Monday, February 18, 2019

"The Martin Chronicles"

John Fried’s short fiction has appeared in numerous journals, including The Gettysburg Review, North American Review, and Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art. He teaches creative writing at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and received his MFA from Warren Wilson College’s Program for Writers. Prior to teaching, he was a magazine writer and editor in New York, and his work appeared in various publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, New York, Time, and Real Simple.

Fried applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Martin Chronicles, and reported the following:
Page 69 is from the chapter titled “A Rifle is Not a Gun.” In this chapter, Marty, the main character, is 13 years old, away from New York City at summer camp, out of his element in every way. He’s in the middle of a riflery class, deep in the woods, firing at paper targets in the distance. This particular page is when something strange happens – he hits the bull’s eye on his target several times and discovers he might actually be good at this shooting thing. It’s a little bizarre turn for the city boy who has never fired a rifle (or a gun, for that matter) in his life.

This page certainly fits the model of so much of the book: Marty encounters something new or unexpected (about the world or himself) and we watch him respond. In this case, it’s not just the riflery class, but the newfound fame and popularity that go along with doing something well. He’s suddenly the “it” kid that everyone wants to know and hang out with at camp. That’s completely out of left field for him and something he has to reconcile with as a character because there’s an implied power there too. He’s never felt like he’s had much power in his life before.

I really love this chapter because it’s one of the few times we see Marty out of New York City, in a completely different environment. Just putting him there – in the woods, at camp, with strangers – opened up so many opportunities for conflict and drama for me as a writer. At the same time, it’s probably one the darkest chapters of the book. And because the book is set in the 80s, there’s no Internet or cell phones to connect him back to his life. He’s really out on his own, alone, for several weeks and that’s not something that happens elsewhere in the book.
Visit John Fried's website.

--Marshal Zeringue