Sunday, May 31, 2015

"The Life and Death of Sophie Stark"

Anna North graduated from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 2009, having received a Teaching-Writing Fellowship and a Michener/Copernicus Society Fellowship. Her fiction has appeared in Nautilus, Glimmer Train, the anthology Robot Uprisings, and the Atlantic Monthly, where it was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Her nonfiction has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Paris Review Daily, Jezebel, BuzzFeed, and Salon, and she is now a staff editor at the New York Times.

North's first novel, America Pacifica, was published in 2011.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Life and Death of Sophie Stark turns out to include one of the most raw and upsetting scenes in the book (although I recognize that I, as the author, may not be the best judge of what’s the most raw and upsetting). Sophie has been making a film about Daniel, a college basketball star, and his girlfriend and frat brothers punish her by trapping her in a bathroom and turning the camera on her in a scary and abusive way. But Sophie ends up turning the scene to her own advantage by performing the degrading “line” they’ve given her with a sort of triumph, and including it in her film — it’s actually what makes the film great. So page 69 is, in fact, representative of the book: It’s a key moment in Sophie’s formation as an artist and a person, and in her sort of fusion of the two. The worst things that happen to her (and to those around her) become fuel for her movies, and this becomes in some ways the central tension of the book — can Sophie live a life independent of her movies? Can she allow her loved ones to do so? Would Sophie even want a life separate from her art? The scene on page 69 is where a lot of these questions begin for Sophie. And I hope a reader who happened on that page would decide to read on — he or she might do so just to find out what got Sophie into this frightening situation, and how she got out of it.
Learn more about the book and author at Anna North's website.

--Marshal Zeringue