Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Vanessa Veselka is a writer and musician living in Portland, Oregon. She has been, at various times, a teenage runaway, a sex-worker, a union organizer, a student of paleontology, an expatriate, an independent record label owner, a train-hopper, a waitress, and a mother. Her work has appeared in Bust, Bitch, Maxmum Rock ’n’ Roll, Yeti Magazine and Tin House.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Zazen, and reported the following:
The Rat Queen shook her head in a shower of pennies and beads and scratched at the cinders of Old Honduras looking for her children too. Police set up a barricade at one end of the street and another several blocks down in the other direction. Mirror hauled the Saint with the Black Tears back to the restaurant. I followed a few minutes later, walking through gusts of smoke. Chips of flaming auto shop whizzed by my head, most of them no bigger than a quarter. There was still some pink on the horizon but mostly it was night now. Above us stars were hidden in the haze.
This is Della, the narrator, describing the aftermath of a bombing. At first glance, this passage seems pretty impenetrable and I could easily see someone picking it up, looking at this page and saying, “What is this arty crap? What the hell is a Rat Queen? I think I’ll get a beer and browse.” But in the context of the novel this page isn’t impenetrable because the Della’s language develops as she goes. The auto shop down the street has just blown-up and what we’re getting here is Della’s way of talking about things, how she sees them. The Rat Queen is close, like a specter it haunts her sense of her world, not like a metaphor, but rather like something she can't quite name and tries to. The uneasy tone in this section is definitely something that weaves through Zazen. So back to the reader in the bookstore—would they buy it or browse more? I’ll just keep my fingers crossed.
Learn more about the book and author at Vanessa Veselka's blog.

My Book, The Movie: Zazen.

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

--Marshal Zeringue