Thursday, October 27, 2016

"The Motion of Puppets"

Keith Donohue is the national bestselling author of the novels The Stolen Child, The Angels of Destruction, Centuries of June, and The Boy Who Drew Monsters.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Motion of Puppets, and reported the following:
Landing on page 69, we arrive at the beginning of the puppet trial. The Motion of Puppets is structured around the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, but instead of going to the Underworld, Kay Harper (the Eurydice figure) has been transformed into a puppet. She finds herself captive in the Back Room of a Quebec City toyshop with a dozen other puppets. They, too, were once human but are now used to playing their respective parts.

In this scene, Kay and her friend Noë are put on trial for trying to make their escape. Having found a pencil stub and an empty matchbook, Noë scribbled an S.O.S. and tried to slide it under the door to the alleyway outside. In the meantime, a pair of Judge puppets have vanished, so the trial must be conducted in a kangaroo court. This scene was intended to add some dark humor to the story and to illustrate the different attitudes the puppets have toward their captivity. Most have fallen to the Stockholm Syndrome and are willing participants in their new life. Noë is slowly going mad in captivity, and Kay, as the new arrival, is somewhere in between.

The novel is structured around the two stories: Kay’s life among the puppets, and her husband Theo’s desperate search for her. While the original myth deals mainly with the romantic figure of Orpheus, I found the Eurydice story equally compelling. And I loved writing about the strange little world of the puppets, who come to life at night. From the malapropisms of Mr. Firkin to the majesty of the Queen on her oatmeal box throne, they were a delight. Here, from page 69:
The trial had to go forward without the Judges. In their absence, the Queen presided from her oatmeal box, and Mr. Firkin agreed to play the prosecutor, with the Devil on defense. The puppets spent most of the night constructing a courtroom out of wooden boxes, old tools, and spare parts. Ordinarily they would have preferred a few rehearsals, but given the gravity of the charges, they decided there was no time, and ultimately improvised as they went. The Worm acted as bailiff and led the prisoners past the jury of the Three Sisters, the Good Fairy, and Nix. To have included the Dog in passing judgment would have made a farce of justice, so he was left to wander, sniffing at the two women in the dock.

Kay was penitent, head bowed, hands folded as if in prayer. Next to her, Noë stared straight ahead, her straw hair sticking out like a dandelion puff, a hint of anger shining in her button eyes. The Queen brought down her gavel; and Mr. Firkin rose for the prosecution, a scrap of lamb’s wool serving as a wig.

“Mum.” He bowed first to the Queen and then to the jury box. “Ladies and gentleman, the province intends to show, beyond the doubt of a shadow, that the defendants on the night before tonight, that is to say last night, did willfully and knowingly conspire, plot, scheme, and connive to make good their escape from this place. Using a forbidden pencil and paper—Exhibits A and B, my friends—they did write a note and then tried to slip said note under the door.”
Visit Keith Donohue's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Boy Who Drew Monsters.

--Marshal Zeringue