Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells"

Andrew Sean Greer is the bestselling author of The Story of a Marriage and The Confessions of Max Tivoli, which was named one of the best books of 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle and received a California Book Award. He is currently a fellow at the New York Public Library Cullman Center. He lives in San Francisco.

Greer applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, and reported the following:
Here is page 69:
Later, as we made our way to the restaurant in a cab, I told him I had misstepped slightly in my conversation with his wife, and Felix glared at me with his lower lip pressed out. He was thinking something through. “What do you mean?” he asked. “Of course that’s fine, I just forgot to tell her. She knows Alan, he did my will. Don’t make her think my life is so mysterious, bubs.” He laughed, then looked out the window the way you do in cabs, finger to his chin, and I understood how deep he must be in.

* * *
How strange. To step into the Oak Room in my velvet dress and feathered explosion of a hat, purse under my arm like a baguette, chandelier glitter on everyone’s shoulders and see Alan there!

Sitting at table with his hands in a teepee, waiter beside him, silver hair cut military style, a wide-shouldered suit, but the same square lined face as ever! Same green glazed eyes! Big and broad and healthy as he had been when I’d first met him, years before. I wanted to run up and tell some old Felix joke only we knew and see his Midwestern countenance turn red with pleasure. Then pat my arm to comfort me. Over the beloved dead.

But I couldn’t. Because Felix was not dead. He was here beside me, talking to the maitre d’. And I couldn’t run up to Alan because he didn’t know me. I was only now—as he stood up and visibly, nervously swallowed—meeting him for the first time.

“Hello,” I said, smiling and taking his hand, “So you’re my brother’s lover?”
It makes no sense at all! And why? Because it's a novel with a conceit—that Greta Wells wakes up in alternative versions of her world, ones in which she and everyone she knows are living in different eras—and without understanding that conceit, this just looks like madness! Which is rather fun for me, because of course it is madness! Greta, in whose 1985 her brother Felix has died, has found herself in a 1941 world where her brother is alive! And here she is being introduced to a man she knew very well in her world—Felix' lover Alan—as if they were strangers. To the men, it is normal. To Greta, it is absurd and wonderful. I had a great deal of fun with this scene, but I wonder what on earth a reader would make of it picking up the book!
Learn more about the book and author at Andrew Sean Greer's website and follow him on Facebook.

Writers Read: Andrew Sean Greer.

--Marshal Zeringue