Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"White Tiger on Snow Mountain"

David Gordon was born in New York City. He attended Sarah Lawrence College and holds an MA in English and comparative literature and an MFA in writing, both from Columbia University. His first novel, The Serialist, won the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and was a finalist for an Edgar Award. His second novel, Mystery Girl, was picked as one of The New Yorker’s best books of the year. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, the New York Times Magazine, and other publications. He has worked in film, fashion, publishing, and pornography.

Gordon applied the Page 69 Test to his story collection White Tiger on Snow Mountain and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Good,” Nina said, hailing a taxi. “He should have died sixty-nine years ago. With me.”

I tried reasoning with her in the cab, but she just worked herself up even more, eventually turning on me, if only because I was there: I was, she declared, secretly pleased at this outcome. I had never believed her and had been snidely playing along, mocking her the whole time in my pompous, bookish way. I was completely closed off to spiritual ideas and emotionally shut down as well. I did think she was a prostitute. I had never loved her at all.

“Who do you think you are anyway?” she demanded.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. No one.”

It must have been Durel’s day off because when we got to 7402 and Nina banged on the door, a small, round Latina lady answered.

“Yes? Can I help you?”

“Liu Ping!” Nina shouted and ran past her.

“Sorry,” I said, “she’s family,” which was ludicrous. Nina looked like the pep squad captain in a cable movie about All-American cheerleaders. We followed to the alcove where Liu Ping lay dying. He was definitely dying—that anyone could see.

His shriveled head seemed no bigger than my palm, the features all folded into each other, like a fist. His body was just sticks and plaid pajamas. There was really almost nothing left of him, some skin, a few white hairs, two stunningly beautiful brown hands, and that slow breath like a wind from the other side. Instinctively we all stopped, Nina, the lady, and I. We stopped and stared, in awe, at the dark majesty of death. Then
Since this is a short story collection, the odds of a random page summing up the themes or content of the book are even slimmer than usual, but I do think there are some hints here. This passage is from a story called “Su Li-Zhen,” about a woman in contemporary New York who becomes convinced she is the reincarnation of a courtesan from old Taipei and enlists her ex-boyfriend (the narrator) in a search for her reincarnated lover. So it is a ghost story, but also a realistic, wry tale about the difficulty of creating intimacy and relationships in the contemporary world. I tried to make Nina almost like a character from a classic screwball comedy, but also there is also a more emotionally raw aspect and a darker, sadder, level that is always present, but that maybe the characters themselves don’t want to look at and I think that does relate to the collection as a whole. Or maybe it is just a random page!
Learn more about the book and author at David Gordon's blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Serialist.

The Page 69 Test: Mystery Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue