Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"Bone Worship"

Iranian-American author Elizabeth Eslami was born in Gaffney, South Carolina. She attended Sarah Lawrence College, where she received her B.A. in 2000. She went on to earn an M.F.A. from the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Bone Worship, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Excerpt from page 69:
People began to gather around the snake handler, but they were not like his boys with their amber eyes and the pressure of their eager concentration. They stood and shifted their weight, some looked back to the fountain, their attention elsewhere. The snake handler circled his coiled cobra. It was still, throwing its head at him just twice.

How many times have you been bitten? a young girl asked him. I bet you’ve had the fangs removed, someone said. They don’t even have to do that, they milk out the venom, someone else replied.

The snake handler returned to his family with less money than he had when he left. He told his wife what happened. She nodded and painted her lips. He looked at himself in the mirror and was glad he had married a woman who did not speak. Outside, his sons played with the cobra. It won’t eat, they told him. It seems sick.

It is old, the snake handler said.
Bone Worship is a hybrid, a story of the relationship between an American daughter and her Iranian father, and a story about stories. It looks at why we tell ourselves what we do and what it means for that kind of storytelling – especially about the ones we know and love best – to function medicinally, doing good things for a troubled heart.

This micro-tale about the snake handler, which comes to an end on page 69 and into page 70, is representative of that fantasy half of the novel, another in a series about Jasmine Fahroodhi’s father that might or might not be true, along with stories about wolves and Eskimos, ominous pistachio trees, and dead brides. While this passage might seem on its face to traffic in the exotic, (an Indian snake handler, no less!) it’s really a snapshot of a man after a bad day at work, albeit a man whose work involves dancing around a cobra. Like anyone else, he has to come home to his family, to his quiet wife and his worried sons, knowing that the future is uncertain.

Would someone want to read on, you ask? I hope so. If readers enjoy being transported to a world of animals, tame and wild, of human deeds strange, loving, and cruel, I think they’ll like this novel. Mostly, I just want people to connect to the idea of embracing the mysteries of those we love. Sometimes, in the end, we have to fill a wound with stories.
Learn more about the book and author at Elizabeth Eslami's website.

--Marshal Zeringue