Friday, October 2, 2015

"Into the Valley"

Ruth Galm’s writing has appeared in the Kenyon Review Online, Indiana Review, and on Joyland: a hub for short fiction. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and has been a resident of the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming. She was born and raised in San Jose, California, spent time in New York City and Boston, and now lives in San Francisco.

Galm applied the Page 69 Test to Into the Valley, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
She brought her focus back to the river. It was low, barely grazing the middle of the levees, still and brown as earth.

She followed the walnut trees along the road until she got too close to the capital, then veered away from the river and back out into the fields.
I think in a wild way page 69, in its entirety above, says everything about Into the Valley as a whole. There is an in medias res quality, a blankness, a focus on the sensory, on landscape, a subtle portent running underneath. The prose is spare and restrained in what it reveals. We have many questions: who is this woman; where is she going (and why is “she” never named); why can’t she get too near the capital; why does she avoid the river when logic might say to follow it; what in the fields draws her back.

But we want to follow this woman. Because (hopefully) the questions compel us to watch her, to try and understand her, to see why for her the river feels stagnant, the walnut trees named, the impulse to “veer” the reflex instead of changing direction more gradually. Where will her focus land and her compulsions drive her next? I think the elements on this page hint at the larger story of Into the Valley and its preoccupations—escape, malaise, mystery, suspense, landscape as psyche, an unnamed woman with a desire to get to a new place. And the subtle portent running underneath: whether society will give room enough for this or any woman to reach this new place.
Visit Ruth Galm's website.

Writers Read: Ruth Galm.

--Marshal Zeringue