Monday, January 16, 2012

"From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant"

Alex Gilvarry is a native of Staten Island, New York. He has been a Norman Mailer Fellow and has written for The Paris Review, among other publications. He is the founding editor of the website Tottenville Review, a book review collaborative.

Gilvarry applied the Page 69 Test to From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, his debut novel, and reported the following:
Even though I know in my heart of hearts that the page 69 test shouldn’t work, I still feel like I failed the exam. In fact, on the night I first came upon this blog, I had my usual anxiety nightmare. I’m walking through the halls of my high school, arriving late for homeroom, where a test of unspecified origins is being taken. It’s the final. I can tell by the way Anthony Lebecci is cheating over Mike DeSorentino’s shoulder. And there’s that son-of-a-bitch Artie Polakis giving me the finger with his tongue out. Miss Mora, the Spanish teacher, is seated next to him with her arms wrapped around Polakis’s fat neck. Then the bell rings. Test’s over.

On page 69 of my novel, we’re caught mid-scene. It’s a moment between our hero, Boy Hernandez—fashion designer, immigrant, and soon to be enemy combatant—and a man named Ahmed Qureshi, a Pakistani salesman. Boy’s being roped into a fabric deal by Ahmed, one that will set off a series of events that leads Boy into the hands of homeland security. It’s a hard-luck story of post-9/11 paranoia, part political satire and part coming-of-age tale (though our narrator is a 25-year-old man).
[Ahmed] was a persuasive salesman… So there I was, looking after my own interests. But isn’t that why we do anything? As citizens of modernity we’re always trying to better our social status, right down to the smallest detail. Luxury, comfort, it’s all a part of getting ahead. If that’s a crime, then I’m guilty as charged.
Here, Boy is trying to justify his own actions—to himself, to his interrogator in Guantanamo Bay prison, and to the reader—and his admission of outright social climbing is quite evident, too. “I was desperate to move into Williamsburg, where I knew I truly belonged.”

My page 69 is mostly dialogue, so the reader will tend to feel a bit lost. You’ll be entering my high school anxiety dream, walking into a final, head first, without a clue in the world. As the author, I definitely recommend sampling page one first (for context) then perhaps hop to page 69. Only then will it pass the test.
Learn more about the book and author at Alex Gilvarry's website.

--Marshal Zeringue