Monday, March 30, 2020

"Pride of Eden"

Taylor Brown grew up on the Georgia coast. He has lived in Buenos Aires, San Francisco, and the mountains of western North Carolina. His books include the story collection In the Season of Blood and Gold and the novels Fallen Land and The River of Kings. All three books were finalists for the Southern Book Prize.

Brown applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Pride of Eden, and reported the following:
Page 69 includes a short, nice little scene between Anse Caulfield, the former racehorse jockey and soldier of fortune who owns Little Eden, the exotic animal sanctuary at the heart of the novel, and Anse's long-time partner, Tyler, the sanctuary's veterinarian. While trying to wrangle an escaped lioness, Henrietta, Anse was mauled -- though he and Tyler have differing attitudes about whether the lion, a long-time resident of the sanctuary, intended to hurt him.
Anse lay facedown on the bed that evening, shirtless. His scabs were finally beginning to peel away, leaving pink stripes of scar that itched. Tyler straddled him, squeezing the anti-itch ointment from a tube.

“All I’m saying is this. A lion—or any cat, for that matter—keeps her claws retracted until she’s ready to use them. Henrietta’s were out.”

Anse squeezed shut his eyes. He thought of Henri dead in the driveway of that empty house. Her heart exploded, oozing over the pavement. Her claws buried in his back. He turned his head, speaking from the side of his mouth.

“Automatic response when the bullet hit her,” he said. “Her claws coming out.”

Tyler shook her head. “Couldn’t be, Anse. Primary flaccidity—an animal’s muscles relax instantly at the moment of death.”

Anse turned his head, winding one eye up at her.

“They teach you that up at Cornell?”

Tyler leaned over him, her breasts brushing his back. Her lips grazed his ear.

“No,” she said. “You did.”

Anse mashed his forehead into the mattress, growled. Tyler bent closer.

“It’s better this way, don’t you see?” Her lips chased his ear.

“She died wild.”

At the word, a tingle ran up Anse’s spine. A drove of tiny beasts uncaged by her voice, loosed under his skin. His blood flew. Anse turned over beneath her. He buried his thumbs in the hollows of her thighs, smiling.

“Come here, you.”
If someone browsing in a bookstore or library opened the book to this page, I think this scene would give them a pretty good idea of the novel, exploring the mystery and moral entanglements of human-animal relationships, and giving them a taste of Anse's stubborn, slightly curmudeognly nature -- slightly akin, perhaps, to the Hayduke character in Edward Abbey's work. That said, most of the book takes place outside, and there's a good bit of action, which you don't see in this scene.
Visit Taylor Brown's website.

My Book, The Movie: The River of Kings.

The Page 69 Test: The River of Kings.

Writers Read: Taylor Brown.

My Book, The Movie: Pride of Eden.

--Marshal Zeringue