A critical analysis, please.”

“The heart was there,” Lily says and pinches the cigarette to death against the lip of fountain. “But your approach could use some work. You know, I saw you the other day. Coming out of the women’s bathroom.” She remembers his thumbs-up—as though she had been sitting there to field prospects for him or to keep watch.

“An old trick.” He nods. “This might surprise you Lily, but I’ve been a deviant my entire life.” Lloyd stands up, paces a bit. “I change locations, for sure. Same way a man of the earth approaches his hundred acres. You leave the ground idle one season and it’ll turn up lush wheat the next. Haven’t come around the Osterhagen library since the late nineties. And, Christ, the place is crawling!” He looks through the gate toward to the main building, licking his lips as though they were trimmed with honey. “Bad school girls in uniform. Just like MTV.”

The scene is, perhaps, resonant with the novel’s theme of ambition. Each character wants nothing more than to be really good at something, to become A Man of Importance. Lloyd, like Lily and her ad man husband Duncan, feel their young ambition running up against the realities of a world where someone is always better, quicker, smarter and pervier than you are. Lloyd is a Peeping Tom by trade who dreams of making the leap to Frotteurism (which is non-consensual touching). Lily perceives this, applies it to her own desires and makes one egregious mistake in the process: she rationalizes away the fact that Lloyd’s ambitions are deviant, immoral and against the law.

But a girl so tightly-wound must come undone. And in New World Monkeys that unspooling comes through Lily’s apprenticeship to Lloyd. Together they take to the alleyways and rooftops of Osterhagen with cathartic gusto. From the introductory exchange on Page 69 to Lloyd’s role as Svengali of Instinct, it is Lily the disciple who will soon be chin-upping herself to a second story window sash.
Read an excerpt from New World Monkeys and learn more about the book and author at Nancy Mauro's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue