Monday, June 10, 2013


Roxana Robinson's new novel is Sparta.

She is the author of four earlier novels, three collections of short stories, and the biography Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life. Four of these were named Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, More, and Vogue, among other publications.

Robinson applied the Page 69 Test to Sparta and reported the following:
This page shows my protagonist, Conrad Farrell, after four years in the Marines. He has been deployed twice to Iraq and now is back home, and sitting in the library with his parents, watching a movie – one of his favorites, Life of Brian. Conrad is trying to relax, in the civilian world, but he’s finding it increasingly difficult. Everything here feels strange and unfamiliar. His own bedroom upstairs feels no longer like his:
Here there was no room for him as an adult, the closet was still filled with his childhood clothes. He was a child here. But where else was there?...They settled in to watch the movie…It was a relief to sink into it, to feel the dark fist of pressure against his chest begin to release. To laugh out loud.

As the movie went on, the first against his heart began to clench again. Crowds of robed people milled about, pressing bodies, confusion, growing chaos. He wanted someone to take charge. His heart was speeding up and he felt the swollen surge in his throat. He watched them stand up in the amphitheatre, dangerously outlined against the sky, the crowd below shouting and mutinous. Conrad stood up and left the room. He closed the library door and went through the darkened kitchen, on out the back door.
The book is about just this problem – how can Conrad re-enter the world he left? Even the most familiar things – his house, his parents, his favorite movies – have become unknown to him. He has become unknown to himself. I was struck by this fact as I began this project – how veterans had been changed by the war, and how they were helpless afterwards, and unable to change themselves back to the people they had once been.
Learn more about the book and author at Roxana Robinson’s website.

--Marshal Zeringue