Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Pg. 69: "Human Oddities"

Noria Jablonski's first collection of short stories is Human Oddities.

I invited Noria put her book to the "page 69 test," and she reported the following:
On page 69 of Human Oddities a woman is faced with an MRI machine:

"...there is a tremendous thumping, the machine has a heartbeat. Huge, the heartbeat and the machine itself, which is screaming nuclear, like, Hi! I'm going to rearrange your molecules! Mutate your DNA! Give you cancer if you don't have it already!"

I wrote this story just after I'd had an MRI (I briefly considered using the image for my author photo). The challenge was to write a story that unfolds almost entirely inside the MRI machine, inside the mind of the narrator, whose head is locked into a camera-cage. She travels back in time, remembering the break-up of her marriage and how she eventually wound up in jail in Canada, and she also projects a romanticized future where her daughter comes home to care for her as she succumbs to a brain tumor the size of a grapefruit. She, like all the characters in this collection, is desperately seeking connection. On one hand, all the stories in Human Oddities deal with the body in some way (some stories feature bodies, such as those of conjoined and formerly conjoined twins, that are more spectacular than others). But more than that, these are stories about connection and disconnection: from the herd, from family, from the beloved, and from oneself.
Many thanks to Noria for the input.

Among the praise for Human Oddities:

“In her stark, startling first book, Jablonski gestures toward the abject and the sublime. These nine stories hinge on the damaged contemporary body—battered, conjoined, disfigured by plastic surgery, abandoned, intoxicated, in drag or rendered uninhabitable by obesity, desire or deformity. With freak-show imagery tempered by sympathy, Jablonski conjures outcast protagonists. . . . a powerful voice and forward motion throughout.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Noria Jablonski pulls off a high-wire balancing act that left this reader swooning. The inevitable comparisons to Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love are deserved, not because of Jablonski’s sideshow-worthy characters, but because of her remarkable ability to juggle hilarity, death, gimlet-eyed optimism, and the unchecked giddiness of being alive.”
—Heidi Julavits, author of The Mineral Palace and The Effects of Living Backwards

“Some books of short stories are more than mere collections: they are their own worlds. Noria Jablonski’s Human Oddities is a strange, beautiful, terrible, slantwise world, full of the human tenderness that is brought on by both love and violence. These are beautifully written stories by an author who understands that the odd is no more unlikely or unlovable than the “normal,” and that those among us who are statistically improbable deserve light, language, and a certain loving ruthlessness.”
—Elizabeth McCracken, author of The Giant's House and Niagara Falls All Over Again

"Anytime I don't feel like I fit in--among my family, my friends, or all those freakishly normal people I pass in the aisles of Target--I find solidarity with the quirky outcasts in these short stories."
—Koren Zailckas, author of Smashed

Camille-Yvette Welsch reviewed Human Oddities at Small Spiral Notebook.

This San Francisco Chronicle interview discusses how Noria came to writing and developed her craft.

Check out more about Human Oddities on the radio at The Daedalus Howell Show.

Visit Noria's MySpace page.

Previous "page 69 tests:"
Ruth Scurr, Fatal Purity
Neal Pollack, Alternadad
Bella DePaulo, Singled Out
Steve Hamilton, A Stolen Season
Eric Klinenberg, Fighting for Air
Donna Moore, ...Go to Helena Handbasket
Louis Bayard, The Pale Blue Eye
Neal Thompson, Riding with the Devil
Sherry Argov, Why Men Marry Bitches
P.J. Parrish, An Unquiet Grave
Tyler Knox, Kockroach
Andrew Rehfeld, The Concept of Constituency
Laura Wiess, Such a Pretty Girl
Jeremy Blachman, Anonymous Lawyer
Andrew Pyper, The Wildfire Season
Wendy Werris, An Alphabetical Life
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