Friday, May 3, 2013

"A Dual Inheritance"

Joanna Hershon's books include Swimming, The Outside of August, and The German Bride. Her writing has appeared in One Story, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Post Road, the literary anthology Brooklyn Was Mine, and was shortlisted for the 2007 O. Henry Prize Stories.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Dual Inheritance, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
…people were climbing steps and walking in clusters toward dinner on Mass Ave. “Not you. You’re different.”

“Is that right?”

“You know you are. Listen to you. You’re taking me to task! You are so disappointed in me right now. You are disappointed in everything and everyone, and it kills you. That’s why you’re different. Because you can’t stand it. And also, although you have shown nothing near your potential and you are in some ways—let’s face it—kind of lazy, you want to save the world.

Hugh looked down at the sidewalk and, despite himself—Ed could tell—he smiled. “And you’re going to help me do that?”

“No,” Ed said, “of course not.”

They started to walk again, and when Ed suggested they eat dinner, when he said he was starving and Hugh expressed little surprise, because Ed was always hungry—always starving—Ed finally said, “I apologize.” But it lacked a certain sharpness.

“That’s okay,” Hugh replied. But it wasn’t, not exactly.
As it happens, page 69 of A Dual Inheritance is eerily representational of the whole novel. Here are Ed and Hugh as seniors at Harvard: unlikely friends who will have an unforeseen influence over each others lives, even as their friendship goes on to end just as abruptly as it began. They have just come from a particularly intense visit to Ed’s fairly squalid childhood home. This was a spontaneous trip, and not only was Hugh (from decidedly grander digs) unprepared, but Ed’s father was taken off guard. After Ed’s father behaves true to character and Ed becomes enraged and saddened, they leave, and Hugh quietly suggests that perhaps they should have both—Ed’s father and Hugh—been given fair warning. Ed knows Hugh is right, but instead of apologizing, he attacks Hugh’s character. After this outburst, Ed tries to be just as honest as he assesses Hugh’s more promising traits. The tension and love that’s evident here on page 69 is at the heart of the novel and asks the question: can a friendship define your view of the world?
Learn more about the author and her work at Joanna Hershon's website.

The Page 69 Test: The German Bride.

My Book, The Movie: The German Bride.

Writers Read: Joanna Hershon.

--Marshal Zeringue