Monday, June 29, 2020

"Barcelona Days"

Daniel Riley is a novelist and a correspondent at GQ. He grew up in Manhattan Beach, California, graduated from Duke University, and lives in New York City.

Riley applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Barcelona Days, and reported the following:
Barcelona Days is about an American couple that gets stuck in Barcelona--trapped by the ashcloud of an Icelandic volcano--at a critical flashpoint in their fragile relationship. Early in their purgatory, the two--Will and Whitney--become four, after meeting another two Americans at a party. That quartet will pair and re-pair throughout the rest of the book and challenge that central relationship--Will and Whitney's--for the duration of the novel. Page 69 happens to center on the precise moment when Will and Whitney meet the first of the other Americans at the party, and, consequently, when the engine of the book shifts into a new gear.

Page 69 is a pretty representative core sample of the novel. You have our two principal characters slightly out of their depth, firmly together in the moment but destabilized by their environment (this city they shouldn't be in, this party they shouldn't be at) and the revelations they've recently made to one another (before getting stuck, Will and Whitney spent their final planned evening of their vacation confessing to one another the details of the three free passes they'd granted one another before getting engaged; that dinner is the opening set piece of the novel). On page 69, we meet one of the two secondary characters in the novel--Jack--and get him at his most characteristically guileless. On page 69, we have a good party. We have some biting dialogue. We have characters circling each other with attraction and suspicion. In many ways, what's said and what's un-said on page 69 are exactly the sorts of things that are said and un-said among these four characters throughout the book. That potent threatening attraction at play. That shifting of alliances. That playfulness and sexiness and deep-seated suspicion that's present throughout much of the novel. It's all there on 69.

I imagine the Page 69 Test works well for this book because the book tries to infuse every page with those dynamics. You have this central relationship, and then this secondary couple that affects that central relationship from the moment the two expand to four. As one of the four points shifts, so to do the other three. The way those four points/characters, and the lines between those four points/characters, shift and re-shift is the "subject," I hope, of every page in the book. That is, until a revelation near the end of the novel introduces a wholly separate fifth point that had been concealed beneath the surface all along.
Visit Daniel Riley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue