Saturday, January 13, 2007

Pg. 69: "An Alphabetical Life"

Wendy Werris is the author of An Alphabetical Life: Living It Up in the World of Books.

I asked her to apply the "page 69 test" to her book. Here's her reply, which opens with some lines from the page itself:
. . . I took to drinking a vodka tonic in the evenings and singing along with my favorite Beatles albums, which I’d stack on the turntable for a few hours’ pleasure. By bedtime my paperwork was finished, orders ready to be mailed the next day. Within a few months I felt a shift in my interpretation of the quiet, from unnerving to obliging, and began to appreciate it. This seclusion, I realized, was my natural state of being.

I had grown up in a family of independent souls, all of us, perhaps, taking our cues from my father and his long, silent retreats into his office to write. It wasn’t that solitude was encouraged or enforced, but we all seemed to acquire that tendency naturally over the course of our family life under one roof. We were all readers and usually could be found in one part of the house or another indulging in this shared but solitary pleasure. I found that a key requirement for a book rep is to resonate with the solitary life. We all spend so much time feasting on the silence of this particular choice of careers, that there must be a willingness to wear aloneness like a cloak of honor. Fortunately, I was able to assume this inner posture easily.

The underlying theme of An Alphabetical Life is that of self-discovery and how, through my love of and life-long career in books, my journey commenced and continues.

The first section of the book outlines the circumstances found in my youth that yielded such extraordinary personal results.

Page 69 highlights three important ideas that flow through the entire book: my decision to become a publishers’ sales rep, the family of readers and independent souls that I came from, and the solitary nature of my career. My father was a writer who spun jokes for a living. As a child I fell asleep each night to the sound of his manual typewriter as he worked until dawn on television scripts. This environment impacted me profoundly, although it took decades for me to reach the awareness that I had inherited a talent for writing – and finally sat down at the computer to begin An Alphabetical Life in 2003.

Because I had a parent whose career required solitude, when I began working as a publishers’ sales rep I was in the unique position to already be familiar with the interesting nature of aloneness. Unlike many other people faced with working out of their homes, it wasn’t a struggle for me to adapt to the quiet; instead, it became a gift. On a very basic level there seem to be two kinds of people that work in bookselling. There are the buyers, who have the pleasure of being surrounded by people (reps and clerks) all day long; and the sales reps, who have the equal pleasure of spending part of the day interacting with others (buyers and clerks!) and the rest working in the engaging solitude of home. It pleases me to know I chose the right path.
Many thanks to Wendy for the input.

Among the praise for An Alphabetical Life:
"The best memoirs are those in which you connect with the world by connecting with one life. An Alphabetical Life is one of those. It is a powerful and poignant book."
--Michael Connelly, author of The Closers

"For those who love the power of words and the personal value of books, An Alphabetical Life is a must read. Wendy Werris is a gifted writer -- you can actually smell the bookshelves and feel the pages. Against this rich backdrop is the tale of a remarkably courageous woman, a story of metamorphosis, a tale of passion and reflection."
--Rikki Klieman, Court TV legal analyst, attorney and author of LA Times best seller Fairy Tales Can Come True

"A profoundly moving and endlessly entertaining book where love illuminates every line - a young woman's love for writers and writing, a Sixties kid's love for her home town (Los Angeles) and, above all, a daughter's love for her father. Grips you from the first line and stays in your memory long after you have closed the final page. A quiet, brutally honest masterpiece."
--Tony Parsons, bestselling author of Man and Boy and One For My Baby
And there are more reviews and interviews at the San Francisco Chronicle and these sites.

Visit Wendy's online journal and official website.

Previous "page 69 tests:"
Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know
Meghan Daum, The Quality of Life Report
Scott Reynolds Nelson, Steel Drivin' Man
Richard Aleas, Little Girl Lost
Paul Collins, The Trouble With Tom
John McFetridge, Dirty Sweet
Michael Kazin, A Godly Hero
Bill Crider, Murder Among the OWLS
Zachary Shore, Breeding Bin Ladens
Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
Matt Haig, The Dead Fathers Club
Lawrence Light, Fear & Greed
Simon Read, In The Dark
Sandra Ruttan, Suspicious Circumstances
Henry Ansgar Kelly, Satan: A Biography
Alison Gaylin, You Kill Me
Gayle Lynds, The Last Spymaster
Jim Lehrer, The Phony Marine
Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.
Debra Ginsberg, Blind Submission
Sarah Katherine Lewis, Indecent
Peter Orner, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo
William Easterly, The White Man's Burden
Danielle Trussoni, Falling Through the Earth
Andrew Blechman, Pigeons
Anne Perry, A Christmas Secret
Elaine Showalter, Faculty Towers
Kat Richardson, Greywalker
Michael Bess, Choices Under Fire
Masha Hamilton, The Camel Bookmobile
Alex Beam, Gracefully Insane
Nicholas Lemann, Redemption
Jason Sokol, There Goes My Everything
Wendy Steiner, Venus in Exile
Josh Chafetz, Democracy’s Privileged Few
Anne Frasier, Pale Immortal
Michael Lewis, The Blind Side
David A. Bell, The First Total War
Brett Ellen Block, The Lightning Rule
Rosanna Hertz, Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice
Jason Starr, Lights Out
Robert Vitalis, America's Kingdom
Stephen Elliott, My Girlfriend Comes To The City And Beats Me Up
Colin McGinn, The Power of Movies
Sean Chercover, Big City, Bad Blood
Sigrid Nunez, The Last of Her Kind
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