Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Of Sea and Cloud"

Jon Keller is the author of the novel Of Sea and Cloud. He holds an MFA from Boise State University. After graduate school, he moved to a remote stretch of the Maine coast and spent several years working aboard a lobster boat and writing for a commercial fishing newspaper. Now a clam digger, he divides his time between Maine and Montana.

Keller applied the Page 69 Test to Of Sea and Cloud and reported the following:
Osmond Randolph: ex-Calvanist minister, lobsterman, murderer. Page 69 finds him aboard his boat Sanctity, miles offshore, his twin granddaughters and his grandson with him. This is the first chapter that features Osmond at center stage. He’s killed his only friend, and he’s back on the water, but he’s struggling to keep guilt and fear at bay as he tries to rationalize—via his remaining Calvinist beliefs—what he’s done.

Then he discovers that a string of traps (20 lobster traps) that he’d set was missing, a pivotal event in the arc of the book.

So page 69 is not only indicative of Of Sea and Cloud as a novel, but it’s a particularly poignant page. It’s both a rare glimpse into the fragile side of a monstrous character and a milestone in the novel’s trajectory.

From page 69:
Osmond grinned and held a gloved hand in the air as if to silence the wind while he said, That is our secret. Lobsters like it here, and I cannot tell you why. That is something only the Lord knows.

Julius picked the traps and baited them and set them at the stern. Osmond watched his depth finder as he maneuvered over the narrow underwater canyon and he nodded to Julius and Julius pushed the first trap overboard as Osmond followed the canyon and one by one all ten traps pulled each other into the sea.

They hauled nineteen more trawls then steamed north and the coast rose like a black nebula disconnected from anything below. They ran for an hour before Osmond spotted the red and black metal buoys marking the Leviathan. This had been Nicolas’s territory but Nicolas was gone now and here came fear riding the thought of Nicolas like a parasite and what had he done? What had he done? Osmond looked at his hands as if they alone had betrayed him but he knew they had not. He told himself that the death of Nicolas Graves did not belong to him any more than the life of Nicolas Graves had.

He focused on the Leviathan Ground. His eyes scanned the water for buoys he could not find. Slowly the fact that they were gone penetrated his thoughts. He slowed his boat to a stop.

What the fuck is this? Julius said. Where the fuck are our traps?

Osmond did not hear the boy. He stared at the empty water.

Dolly and Rhonda watched from their perches.

They cut our traps? Those sonsofbitches cut our traps? Julius said. The voice to Osmond held sound but no meaning and Osmond stared and his fists pumped and flexed then released and again and again until his arms and shoulders and entire torso pumped and flexed.

Julius saw this flexing and stepped backward.
Visit Jon Keller's website.

Writers Read: Jon Keller.

--Marshal Zeringue