Thursday, January 16, 2014

"A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World"

Rachel Cantor's is the author of the novel A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World. Her stories have appeared in magazines such as The Paris Review, One Story, Ninth Letter, Kenyon Review, New England Review, Fence, and Volume 1 Brooklyn. They have been anthologized, nominated for three Pushcart Prizes, short-listed by both the O. Henry Awards and Best American Short Stories, and awarded runner-up Bridport and Graywolf/SLS Prizes. She lives in New York, in the writerly borough of Brooklyn, but has at various points made her home in most U.S. states between Virginia and Vermont. In addition to writing fiction, she freelances as a writer for nonprofits that work in developing countries. In that capacity, she's worked everywhere from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe. She spent much of her adolescence in Rome, and as a young one, wandered the world, working on food festivals in Melbourne, Australia, and European jazz festivals in France; living in rural Gujarat while interning for a Gandhian nonprofit; and teaching Afghan women refugees in Peshwar, Pakistan. She is, always, at work on another book.

Cantor applied the Page 69 Test to A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World and reported the following:
Leonard has many fine qualities, but he isn’t the brightest star in the Neetsa Pizza constellation (don’t know it? it’s that wedge-shaped bunch of stars over there, with the pepperoni, next to the Heraclitan flame). On p. 69, Leonard is finally talking to Isaac the Blind, the thirteenth-century mystic who, unbeknownst to Leonard, has been redirecting the calls Leonard should have been receiving on his Neetsa Pizza complaints hotline—redirecting them so Leonard can instead talk for a great long while with a certain medieval explorer and, in doing so, save the world. Only Leonard doesn’t realize he’s done either: as far as he’s concerned, “Marco” is a loony calling from the Finger Lakes District. On p. 69, Isaac is introducing himself; because Leonard’s attention is diffuse, Isaac is using the voice of Leonard’s grandfather, hoping this will focus him. Instead, it only confuses Leonard further, especially when Isaac claims to have known the grandfather in earlier times: Leonard assumes he means in the “old country,” while Isaac actually means through an incarnation some seven centuries back. On this same page, Isaac begins to draw from Leonard the reason why he was chosen to talk to the explorer, why he, and not Isaac, was the appropriate person to have in this instance saved the world; it has something to do with Leonard becoming the explorer’s friend. Page 69 is utterly representative of the book: it contains humor, pathos, historical characters, a fantastic setting, and offers a good sense of Leonard’s loyalty and sweetness.
Visit Rachel Cantor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue