Wednesday, July 31, 2019

"Marilou Is Everywhere"

Sarah Elaine Smith was born and raised in Greene County, Pennsylvania. She has studied at the Michener Center for Writers, UT-Austin (MFA, poetry); the Iowa Writers' Workshop (MFA, fiction); and Carnegie Mellon University (BA, English and Creative Writing). She has worked as a metadata analyst (signed an NDA & shall say no more!), a college teacher, a proofreader/copyeditor, design consultant, waitress, and ghostwriter. Her work has received support from the MacDowell Colony, the Rona Jaffe Wallace Foundation, and the Keene Prize for Literature, among other generous entities.

Smith applied the Page 69 Test to Marilou Is Everywhere, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
When Jude disappeared, it became clear that practically no one had any awareness of her mother's condition. Jude's friends, it turned out, had not been inside the house for years. Bernadette Satterwhite was not especially befriended in the community, except among the other artists and burnouts who had migrated to the area in a great wave at the end of the seventies They had moved in on the cheap acreage in an approximation of something radical and dreamy. They would live off the land, away from what Bernadette called the murderous and ever-humming instructions of capitalism. So great was the influx that there had even been, at one time, a commune called the Whole in the Universe at one of the former farmhouses, somewhere in Ned or Spraggs or Rutan, although nobody could remember where.

After a decade or two, many of them blew off to more favorable cultural climates. I guess they hoped rural tedium would be a little more poetic, and not so much long winters of the snow chaining its death wish upon you. Those who stuck around picked up enough grit and crud and survival skills that they often could not be told apart from the rest of us, who were bent into catastrophe postures by poverty, black lung, heroin, WIC vouchers, fluoride, Miller Time, a caustic species of aloneness, perfectly well-intentioned social workers, postindustrial blight, single-A football, pepperoni rolls, and things like that. These things burned and bent the outsiders, too, the longer they hung around.
Page 69 turns out to be delightfully representative of the book, in particular its penchant for gossipy stretches of backstory. This chapter introduces Bernadette Satterwhite, a Texan transplant and regal bohemian outcast who moved to Greene County to live off the land. While she has long been a colorful and occasionally despised member of the community, her mental state has declined sharply in recent years, to an extent the community was unaware of until the search for her missing daughter, Jude, reveals how out of hand Bernadette's drinking has gotten.

And if you've ever been to Southwestern Pennsylvania, I hope you'll agree that the list in the second paragraph is just about as representative as it damn gets. (Well, I left out Sheetz MTO, but hindsight's 20/20.)
Visit Sarah Elaine Smith's website.

--Marshal Zeringue