Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"Lost Canyon"

Nina Revoyr's novels include The Age of Dreaming, which was nominated for the LA Times Book Prize; Southland, a Los Angeles Times best seller and “Best Book” of 2003; and Wingshooters, which won an Indie Booksellers’ Choice Award and was selected by O, The Oprah Magazine as one of “10 Titles to Pick Up Now.”

Revoyr applied the Page 69 Test to her fifth novel, Lost Canyon, and reported the following:
From page 69:
…heading off to a place where income-to-loan ratios meant nothing, where no one cared about the best way to stage a house for a showing, where no one was even thinking about the steady drop in home values over the last five years, and where he wouldn’t see his empty, unfinished houses. In the mountains, he’d have no smartphone, no sharp clothes or fast cars to fall back on. He’d have to depend on his endurance and grit, and if he got into a scrape, it would be his own guts and thinking that would have to get him out of it. He could do this, he knew it; he was up for the challenge. Coach Eric from the gym could kiss his ass.

“So, Todd,” Oscar said now, “have you hiked or backpacked much?”

Todd looked startled that someone had spoken to him.

“More when I was younger,” he managed. “I used to camp with my dad. But not so much as an adult, to tell you the truth. I go for hikes with the kids sometimes out in the Palisades or Malibu.”
Of course, Oscar thought. The Westsiders go farther west. This guy was probably soft.

“Most of my workouts these days are with Tracy,” Todd continued. “I went to SportZone for physical therapy last year for a shoulder injury, and then they referred me to Tracy. She pushes me hard, but it’s all in the gym—I’ve really missed being outside.”

“You’re a lawyer?”

“Yeah, a litigator. I work for a great firm, but it’s pretty dry to tell you the truth.” He sounded self-conscious. “The thing I like most is the pro bono work. I do some volunteer work for a couple of youth organizations.”

Gwen turned around in her seat and looked at him. “Really? I work for a youth organization down in South L.A.”
Lost Canyon is the story of an adventure gone wrong, a mountain survival tale that’s also an exploration of race, class, and gender. Oscar, Todd, Tracy and Gwen come from vastly different backgrounds and life experiences. On pg. 69, they’re driving up to the Sierra Nevada from Los Angeles to start a 4-day backpacking trip. They’re basically strangers—Tracy’s the common link—and they’re trying to get a sense of each other.

This scene, while told in the 3rd person, is really from Oscar’s point of view; the chapters alternate between Oscar, Todd, and Gwen. He’s a Latino real estate agent and developer who’s both contributing to, and bothered by, the gentrification of his neighborhood in Northeast L.A. From this page, you get a sense of his frustrations about work—and his first, wrong assumptions about Todd.

Page 69 does show the initial fault lines between the characters, as well as their attempts to reach across them. It also gives a sense that they’re at a particular point in life—they’re all about forty—when they’re dealing with questions of career and family, the breakdown of the body. In the first paragraph, Oscar describes the appeal of the trip—the fact that, in the wilderness, there are no shortcuts; they have nothing but themselves to lean on. But page 69 isn’t representative of what’s maybe the most crucial element of the book, its sense of place. Before this page, I paint the disparate sections of L.A. that the characters come from—Highland Park, Watts, and Brentwood. After this page, I describe the grandeur, beauty, and danger of the mountains. While pg. 69 is a snapshot of the people, none of my love for either city or wilderness is evident. That comes earlier, and later. This page is part of the set up for all that follows.
Visit Nina Revoyr's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Nina Revoyr & Ariat and Russell.

--Marshal Zeringue