Sunday, April 26, 2015

"The Dismantling"

Brian DeLeeuw is a novelist and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. His first novel, In This Way I Was Saved, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2009 and long-listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize, with editions published in the U.K., Germany, and France.

DeLeeuw applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Dismantling, and reported the following:
The Dismantling is a novel about Simon Worth, a young man who drops out of medical school and becomes an organ broker, a fixer who matches desperate buyers with failing kidneys and livers to sellers willing to part with an organ for a price. Simon is haunted by memories of his younger sister, Amelia, who died seven years ago in an accident for which he feels largely responsible. On page sixty-nine, Simon remembers a trip he took to Central America during the year between his high school graduation and his college enrollment. Near the end of this trip, he was struck with a severe fever, during which he experienced surreal visions of his dead sister:
…He closed his eyes and sank back down into the mattress, and then, as though a screen had been switched on, the clearest image of Amelia appeared behind his eyelids. She stood on one of the rock groynes that jutted out from the Rockaway beach into the ocean, wearing a purple windbreaker, her hair batted across her face by the wind. He was aware that he was standing on the beach, but the idea of his body seemed beside the point. The level of detail—glistening, granular—was beyond that of memories, beyond waking sight. He saw the stippled surface of the ocean. He could count each rock of the groyne, each container ship studded across the horizon. His attention did not have to be parceled out but could instead meet the entire breadth and depth of the scene at once. Amelia stood at the tip of the groyne, the ocean’s spray whipping across her legs. She looked back at him. Her face was many ages at once. She was a little girl; she was a teenager; she was the young woman she’d never become. Her face did not flash from one age to the next but rather accommodated all the ages, in the same space, at once. When she smiled, it was many smiles and also one.

Simon opened his eyes, and this vision of his sister remained so true, so perfect, that he was sure for a moment Amelia was there in the room with him. Or rather, that the dim hotel room was itself unreal, an illusion, and the beach was what was real, the beach and the ocean and Amelia, and he was the visitor, the apparition. As though he had died and Amelia were still alive. He struggled to sit up in bed, the force of the vision and the hot weight of sickness grinding down on his body. The fever broke a few hours later. The next day he used the last of his money to buy a plane ticket home.
Although most of the novel takes place in Simon’s present day (the fall and early winter of 2008), these episodes from his past are crucial to understanding his guilt over Amelia’s death and his shame at how he treated his sister before she died. It is this guilt and shame that cause the breakdown that forces him to leave medical school, and it is this guilt and shame that he struggles to atone for throughout the novel. In this way, page sixty-nine is perhaps not representative of the narrative of the book, but it is related to one of the novel’s central questions: what is the nature of atonement? Simon failed to save his sister, so he fights now to save the lives of others. Is there some sort of cosmic ledger where his actions will all balance out, or is he now indulging in a form of narcissism, acting more for his own (psychological) benefit than for that of the people he’s trying to help? And does the motivation matter if the results are the same?
Visit Brian DeLeeuw's website.

The Page 69 Test: In This Way I Was Saved.

--Marshal Zeringue