Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Come Away"

Stephen Policoff has taught writing at Wesleyan and Yale and is currently Master Teacher of Writing in Global Liberal Studies at NYU. His books include the novel Beautiful Somewhere Else, the memoir Sixteen Scenes from a Film I Never Wanted to See, two YA books, The Dreamer’s Companion and Real Toads in Imaginary Gardens (co-authored with Jeffrey Skinner), and the children’s book Cesar’s Amazing Journey.

Policoff applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Come Away , and reported the following:
Page 69 of Come Away contains the end of the only (fairly muted) sex scene in the novel, which takes place while Nadia’s father, the eminent New Age philosopher, Dr. Erik Maire, is dozing in the next room.

Despite his love for/ appreciation of his young wife, Paul cannot stop the monologue of anxiety in his head. Nadia, far more centered and optimistic than Paul, is also unable to dispel her fears about their daughter Spring, who has suffered a mysterious accident just before the novel begins:
Sometimes I worry that Nadia—far better looking and younger than anyone I deserve—might be tempted by one of the bad Bobs or Mikes in her office. But then she’ll whisper something sweet or exciting in my ear, stroke my face, tell me that I make her feel beautiful, make her feel sexy. These are things she whispers to me sometimes, and who doesn’t like to hear that?

“You were so quiet,” she said, leaping up. “Not sexy enough for you?” She jumped back onto the bed, cupped her hands over her mouth in a mock shout. “Or is it that Dad is just a wall away?” She laughed, pulled on her long white nightshirt, flopped onto the pillows.

I was still lying there as if pinioned to our sweaty sheets, trying to keep the moment alive, trying not to let my thoughts race toward what they usually race toward.

She lifted her beautiful head. “You don’t think there’s something wrong with Spring like Jack thinks there’s something wrong with his boys? That she sees things? That she sees things that aren’t there?”

“She’s five. Your father says that’s the magical age, the age when they can’t really tell the difference between what’s real and what isn’t…”

“Can you?” She looked grave suddenly. “Maybe you should call the doctor tomorrow.”

“About her or about me?”

“I’m worried about you, but I’m used to your moods and your weird ideas. But Spring…what if there’s still bleeding or something and they didn’t get it out or it wasn’t just a fall, it
was something else. You know, a seizure? So please call him, just make sure.”

“He’s such an asshole.”

“So is my father, but you just quoted him to me. Call Dr. Balin tomorrow, okay? See what he says about this green girl?”
So does this pass the Page 69 Test? I am inclined to say yes! I have elsewhere described Come Away as a dark domestic comedy with a mild buzz of the supernatural, and I think on this page you can see that: the odd yet loving relationship between Paul and Nadia, their heightened apprehension and dread about Spring, and the mention of the mysterious green girl—whom only Spring and Paul seem to see, and whom Paul fears may represent some malign force intent on taking his child from him. Needless to say, I have no objectivity here, but it does seem to me that you might get a small taste of the larger feast of Come Away from this page.
Visit Stephen Policoff's faculty webpage and Facebook page, and learn more about Come Away.

Writers Read: Stephen Policoff.

--Marshal Zeringue