Tuesday, October 15, 2019


Johanna Stoberock is the author of the novels Pigs and City of Ghosts. Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including Better: Culture & Lit, The Wilson Quarterly, Copper Nickel, Front Porch, and the 2014 Best of the Net Anthology.

Stoberock applied the Page 69 Test to Pigs and reported the following:
Page 69:
From the island, it was ships that seemed a single entity. What was discarded was unique. Who discarded it was not.
At first, when I looked at page 69, my stomach dropped: three sentences; no characters; no plot. How could such a tiny passage say anything about the book as a whole? Pigs had failed the page 69 test—or maybe the test had failed Pigs!

But then I started thinking—what, exactly, is Pigs about?

Garbage, for one thing. It takes place on a magical island that serves as the repository for all the world’s trash. So page 69 speaks directly to that central element. It acknowledges both the island and its function for the larger world.

And what else is Pigs about?

Children. The garbage-island is populated by a group of parentless children whose lot in life is to gather up the world’s trash and feed it to a herd of giant, insatiable pigs. Page 69 speaks to the tension between discards and discarder, and asks us to think about where we have to position ourselves to see the island’s children as fully human beings. By page 69, we know the vulnerabilities of these children well (one of them has already disappeared under violent circumstances), and when “discards” are mentioned, the book has already let readers know it’s including within that term much more than the trash that might accumulate beneath one’s kitchen sink.

And is there anything else that Pigs is about that’s mentioned on the page?

Yes! Perspective. Over and over, Pigs asks readers to think about the way we use perspective to direct what we’re willing to acknowledge about the world: what do we see when we look at the island from a distance? What do we see when we look at it from close up? How do those two views work together? This a theme that page 69 covers as well.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought that page 69 gets right to the heart of the novel's most important themes.

From my perspective, Pigs passes the page 69 test with its own brand of strange but flying colors.
Visit Johanna Stoberock's website.

My Book, The Movie: Pigs.

--Marshal Zeringue