Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pg. 69: "The Last of Her Kind"

Sigrid Nunez is the author of five novels: A Feather on the Breath of God, Naked Sleeper, Mitz: The Marmoset of Bloomsbury, For Rouenna, and, most recently, The Last of Her Kind.

She graciously agreed to put The Last of Her Kind to the "page 69 test," and this is what she discovered:
Of course, there are two different page 69s to be considered, because page 69 of the hardcover of The Last of Her Kind is not the same as page 69 of the softcover.

Looking at the hardcover edition first, page 69 strikes me as representative of the novel in terms of style, perhaps, but not of content. For one thing, there is no mention of one of the novel’s two most important characters, the young woman to whom the book’s title refers. Also, a reader of this page, with its mention of “a dead kid” and “morgues” and “an unidentified teenage corpse” might think the book was a mystery novel….

Turning to page 69 of the softcover edition, however, I find a different story. Here we have both main characters: the narrator, Georgette George, and her college roommate, Ann Drayton. And in this excerpt, two of the novel’s most important elements are touched upon: the difference in the two women’s backgrounds (Georgette comes from a large, impoverished family; Ann is the only child of wealthy parents), and the troubled relationship between the radical Ann and the bourgeois mother and father she loathes.

That said, I prefer the less representative page 69, from the hardcover, simply because I think the writing is stronger. And that’s what would make this reader, at least, want to read more.
Many thanks to Sigrid for the input.

Click here to read an excerpt from The Last of Her Kind.

To listen to a podcast of Sigrid Nunez reading from The Last of Her Kind, click here.

Click here for a recent interview with Sigrid.

Among the many glowing reviews:
The Last of Her Kind is full of incident and high drama … it is, above all, about the way women communicate and interpret their experience, bearing down on every nuance, irony, anguished interchange and heartbreaking loss…. [A]n unflinching examination of justice, race and political idealism that brings to mind Philip Roth’s “American Pastoral” and the tenacious intelligence of Nadine Gordimer.” --The New York Times

“Nunez’s piercing intelligence and post-feminist consciousness may well feel that writing the Great American novel is no longer a feasible or worthwhile goal—but damned if she hasn’t gone and done it anyway…. [The book] blossoms into a powerful and acute social novel, perhaps the finest yet written about that peculiar generation of young Americans who believed their destiny was to shape history…. This book is of course fiction, but it has more truth in it, more compassion, and more revelation, than all the confessional memoirs spewed up by all the self-aggrandizing idiots of the last decade. Don’t miss it.” --Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com
The Last of Her Kind was named to the Christian Science Monitor's Best Fiction 2006 list.

Previous "page 69 tests":
Stanley Fish, How Milton Works
James Longenbach, The Resistance to Poetry
Margaret Lowrie Robertson, Season of Betrayal
Sy Montgomery, The Good Good Pig
Allison Burnett, The House Beautiful
Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, A History
Ed Lynskey, The Dirt-Brown Derby
Cindy Dyson, And She Was
Simon Blackburn, Truth
Brian Freeman, Stripped
Alyson M. Cole, The Cult of True Victimhood
Jeff Biggers, In the Sierra Madre
Jeff Broadwater, George Mason, Forgotten Founder
Alicia Steimberg, Andrea Labinger (trans.), The Rainforest
Michael Grunwald, The Swamp
Darrin McMahon, Happiness: A History
Leo Braudy, From Chivalry to Terrorism
David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie
Leah Hager Cohen, Train Go Sorry
Chris Grabenstein, Slay Ride
David Helvarg, Blue Frontier
Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria
Bill Crider, A Mammoth Murder
Robert W. Bennett, Taming the Electoral College
Nicholas Stern et al, Stern Review Report
Kerry Emanuel, Divine Wind
Adam Langer, The Washington Story
Michael Scott Moore, Too Much of Nothing
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