Wednesday, April 1, 2020

"The Everlasting"

Katy Simpson Smith was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. She received a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She is the author of We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835, and the novels The Story of Land and Sea and Free Men. Her writing has also appeared in The Oxford American, Granta, Literary Hub, Garden & Gun, Catapult, and Lenny. She lives in New Orleans, and currently serves as the Eudora Welty Chair for Southern Literature at Millsaps College.

Smith applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Everlasting, and reported the following:
The Everlasting tells four different Roman stories, across four centuries, and page 69 puts us in the year 1559, amidst one of Giulia de' Medici's dilemmas: whether to sleep with her new, not-beloved husband, or to be faithful to a former lover, who has left her pregnant. Someone nailed horns over the door to their house, a signal to the owner that he's being cuckolded, and Giulia's maid swears she hasn't told anyone her lady's secret.
Giulia reached for the bowl Paola now kept on the vanity. She held it in her lap until the wave calmed. “I hadn’t heard of the horns. It’s rather clever, as long as he’s the one shamed.”

Paola rolled a stocking up her lady’s leg, her eyes still wet with fear. “You’re half of a sort of daughter to me, you know that, and I don’t fight only for my own position when I tell you to go kindly with him. You Medici think it’s a farce, but I know of men, and not a hundred thousand ducats can declaw them. If you want to call it a lie and make me leave, I will, and it’ll go easier for you.”

Giulia pulled her feet back and leaned toward the kneeling nursemaid. “If Christ himself swanned down for the second coming, I’d still choose you. That’s my opinion of men.”
I laughed when I read this section! I could tell you all day long that the book has nothing to do with male behavior and my judgment thereon, but perhaps an underlying bias shines through here. This is a book about love -- spiritual and romantic, sacred and profane -- and built within love is the possibility of disappointment. One of the central narrators is the Devil, who's still reeling from having his heart broken by God; no one is immune. Each of these characters -- a child martyr, a monk, a princess, a biologist -- is searching for a more stable meaning to their lives, some foundation that can hold them up as they're buffeted by love's vicissitudes. Sometimes that's faith; in this scene, for the irreverent Giulia, it's friendship.
Visit Katy Simpson Smith's website.

Writers Read: Katy Simpson Smith.

My Book, The Movie: The Everlasting.

--Marshal Zeringue