Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Rich Boy"

Sharon Pomerantz is a graduate of the University of Michigan's M.F.A. program. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous journals, including The Missouri Review and Ploughshares. Her story "Ghost Knife" was included in The Best American Short Stories 2003, and "Shoes" was nationally broadcast on NPR's Selected Shorts. She currently teaches writing at the University of Michigan.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Rich Boy, her first novel, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Rich Boy, the main character, Robert Vishniak, is a scholarship student in his freshman year at Tufts University. Tufts was technically considered co-ed back then, but the Jackson College girls, who lived on campus, were "guarded by housemothers who took their jobs seriously. Boys visited officially on Sunday afternoons; they sat in the living room and talked to their dates, drinking nonalcoholic punch and eating cookies while a chaperone looked on. The girls had to sign in and out at night--and at the end of Saturday night, the boys were permitted only up to the dorm entrance, known as the fishbowl, where they said good-bye amid a flurry of public scrutiny."

Before coming to Tufts, Robert grew up in the row houses of Northeast Philadelphia, where he had access to many neighborhood girls and was sexually precocious, so these restrictions frustrate him—especially as he spent the early chapters of the novel dreaming of getting away from his family to the “freedom” of college.

Rich Boy is very much about Robert's relationships with women—he is a man who needs women, and living without them almost drives him crazy. Of course, he is also a striver, and his childhood and good looks have given him a certain self-confidence that, ironically, many of his wealthier, more privileged classmates lack. So he sets about trying to correct the problem. This page most definitely addresses themes of sexuality, societal change and the contrasts that class create--all of which play out in Rich Boy.
Read an excerpt from Rich Boy, and learn more about the book and author at Sharon Pomerantz's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue