Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Dear Money"

The author of four previous novels and a finalist for the National Book Award, Martha McPhee lives in New York City with her children and husband, the poet and writer Mark Svenvold. A few years ago, when a legendary bond trader claimed he could transform her into a booming Wall Street success, she toyed with the notion--but wrote Dear Money instead.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Dear Money and reported the following:
What an interesting exercise, The Page 69 Test. I turned to that page and the first words I saw were: "Why do we like to keep our writers poor?" The entire page is a conversation between the protagonist, India Palmer, and her husband Theodore. She's tired of being cash-strapped. She's questioning her commitment to her craft. She's longing for the grown-up life, to have enough. This is the central predicament of the novel. With two children, married to an artist, an artist herself, India can't quite keep up in New York City. It's 2004, the height of the housing bubble when real estate was is the air and everyone, all across America, it seemed, owned her own home. The only true value of things was how much money you made. If you were a novelist, as India still was on page 69, the questions asked of her by others was: How are you book sales? How do you create when those are the terms? A little before page 69, India meets a mortgage-backed securities trader from a glittering Wall Street firm and he propositions her. After expressing curiosity about what the trader does, he says: If you give me 18 months I'll turn you into a trader of renown. By page 69 the pressures of keeping up cause her to take very seriously his proposition. She feels like a traitor to her talent and tossing this around with her husband, in the dark night of their bedroom, she is slipping away from art as he still believes in her as a writer. What will happen? Will she go to Wall Street and be transformed Pygmalion-like into a MBS trader? (Yes.) Will she have a love affair with money? (Yes.) After all is said and done and the financial world blows up, will she return to writing? (Hmm?) Where and how do art and commerce intersect and who comes out the winner in this foolish age? On page 69 questions are tossed into the air like a juggler's spinning balls.
View the Dear Money book trailer, and learn more about the book and author at Martha McPhee's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue