Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Rage Is Back"

Adam Mansbach’s books include the number one international bestseller Go the Fuck to Sleep, the California Book Award– winning novel The End of the Jews, and the cult classic Angry Black White Boy. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Esquire, and The Believer, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Rage Is Back, and reported the following:
Page 69 falls in the middle of a flashback, as Dondi, the book's eighteen-year-old biracial narrator, relates a sequence of events five years earlier that unfolded after his mother's nervous breakdown and brief stay in a mental hospital. He ended up staying with the upstairs neighbors in their building in Fort Greene, Brooklyn – and being present during a confrontation that led two of the apartment's residents, Knowledge Born and Twenty-Twenty, to forcibly evict the third, Reggie, after discovering that he'd been jerking them on the rent. It's one of several relatively self-contained episodes in the book, stories within the larger story, and reflects my desire for Rage Is Back to range freely, for Dondi's voice to carry the story in whatever direction he feels is necessary and for the reader to trust him enough to carry the mission through, and feel like all the digressions pay off. So in one sense, page 69 falls outside the main plot of the book, but on the other, I'd hope it would pull a reader in anyway. Here it is; you be the judge:
When Reggie came home, the three of us were waiting in the living room: Knowledge Born on the couch, a baseball bat stashed beneath him, Twenty-Twenty leaning on a metal cane he’d found in the back of the hall closet, and your boy tucked well out of the way, over by the fire escape.

Sit down, Twenty-Twenty said, as scripted. We need to talk.

Reggie parked himself on the futon. What’s up, fellas?

I called Verizon, Twenty-Twenty said, hand on his hip. There’s no such thing as a reinstatement fee. You owe me sixty bucks.

It wasn’t a reinstatement fee, dude, it was the money we owed on the bill, plus they said they had to charge us for basic service in advance because we didn’t pay. Reggie looked around the room, then raised his voice a little, slapped his palms against his knees and bowed his arms out from his sides. What, you think I tried to rip you off?

My heart was bucking, and if Reggie had so much as made eye contact I might have jumped out the fucking window, but it was interesting to see how fast he played the wounded-indignation card. I could see why it had been effective in the past, with hippies like Sue: it forced your hand, flushed any inner doubt up to the surface. And at the same time, there was a current of intimidation running below it, like even a righteous man will rise up to defend his honor, and lest you forget I happen to be a large bear-like motherfucker.

The plan was to pick Reggie apart point by point, get him to cop to the small offenses before they raised the major stuff, but that opening statement killed Twenty-Twenty’s patience. He dipped into his room while Reggie was trying to clarify the phone situation, came back with a stack of papers.

Call Verizon right now, man. Ask them if we–

Twenty-Twenty flicked the latest overdue notice into Reggie’s lap.

You know what? Fuck the phone bill. Why are we eight thousand dollars in debt?

I gotta give Reggie credit. His face fell, but he picked it right back up and tried to turn the tables.

What the fuck were you doing in my room? he demanded, rising a few inches off the couch.
Learn more about the book and author at Adam Mansbach's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rage Is Back.

--Marshal Zeringue