Wednesday, March 11, 2020

"The Lost Book of Adana Moreau"

Michael Zapata is a founding editor of the award-winning MAKE Literary Magazine. He is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for Fiction; the City of Chicago DCASE Individual Artist Program award; and a Pushcart Nomination. As an educator, he taught literature and writing in high schools servicing drop out students. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and has lived in New Orleans, Italy, and Ecuador. He currently lives in Chicago with his family.

Zapata applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, and reported the following:
From page 69:
One night, half-starving, he meets a jazz musician who tells the man with gray eyes he moonlights as a smuggler. I can use a man like you, the jazz musician tells him. A man like me? he asks. A man without an Earth, says the jazz musician.

Traveling through hidden stone portals on the outskirts of the city, the jazz musician and the man with gray eyes transport illicit arms, food, and technology in and out of countless other Earths. A few of the Earths are variations of his own before its ruin, but most are wildly different. One Earth is almost entirely covered in vast, warm seas, with people etching out a living among a dwindling number of archipelagos. On another, the ice age never ended. The men and women on this Earth ride wooly mammoths and build enormous machines resembling arachnids. On yet another, the Aztec Empire has persisted through the centuries and was the first civilization to develop and drop a nuclear bomb in 1897. On more than a few Earths, there are cities in the sky. The jazz musician explains to him that the cityships, as they are called, are filled with refugees from Earths that are no longer habitable or no longer exist. Even the city of New Orleans on this Earth is a cityship that landed long ago. Goddamn entire multiverse is full of refugees like you, he says and then he starts to laugh. It takes the man with gray eyes a moment to understand that he is laughing at the cityships, not at him. There are no traces of the Dominicana on any of the Earths to which they transport goods, nor on any of the refugee cityships the man with gray eyes searches by himself during lonely nights that show no signs of ever ending.
The Lost Book of Adana Moreau is the story of a Latin American science fiction writer and the lives her lost manuscript, A Model Earth, unites decades later in post-Katrina New Orleans. Quite by happy accident, the Page 69 Test takes us directly into a plot summary of the lost science fiction manuscript itself, which follows “a man with gray eyes” living in New Orleans as he searches parallel Earths for a lost love named the Dominicana. I was happily surprised to find that a good number of the predominant themes in The Lost Book of Adana Moreau – exile, refugees, multiplicity, parallel universes, home, and the end of history – are found on page 69, even if the page itself doesn’t contain the central narrative of the novel. The “man with gray eyes” is lost, like so many of the novel’s characters, in the story of the multiverse, which offers both dystopian pasts and hopeful futures. According to Leslie Hinson’s review on BookPage “much of the novel is a story-within-a story, a mise en abyme; it is a labyrinthine ode to storytellers,” and I think that’s a wonderfully accurate portrayal of the structure of the novel and Page 69.
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--Marshal Zeringue