Monday, September 14, 2015

"Dark Shimmer"

Donna Jo Napoli is a professor in the linguistics department at Swarthmore College and the author of Crazy Jack, The Magic Circle, Stones in Water, and many other books.

Napoli applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dark Shimmer, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Chapter Ten: Serenissima

The gondola slips through the water, and I’m listening to Bianca talk of Aunt Agnola’s dog Ribolin when the bell sounds. It’s distant but deep as it echoes across the lagoon. Bianca goes silent. We hold hands and peer ahead through the fading light.

“Venezia,” says Marin in a hushed voice as we round an island. “This view never fails to steal my breath. She deserves her name as serenissima – the most serene.”

The city looms in silence now, set against a pure blue, cloudless sky. Early moonlight shimmers off the water and the walls, white and pink and amber. It feels like a promise – like magic. Serenity pervades.

But as we approach and forms become distinct, that sense of calm evaporates. There are so many buildings, so close together, so many towers, that my skin goes gooseflesh at the thought of the vast numbers of people those buildings harbor. By day, this city must swarm like an anthill or a beehive. Narrow alleys run between buildings. I imagine them crowded, bustling. I grip Bianca’s hand tighter.
Dolce is a freak. Gigantic, unloved by anyone other than her mother, and perhaps Tommaso, yes, that boy might be infatuated with her, but childish attachments don’t interest her. She doesn’t believe anyone will ever want her as a wife, as the mother of his children. So when Mamma dies, she plunges into the water and swims away. Her island home, so small and sparsely populated, has always been a kind of prison, so in a way, this is freedom. Maybe death… but death is a kind of freedom, isn’t it? She swims till she can no more, and manages to haul her body onto a deserted island.

Her stark solitude is interrupted the next morning by the sight of a child running on the beach. A gigantic child, as large as Dolce had been at her age, another freak, but a happy one – ridiculously happy. The island has more people… the father of the girl child, Bianca, plus a group of Franciscan brothers… and all of them are gigantic. Even more astonishing, Bianca latches on to her with the ferocious tenacity of a child in need of mothering. And Dolce herself looks at Marin, Bianca’s father, with a heartbeat that nearly shakes her apart. It’s all there already, right from the start, a recipe for pain and passion; Dolce is stirred in without even a chance to yelp.

Dolce and Bianca and Marin go in a boat to a larger island, where everyone everywhere Dolce looks, every last one, is gigantic. The world turns upside-down in an instant: Dolce is ordinary in this new world, and the world she’s left behind is now the freak world.

But more revelation lies ahead, for Marin and Bianca live in Venezia. That’s where they are taking Dolce next. The city Dolce was taught as a child to fear more than anything, the city of monsters. And all she can do is go along for the ride, as though every moment is predetermined, as though birth itself formed her destiny.
Visit Donna Jo Napoli's website.

--Marshal Zeringue