Monday, October 13, 2014

"Electric City"

Elizabeth Rosner is the author of The Speed of Light, which has been translated into nine languages and was awarded the Harold U. Ribalow Prize administered by Hadassah Magazine and judged by Elie Wiesel. It was short-listed for France’s Prix Femina and the recipient of the Prix France Bleu Gironde. Rosner also received the 2002 Great Lakes Colleges New Writer’s Award for Fiction. Her second novel Blue Nude was named a 2006 Best Book by the San Francisco Chronicle. Her essays have been published by the New York Times Magazine, Elle, the Forward, Huffington Post, and many anthologies. She is a frequent book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Rosner applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Electric City, and reported the following:
In all honesty I'd never heard of this test before, but as of today I've become a Believer. Fascinating how such a supposedly random detail can produce a perfectly ripe opportunity for encapsulating an entire novel!

In the case of Electric City, this page is the last of a pivotal chapter in which two of my main characters (the ones soon to be entangled in a sort-of-but-not-quite love triangle) have just been discussing their shared interest in the personal as well as collective history of the town in which they are living. They've met among the stacks of the Public Library, and the ghost of Charles Proteus Steinmetz hovers nearby. He was an eccentric scientist nicknamed "The Wizard of Electric City" and also "Modern Jupiter," for being the first to create artificial lightning in a laboratory back in 1919. Now Martin Longboat, Mohawk grandson of Steinmetz's best friend, and Sophie Levine, daughter of a post-war wave of immigrants and scientists, are considering the ways that the previous year's dramatic power outage (November 9th, 1965) is a portent of darkness and illumination yet to come. Sophie is left holding books in her hands that Martin has just been reading, books about his Mohawk ancestors and about Steinmetz himself.

Here are the two paragraphs from page 69:
The reference area of the library darkened behind her as she watched out the front door for her mother's car streaming through the rain. On the way home, passing storefront windows along State Street and the heart of downtown, she was startled to notice so many empty ones with signs saying CLOSING OUT and EVERYTHING MUST GO.

Some disturbances were becoming impossible to ignore. Where every streetlight might have once symbolized new life, the future appeared to be turning upside down. Was this the promise of change made by that blackout, a warning of what else could go wrong? Electric City was flickering and dimming, right in front of her eyes.
Visit Elizabeth Rosner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue