Thursday, December 10, 2020

"My Name is Anton"

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of more than 40 published and forthcoming books.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, My Name is Anton, and reported the following:
From page 69:
He stepped into her warm foyer and found himself at eye level with the hat. Somehow it looked more fine and valuable and perfect even than he had remembered. If he was wrong to think it could solve all of his problems, he was incapable of seeing the error in that moment. It was in perfect condition, too. A little softer and more broken-in than the ones he’d tried on in the hat shop, but not noticeably more worn looking.

“You miss your grandfather, don’t you?”

“Of course I do.”

“I see you staring at his old fedora. He loved that hat.”

“It looks nearly new.”

“It does, and he had it since… oh, I’m not sure now. Sometime in the 40s. Definitely before 1950. But he took such meticulous care of it. He had it cleaned and blocked every year like clockwork. It was something of a signature piece of apparel for him.”

He unbuttoned his jacket as she spoke, because he was too warm.

“Would it be all right if I tried it on?”

“Of course.”

He took it off its rack almost reverently, and settled it on his head. It didn’t fit perfectly. It was maybe a quarter of an inch too big. But it didn’t literally fall onto his eyebrows. It just felt a little insecure there. He wouldn’t dare wear it outside in a blustery wind.

He stepped over to the decorative mirror, and sucked in his breath when he saw himself. He looked like a new person. Like a fully grown man. Like an adult man named Anton. It was too perfect. He knew he couldn’t let it go now—not now that he’d seen who he was in it.

Grandma Marion sucked in her breath, too. Audibly.

“What?” he asked her, when he’d torn his eyes away from his own reflection. “Is something wrong?”

“You look so much like him when I first met him. It took my breath away for a second.”
The “Page 69 Test” seems to work unusually well for this book, at least in terms of the symbolic heart of the work.

I should begin by noting that the working title of this novel was Anton's Hat. As I got deeper into the book, I realized that it was not the right symbol for the work as a whole, but Part 1 of the book still bears the heading “Anton’s Fedora.”

In this scene he not only takes on the hat as his own, but at the end of the scene it strikes him, with the help of his Grandma Marion’s words, that he must never use a nickname again. He is growing up as the namesake of his Grandpa Anton. Growing up in the older man’s image. Hence his embrace of the name, and the ultimate title, My Name is Anton.

What you don’t see on this Page 69 Test is that Anton is in love. There is a woman in his life. She’s too old for him, and in an abusive marriage, and it certainly seems at that point to be a love with no space to exist. Before she asks him searching and difficult questions, she always says, “Hold on to your hat, Anton.” It’s become something of a private joke between them. Just prior to page 69, he has overstepped with her, and driven her further away. Somehow he is allowing himself to believe that showing her he has a hat to hold on to will smooth everything over.

The book takes place over a period of many decades, but I think the text on page 69 speaks well to the first and longest part of the book, which is set in the winter of 1965.
Visit Catherine Ryan Hyde's website.

Q&A with Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Page 69 Test: Brave Girl, Quiet Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue