Saturday, July 2, 2011

"Paradise Dogs"

Man Martin is a writer, teacher, and founding member of the Perambulators living in Atlanta, Georgia. His debut novel, Days of the Endless Corvette, made him Georgia Author of the Year in 2008.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Paradise Dogs, and reported the following:
Here is page 69 of Paradise Dogs. I begin with the first complete sentence.
Adam knew what a serious game Potter was playing; with stakes as high as this, laws were made to be broken. Adam had spotted William Potter as military as soon as he saw him; that cool gaze, those squared shoulders, the long assurance of being top dog.

Navy? Adam had asked.

Army, Potter replied. Major General. Retired. You?

Four-F, Adam admitted, too proud to drop his gaze. Fallen arches.

Because Adam had been willing albeit unfit to serve, he’d gotten the Honorable Service Pin – honorable! A plastic eagle, wings spread but feet planted – fallen arches, no doubt – signifying that this bird wasn’t no way doing no fighting for nobody no how. No one called it the Honorable Service Pin, and no one used the nickname to Adam’s face, but he knew what it was: the Ruptured Duck. You had to wear your Ruptured Duck to keep from getting questioned by mp’s or hearing dark mutters of passersby: What’s wrong with him? Why isn’t he doing his bit? It was a choice between the humiliation of facing the world with the pin or without it.

Adam would have happily sold Ayefour his land, but he felt entitled to be admitted to the inner circle about the so-called Venezuela Project – the codename assigned the Cross-Florida Barge Canal. After thirty minutes’ of having all his questions parried by bland non-responses, Adam had begun to grow exasperated. I know what this is for, he said. But you’re buying up too much land – and in the wrong directions. You’re going north and south and you should go east and west. I need to see your engineers. General Potter turned up his manicured but powerful hands as if to show he hadn’t brought any engineers with him. I’ve done my research, Adam said, I know what this is for. Will you at least admit you still work for Uncle Sam?
Paradise Dogs is a farce set in pre-Disney Florida. Like all good farces, it has plenty of knock-about action, absurd plot twists, mistaken identities, and the like. And then, in true farcical fashion, everything wraps up neatly and abruptly in a happy ending. Or is the ending as happy as it seems? I’m hoping for an undertow of sadness that suggests all happiness is provisional and temporary, and the best we can do is savor it while we wait for the next rain of disasters to fall on our heads.

In a novel that is very silly, this is one of the relatively serious passages. All the cloak-and-dagger stuff – the Cross-Florida Canal, the Venezuela Project – is just pure goofiness, but the part about Adam’s being Four-F is something that deeply stings his pride. The memory of having to wear the Honorable Service Pin, and knowing the humiliating nickname that went with it, is just one of the many things from his past Adam wants to undo, “un-bungle” as he puts it. Of course, you can’t undo the past, and the Golden Age, the “paradise,” we imagine once existed and might exist again if just this time we could get things right, is a delusion. But we still keep chasing it, don’t we?
Learn more about the book and author at Man Martin's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Man Martin and Zoe.

Writers Read: Man Martin.

My Book, The Movie: Paradise Dogs.

--Marshal Zeringue