Sunday, May 27, 2012

"The Kissing List"

Stephanie Reents's fiction has been included in the O. Henry Prize Stories, noted in Best American Short Stories, and has appeared in numerous journals. She has been a Bread Loaf Conference Scholar, a Stegner Fellow, and a Rhodes Scholar. Reents is an assistant professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

She  applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, The Kissing List, and reported the following:
I was hoping, as I thumbed through my collection of interconnected stories, The Kissing List, that page 69 might feature one of my female characters falling in love and/or kickboxing, but then I remembered that most of my book deals with love’s disappointments, the heartbreaking loss of friends, and unsatisfying jobs.

We spend so much of our 20s figuring out who we are and what we want to do with our lives, and our choice of a career is a big part of that. I wanted some of my stories to deal with the mundane realities of the working world and the hard choices that young people face as they reluctantly let go of some of the idealism they nurtured in college. In “Temporary,” the protagonist, Vita, has found temporary refuge in temping because it allows her to imagine that she can still become anything, but by the final pages of the story, with the financial pressures of supporting herself increasing, she concludes that “[a] temp is just a worker with commitment issues.”

On Page 69, Vita is interviewing for a job at a trade publication that puts out newsletters like “The Secondary Loan Market” and “Derivatives Today.” As part of the interview, she has been asked to write a make-believe article about a rumored “M & A” deal, and because she’s still a little green, she has revealed the identity of one of her off-the-record sources to another source, which is a big no-no according to Leo, the man interviewing her.

Is page 69 representative of the rest of my book? Does it pass the test? Gosh, I don’t know. I think it does a pretty good job of finding humor in an awkward situation.

Page 69 of The Kissing List:
“I’m sorry,” [Vita] says. “I just assumed…I don’t know…that an anonymous source isn’t super reliable, and you can’t build a story around one? That was our policy at school.”

“This is the real world,” Leo continues, “and in the real world people’s asses are on the line all the time, but especially when they pass on information you shouldn’t have. Let me tell you…” He pauses, looking down at her resume. “…Vita, anyone who’s anyone around here has only gotten there by cultivating reliable inside sources. By being discreet. By being a good friend.”

“I’m sorry,” she says again. “Is he going to be OK?”


“My inside source?”

For a split second he stares at her. Then he laughs. It sounds like barking. “You’re funny.”

She smiles, as though she’s a person capable of telling jokes when in truth the story has sucked her into its vortex, its hold so tight she has momentarily forgotten that it’s fabricated. Plus: she can’t stand making mistakes, even fictional ones. Plus: this is a job interview. Crimeny.

“I’ll be in touch,” Leo says, standing and offering his hand.

“Thanks,” she says, thinking she needs to cultivate a firmer grip. “I know I made a mistake, but I think I’d make a great reporter.”
Learn more about the book and author at Stephanie Reents's website.

--Marshal Zeringue