Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pg. 69: "Whale Season"

N.M. Kelby, author of Whale Season, In the Company of Angels, Theater of the Stars, and this blog's entry on The Great Florida Novel, spent more than 20 years as a print and television journalist before she began writing novels.

Watch this brief video of Nicole talking about Whale Season, her most recent novel.

I asked her to apply the "page 69 test" to Whale Season.

Here's what Nicole reported:
On page 69 of Whale Season there is white space. Given the fact that the hero of the book is a 70 year-old Buddhist Blues player, this may make some sense.

The mind clears when it reaches page 69. At least, for a moment.

For a moment, we are not laughing. Or worried. Or afraid.

We are in a perfect state of "no mind."


“No mind,” does not mean complete mental blankness, as though one were asleep. It implies freedom from thought pollution. When the incessant chatter drops out, what remains are those few mental processes essential to the present moment. Whale Harbor, Florida, a town that has no whales (where the book is set), no longer lingers. Its barking mayor, its hapless poker-playing RV salesman who dreams of his childhood pet--a one-tone alligator named "Miss Pearl"--and the man who thinks he is “Jesus,” who "saves” people by gently easing them from this life into the next, are forgotten.

On page 69 we are asked to focus on the perfect state of blankness, of no-mind, that Jimmy Ray, as hero, as Buddhist, attains.

We are outside of the world for just a moment. And yet, more present than we have ever imagined being. Zen.

And then, as is always the way, life starts again.

Words appear. Words pile. Words bump. Words push their busy way onto the page and fill our heads with matters of the heart--that bruised, unwieldy, and willful creature.

The heart: the only one true thing worth writing about. And so we end page 69 with longing, for longing is all we ever really have.

Thanks to Nicole for the input.

Whale Season has been praised by reviewers far and wide, including:

"In her first two novels, Kelby dared to ask Big Questions in spare, affecting prose. ...(now she) has taken a break from her philosophical pursuits to journey deep into the whacked-out fantasyland of Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry..." --New York Times Book Review

"Whale Season is purely delightful—rich, clever and crawling with affectionately twisted characters. Nicole Kelby is a natural-born storyteller who manages to be very funny and very wise at the same time." -- Carl Hiaasen, author of Skinny Dip, Hoot, and Tourist Season

"Whale Season is a slice of how [crazy Florida] is, with some great stories, a “can they get the crazy guy in time” storyline and no small amount of grown-up tenderness. Kelby has now proven she can write serious literature and seriously funny literature. Can’t wait to see what she brings to the table next." -- Colleen Mondor, Bookslut

And maybe the biggest news about Whale Season: it's going to be a movie!

Previous "page 69 tests":
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue