Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"The Gentleman"

Forrest Leo was born in a log cabin in 1990. He grew up in Alaska, and holds a BFA in drama from NYU/Tisch. While living in New York, he worked as a carpenter, a photographer, and in a cubicle. He now lives in LA, where he worked at Walgreens for one day. He writes plays and novels and things.

Leo applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Gentleman, and reported the following:
When I heard the idea behind the Page 69 Test — flip to page 69 in any given book and chances are it’s a fairly representative synecdoche — I was skeptical. I picked up several nearby books to satisfy myself that the notion was absurd. But when first The Scarlet Pimpernel, then Freddy and Fredericka, then Ender’s Game, and finally Middlemarch all bore out the notion, I had to confess there might be something to it. I opened to page 69 in The Gentleman and this is what I found:
A servant might have made eyes at a lady and been shot by a jealous husband. Or perhaps Babington became truly drunk and pinched a maid who squealed and jumped and upset a soup tureen which emptied its contents onto the lap of the Duke of Cumbria who fell backward and into the way of Mr Moncrieff who tripped over him and whose mask upon falling was pitched across the room and stabbed Lady Lazenby in the bosom causing her to drop her champagne flute which shattered on the carpet and a shard of which bounced and impaled Lord Earlsmere who dropped to his knees in pain and over whom Mrs Frazer, who was all this while preoccupied with jealousy for the pinched maid and was looking behind her at Babington instead do in front of her at the body of Earlsmere, pitched headlong, landing in a fireplace which immediately set her costume ablaze which in turn set the curtains alight which will by and by burn down the whole house.* I loathe parties.

“Did you meet me wife?” I say.

“Not yet. There are lots and lots of people, and everyone’s wearing a mask.”

“Isn’t it horrid?”

“Oh no!” she cries. “I’ve never had such a lovely evening. I feel as though I could dance until my feet bled. Everyone’s so beautiful and mysterious and romantic in their costumes. I’m upset with you, Nellie. I feel as though you’ve been holding out on me. Society parties are wonderful.”

*I was present at this party, and so I can say with authority that this is not what happened. However, I have heard that something very similar did occur once at a party given by the Count and Countess de Guiche in Paris. —HL.
If there’s a more representative page in the whole thing I’m not sure where it might be. This gives us our heroes — poet-protagonist Lionel Savage, his brilliant little sister Lizzie, his society wife Vivien, his aggrieved editor Hubert Lancaster — and our hero’s neuroses, which together make up the better part of the book.
Visit Forrest Leo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue