Monday, March 10, 2014

"The Ghost Apple"

Aaron Thier's writing has appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, and The Buenos Aires Review. He is a graduate of Yale University and of the MFA program at the University of Florida.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his debut novel, The Ghost Apple, and reported the following:
From page 69:
David Herring, professor of physics, laughed cheerfully and moved that we “stage a demonstration.” Perhaps Depatrickson White could strike Mr. Pinkman III with a bullwhip! He could do it on the lawn in front of Pinkman Hall.

The President treated this motion as a joke, although Richard Carlyle, professor of English, had risen to second it. Mr. Pinkman III did not react at all. He sat with his soft hands clasped, his head inclined, his rounded belly rising and falling at regular intervals.

Broward Chamberlain, professor of religion, wanted to explain that there was extensive justification for such a punishment in biblical law…
The Ghost Apple is about a small college that sells itself to a snack food company called Big Anna. The company guts the administration, drugs many of the professors, and enslaves a group of study-abroad students on its sugar plantations in the Caribbean. The novel is told as a sequence of personal and institutional documents, and this page comes from the minutes of the faculty meeting at which the partnership is announced. Professors are not yet concerned about Big Anna. Instead, they’re discussing what to do with their colleague, Bish Pinkman III, whose great-great-great grandfather was a slaveholder who owned the great-great-great-grandfather of a member of Tripoli’s football team. The faculty will decide to imprison and whip poor Pinkman, who has done nothing wrong, although the rest of this page consists of Professor Chamberlain’s pedantic explanation of the phrase “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

Other sections of the novel are very different. There are emails, letters, travelogues, pamphlets, brochures, and advertisements. I wish Richard Carlyle appeared more often. He mixes Gatorade powder into his beer and does whatever he wants, though later he feels bad about what’s happened to Pinkman. At the same time, this page is perfectly representative: Bad things happen casually in this novel, as a result of comic discussion; slavery is a pressing issue even in the twenty-first century; no one is capable of setting aside a private grievance or a lunatic preoccupation.

None of the main characters are present here, but that’s good too. In the beginning I hoped I could get away with writing a book that had no main characters, and my favorite parts are still the casual irrelevant moments.
Learn more about the book and author at Aaron Thier's website.

--Marshal Zeringue