Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"Visible City"

Tova Mirvis is the author of three novels, Visible City, The Outside World and The Ladies Auxiliary, which was a national bestseller. Her essays have appeared in various anthologies and newspapers including The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, CommentaryGood Housekeeping, and Poets and Writers, and her fiction has been broadcast on National Public Radio. She has been a Scholar in Residence at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University, and Visiting Scholar at The Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center. She lives in Newton, MA with her three children.

Mirvis applied the Page 69 Test to Visible City and reported the following:
From page 69:
Only before going to sleep did Nina remember to check on Hop, the pet Max had already started to lose interest in. Unable to recall the last time she’d fed him, Nina steeled herself to the possibility that she’d killed him.

Not only was Hop alive, he was thriving. In the absence of attention, Hop had taken the final leap. Finally more frog than tadpole, he had emerged from the water and stood on the rock, calmly taking in his surroundings. It was almost midnight, but Nina tiptoed into Max’s room.

Breaking the cardinal rule of their existence, Nina woke a sleeping child. Max opened his eyes, confused then thrilled. In the living room, they all looked into the bowl, Jeremy taking a rare break from his work, Max leaning in so close that his breathing fogged the glass.

“How did Hop know how to become a frog?” Max asked them.

“That’s just what they do,” Jeremy explained.

“It’s how their bodies work,” Nina said. In her son’s eyes, a look of pure wonder, the world on the cusp of breaking wide open.
On page 69, Nina, Jeremy and their four year old son Max are spending a quiet night at home in their Manhattan apartment. This evening is somewhat of an anomaly because Jeremy usually works late while Nina spends her nights alone, looking out the windows at her neighbors across the way. Nina is lonely and restless, and these neighbors become a way to escape her own life. At first Nina is content to watch and imagine, but her restlessness soon propels her to becomes entangled in her neighbors’ lives.

On this page, Nina realizes that she has been forgetting to feed Hop, the class tadpole that Max brought home from nursery school. She worries that she has killed it but instead, discovers that the tadpole has finally turned into a frog. Sometimes small changes happen when we stop looking so closely.

Hop returns in later chapters and this gave me a chance to think about the wonders of the natural world that exist inside the concrete grid of the city. Sometimes only children notice the marvels taking place around us. So much of the book is about what we see and don’t see, in the city around us and in the people we love, so this was a chance to play with this idea in a different way.

One of the themes too of the book is about over-parenting and kids who are scrutinized, all the time. For the current generation of mothers, so much is said about how you are supposed to be raising your kids. Here, Nina breaks the cardinal rule of their existence by waking a sleeping child, in order to show Max their newly transformed pet. The parents in my novel pay much attention to the edicts of parenting, but for one moment, the rules are broken in order to share a small moment of wonder.
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Writers Read: Tova Mirvis.

--Marshal Zeringue