Thursday, January 11, 2007

Pg. 69: "The Quality of Life Report"

Meghan Daum is the author of the novel The Quality of Life Report and the essay collection My Misspent Youth. She writes a weekly column for the Los Angeles Times.

The New Yorker wrote that "Daum brings a crisp, wisecracking voice to her novel," and called it "an admirably nuanced view of the American heartland." It was named a New York Times Notable Book in 2003.

I invited Meghan put her novel to the "page 69 test," and she reported the following:
Page 69 of my novel, The Quality of Life Report, involves the consumption of 12 bottles of beer and our heroine, Lucinda Trout, being propositioned by a near stranger to spend the night at his remote cabin. By page 74, Lucinda will be en route to this cabin—and her eventual spiral into reckless, life changing love—but on page 69 she’s still a relative innocent (it’s amazing what five pages will do.) It’s been awhile since I’ve looked through this book and this is not a scene that particularly stands out in my mind. But in reading it over I can see that it’s curiously pivotal scene. The narrator, Lucinda, is on her first date with Mason Clay, a man who, in a different kind of book, might qualify as the “love interest” but here plays the role of a kind of merry prankster. He’s an eccentric woodsman with three kids, a host of addictions, and no inclination to get out of his central plains town of Prairie City. Lucinda is a 29-year-old television reporter whose drive to have an exciting life has, oddly enough, propelled her all the way from New York to Prairie City, where she thinks she’s going to experience “authentic living” and, by the way, produce television segments about it at the same time. Lucinda is not the most likeable person in the first half of the book and that would include page 69. If I were Mason on this date, I’m not sure I’d be inviting her to my cabin. But I’m glad he does, because otherwise there wouldn’t be a page 169 or a page 269. I’m also glad Lucinda eventually accepts his offer, even if I had to ply her with alcohol.
Many thanks to Meghan for the input.

Read an excerpt from The Quality of Life Report which begins:
For the sake of those involved, I will say only this: my moral, ethical, and, if not spiritual, let's say existential coming-of-age took place in a more or less rectangular-shaped state in the Midwest-closer to the West Coast than the east by maybe one hundred miles, closer to Canada than Mexico by maybe one hundred-in a town populated by approximately ninety thousand government employees, farmers, academics, insurance salesmen, assembly-line workers, antique dealers, real estate agents, rape crisis counselors, certified massage therapists, girls volleyball coaches, and a whole lot of other people who, as they would tell it, just wanted to live in a peaceful place where movies cost six dollars and the children's zoo was free, and where library fines, even if you kept the book for a year, even if you dropped the book in the bathtub and returned it looking like it had been rescued by search divers, were rarely known to exceed five dollars.
Among the praise for The Quality of Life Report:
"[A] funny, literate... entertaining, and often touching story of a single woman lurching into her thirties."

"Reads like The Bridges of Madison County etched in acid... The simple life never looked so complicated."

"Daum’s enormous comic gift—and her ability to use it in the service of fundamentally serious issues—is an unexpected delight."
--New York Times Book Review

"Daum has a charming, breezy style and a pretty wicked sense of humor... The Quality of Life Report is great fun."
--USA Today
Read a Q & A that begins with:
The parallel between your life and Lucinda's is unmistakable. You lived in New York for many years and once worked at a fashion magazine. Then you moved to Nebraska. At what stage in your own move did the novel idea come into play? How much of your real-life experience influenced the book?
Among the various articles about Meghan: a "Conversation between Joan Didion and Meghan Daum."

Visit Meghan's official website.

Previous "page 69 tests:"
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