Friday, November 10, 2006

Pg. 69: "Too Much of Nothing"

Michael Scott Moore is a novelist and reporter living in Berlin. The title of his debut novel Too Much of Nothing comes from an old Dylan song:

Everybody’s doin’ somethin’
I heard it in a dream
But when there’s too much of nothing
It just makes a fella mean

I asked Mike to apply the "page 69 test" to his novel. Here is what he reported:
Page 69 of Too Much of Nothing is very simple. It says, “Part Three.”

I figure this gives me freedom to write about Part Three as a whole, though, and Part Three is the section where my two teenage heroes meet Rick Fisher, the dark prince who leads Tom and Eric from naîve and sheltered beach-town lives into L.A.’s counterculture, a demimonde they imagine as “adult.” Rick’s a sort of Mickey Dora figure updated for the 1980s, although when I wrote the novel I had no idea how much Mickey Dora’s influence on early surfers was like Rick Fisher’s influence on my hapless kids:

“He showed us music that made more sense than anything we heard on the radio,” Eric narrates in Part Three; “he introduced us to a grown-up version of our own discontent. To us, a man like Rick Fisher, who exuded grim integrity like a modern-day Shane, seemed streetwise enough to reveal whatever our neighborhood was revealing from us about Real Life … Here was a man who’d been raised in our suburb without developing the prejudices of our parents, and his stripped-down attitude gave him an irresistible glamor, the cruel romantic sheen of a man who could see through all the social-climbing bullshit of his hokey hometown.”

The parallels between the fictional surf scene in Too Much of Nothing and Malibu’s real early surf scene only occurred to me later, starting with a moment after my step-dad read the novel and said, “You know, forty years separate us, but a lot of what happened in your book went on when I was a kid.”
Many thanks to Mike for the input.

To learn more about Mickey Dora, "the first king of Malibu, James Dean on a surfboard," click here.

To read an excerpt from Too Much of Nothing, click here.

Among the praise for the novel:

“A beautiful novel that manages to be scary, funny, and absolutely compelling. Moore’s talent for transporting the reader into the very heart of his fictional California surf town is astonishing. I love this book.”

--Joy Nicholson, author of The Tribes of Palos Verdes

“Too Much of Nothing is a clever and merciless look back at teenaged friendship, and at two boys’ jaded coming of age in mid-’80s L.A. Michael Scott Moore’s dead hero recalls all of the romantic terrors and joys of high school with a wry, cold eye. A truly accomplished and absorbing debut.”

--Stewart O’Nan, author of A Prayer for the Dying and The Night Country

There are more endorsements at the bottom of this page.

Click here to look in on Mike's blog, and here for the official Michael Scott Moore homepage.

A year ago he bid auf Wiedersehen to German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in this Slate column. Click here for more of Mike's nonfiction.

Previous "page 69 tests":
Frank Schaeffer, Baby Jack
Wyn Cooper, Postcards from the Interior
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov
Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew
Cass Sunstein, Infotopia
Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden
Paul Lewis, Cracking Up
Pagan Kennedy, Confessions of a Memory Eater
David Greenberg, Nixon's Shadow
Duane Swierczynski, The Wheelman
George Levine, Darwin Loves You
John Barlow, Intoxicated
Alicia Steimberg, The Rainforest
Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work?
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
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