Monday, February 17, 2014

"Bread and Butter"

Michelle Wildgen is the author of the novels Bread and Butter, You’re Not You, and But Not For Long. The film adaptation of You’re Not You, a New York Times’ Editor’s Choice and one of People Magazine’s Top Ten Books of 2006, stars Hilary Swank and Emmy Rossum. Wildgen’s work includes fiction, essays, reviews, and food writing. She is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher, and an executive editor at the literary magazine Tin House. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Wildgen applied the Page 69 Test to Bread and Butter and reported the following:
Bread and Butter follows three brothers in the restaurant business: the older two own a place together, and the youngest comes back to town, hoping for a partnership when he opens his own. He doesn’t quite get the family business he’d hoped for, because where’s the story in that? Instead all three brothers find their lives, their relationships, and their businesses questioned and reconfigured. On page 69, the middle brother, Britt, and Harry, the youngest, are busy sniping at each beneath an apple tree—a location which, it must be acknowledged even by the characters, does not lend an air of gravitas to the proceedings.

This page focuses less on the sensory joys of a book about the restaurant industry, which are abundant elsewhere in the novel, than on one of many moments in which the simmering conflicts between the siblings are directly addressed. The three of them spar a lot, sometimes playfully and sometimes quite seriously, and always butting up again and again against the family roles that tend to go so deep we don’t always realize we’re acting them out. The older two think Harry fails to realize the difficulty of the industry he’s chosen (and implicitly, the difficulty of what they have accomplished), and Harry feels continually misperceived and overlooked by two siblings who have a much tighter bond with one another than he does with either of them. On this page you see Britt confusing even the basic facts of Harry’s experience, and while Harry may be justified in his indignant response, he’s always a little grating and combative about it too. Nobody’s quite right or quite wrong, and what kept me interested in all three of them is that they tend to mask even their hurt feelings with big dose of humor, because in reading and in life, I forgive an awful lot of you’re funny, and I suspect that’s true of most of us.
Learn more about the author and her work at Michelle Wildgen's website.

The Page 99 Test: You’re Not You.

The Page 69 Test: But Not for Long.

--Marshal Zeringue