Tuesday, May 18, 2021

"Mary Jane"

Jessica Anya Blau was born in Boston and raised in Southern California. Her novels have been featured on The Today Show, CNN and NPR, and in Cosmo, Vanity Fair, Bust, Time Out, Parade, Oprah Summer Reads and other national publications. Blau's short stories and essays have been published in numerous magazines, journals and anthologies. She co-wrote the script for Love on the Run starring Frances Fisher and Steve Howey. She has taught writing at Johns Hopkins University and The Fashion Institute of Technology. Currently, She lives in New York.

Blau applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Mary Jane, and reported the following:
Mary Jane takes place in Baltimore in the summer of 1975. Mary Jane is a summer nanny for a psychiatrist and his wife (Dr. and Mrs. Cone) who are housing a very famous rockstar and his movie star wife for the summer while the rockstar gets sober. In Mary Jane’s house there is order and cleanliness. A framed portrait of President Ford hangs in the dining room. No one touches each other or expresses emotion. In the Cone house there is confusion, chaos and clutter but also love and affection.

On page 69, everyone gathers in the Cone’s living room to watch the Apollo-Soyuz docking in space. Before I give you a section of the page, here are the characters:

Dr. Cone, the psychiatrist.

Mrs. Cone, his hippy wife.

Sheba, the movie star.

Jimmy, the rockstar who’s getting sober. (In the third paragraph, we see that he’s seated on the couch beside Dr. Cone with Sheba on the floor in front of him.)

Izzy, the five-year-old who is Mary Jane’s charge.

Mary Jane, the 14-year old summer nanny.

Here’s the fourth paragraph.
Sheba patted the shag rug beside herself. I walked in and sat down, my back perilously close to Dr. Cone’s calves. Izzy climbed off her father’s lap and nestled into mine: her weight pushed my back against Dr. Cone’s legs. I looked up and saw that Mrs. Cone had tucked herself under her husband’s arm. Sheba put her hand on my knee, and at that moment every single body in the room connected into a single fleshy, leggy, arm entwined unit. We stared silently at the TV as an American astronaut leaned out of his spaceship and shook the hand of a Russian astronaut who was leaning out of his.

“I still don’t understand what is going on,” Izzy said. “Are they on the moon?”

“No, they’re just connecting,” Sheba said. “The spaceships connected and now the people are connecting.”

“Like us,” I whispered in Izzy’s ear, and she nodded and pushed herself deeper into my lap.
This is a small scene in the book. I put it in originally just to have a slice of history--the space docking. But as I saw them watching the TV, I could see how they would assemble themselves. It created a nice moment for Mary Jane whose parents never show affection or tell her they love her. It showed how she was shifting into the nest (and chaos) of emotive and loving people at the Cone’s.
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Anya Blau's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Jessica Anya Blau and Pippa.

The Page 69 Test: The Wonder Bread Summer.

The Page 69 Test: The Trouble with Lexie.

--Marshal Zeringue