Monday, March 16, 2020

"The Small Crimes Of Tiffany Templeton"

Richard Fifield earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College in upstate New York. For the past twenty years he has worked as a social worker for adults with intellectual disabilities, while volunteering as a creative writing teacher in Missoula, Montana. His first novel, The Flood Girls, was published in 2016.

Fifield applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Small Crimes of Tiffany Templeton, and reported the following:
In The Small Crimes Of Tiffany Templeton, page 69 is actually part of the epistolary sections of the novel—letters that Tiffany writes to her probation officer explaining the nature of her crimes, and attempting to reconcile them with her past, especially her grief. The scene is a flashback to Tiffany in 7th grade, when her father is still alive, and her entire family is intact and having dinner together. Tiffany’s mother, imperious as always, has just declared that her gas station would not be inherited by her children, due to their incompetence. Tiffany’s father, the one reasonable and caring person in her life, remains silent. Ronnie, Tiffany’s older brother, does not: “You are a terrible person. Selfish and mean. I hope you die before you retire.” When he looks to Tiffany for back up, she stutters and stammers and tries to find words that are cutting and mean. Instead, she gets flustered: “I hope your stupid gas station blows up!” Tiffany takes pride in her strength and her wit, and is embarrassed by her lame response. When she leaves the dinner table, and flees into her bedroom, her father comes to offer solace, and together they sneak out of the house. He takes her to the pawn shop in the next town, where she buys her first leather jacket, and most importantly, her first typewriter. Her father is the only person who encourages her dreams of being a writer.

Yes, browsers who happened to turn to page 69 would find the very distillation of the plot of this book. It happens to be the scene in which we understand the power dynamic between Tiffany’s parents, as well as the scene that establishes her mother’s domineering and unreasonable child rearing. Most importantly, we discover where Tiffany found her metaphorical armor, and her weapon of choice: the typewriter.

I would hope readers get a great idea of the whole work—even though it’s a flashback, and in the print version, her letters are actually in typewriter font, the page is the first revelation into Tiffany’s past. Hopefully, the reader will see a young girl shaped by shame and a lack of self-worth, and in the last paragraph, how she found hope, and how her relationship with her father was the one thing in her life that was constant and healthy.
Visit Richard Fifield's website.

--Marshal Zeringue