Thursday, April 1, 2010

"In the Company of Angels"

Thomas E. Kennedy was born in New York. He has lived in Copenhagen for over two decades, and has worked, among other things, as a translator for Copenhagen's Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims. He is the author of over 20 books including novels, as well as several collections of short stories and essays, and has won numerous awards including the Eric Hoffer Award, the Pushcart Prize, the O. Henry Prize and the National Magazine Award.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his novel In the Company of Angels and reported the following:
Marshall McLuhan chose page 69 as his test sample page of any book someone is considering reading. I’ve never tried the page 69 test myself; while there is something to be said for the occasional refreshment of arbitrariness, in excess it can be capricious and unreasonable. I prefer my father’s ten-page test; when we didn’t want to sit still for him to read a book to us, his rule was that we listen for ten pages and then, if we wanted, we were free to go; invariably, however, by page ten, we were hooked.

How does the page 69 test fare with my own recent novel, In the Company of Angels (Bloomsbury, 2010)? In fact, that page shows one of the least central characters in the novel, a young lawyer named Voss Andersen, at an official dinner in the process of getting drunk; by itself the page shows little of the significance of the scene unfolding for the narrative flow of the book.

Of the six characters portrayed within In the Company of Angels, the two most central are Bernardo “Nardo” Greene, a Chilean torture survivor being treated in Copenhagen’s torture rehabilitation center, and Michela Ibsen, herself the survivor of a violent marriage. And the central question, I suppose, is how to open to love in a world tainted by evil and violence? Neither of these central characters appear on page 69 of the novel – well, Michela is glimpsed for one sentence – and that central question is beyond formulation in Voss Andersen’s callow consciousness; it will take him most of the book to even scratch the surface of an awareness of love. Each of the six characters in the novel approaches the question at his or her own pace in accordance with his or her own state of development and his or her capacities.

It takes all 288 pages of the book for the drama to unfold in fullness. Page 69 – or any other arbitrarily chosen page – will not suffice. But the first ten pages would be a good place to start.
Learn more about the book and author at Thomas E. Kennedy's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue