Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pg. 69: Joanna Kavenna's "Inglorious"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Joanna Kavenna's Inglorious.

About the book, from the author's website:

Rosa Lane is 35, at Dante’s centre point of life, when the individual is meant to garner experience and become wise. So far she has managed well enough without wisdom; she has been obedient to prevailing mores, she has worked hard at her decent job in London and has never troubled the stream. Yet she is suddenly disoriented by events, unable to understand the death of her mother, finding the former buttresses of her life — her long-term relationship, her steady job — no longer support her. When she leaves her job, and her relationship ends, she is thrust out into a great loneliness; she becomes acutely aware of — tormented by — the details of the city, the lives of those around her, and the deluge of competing cries.

Having stripped herself of her former context, and become inexplicable to her friends and family, she embarks on a mock-epic quest for a sense of purpose, for an answer to the hoary old question ‘Why Live?’ Her comical grail quest is fraught with minor trials — encounters with former friends, unsympathetic landladies, prospective employers, theory-mongers, and denizens of the ‘real world’. Rosa also falls into a state of constant motion, nervously treading around London. Yet her constant circumnavigations of the city fail to enlighten her, and she escapes from the city to join friends in Cumbria. This escape finally precipitates the climax of the book, the greatest trial, and the beginnings of her return to normality, whatever that was.

Among the early praise for Inglorious:

“The downward spiral of a breakdown begins ever so slowly. You turn, you slip, and you turn again, and then you start hurtling from basement to sub-basement to lower levels 3 and 4. Inglorious is simply stunning. Honest, brilliant, arresting, and barefisted -- for the blows come hard. But it is also a work of art: tart, wise, human, funny, and best of all, without the least trace of sentiment. Kavenna finds humor in the abyss, light in the dark, and ultimately exhilaration at the end of the tunnel.”
--André Aciman, author of Call Me By Your Name

"Joanna Kavenna’s writing is full of wit and wisdom in glorious proportion."
--Aleksandar Hemon, author of Nowhere Man

"[T]his journey into a nervous breakdown is described with such relish and mordant humour that it remains as gripping as many more epic voyages."
Joanna Kavenna's first book, The Ice Museum, was short-listed for the Ondaatje Prize. Her writing has appeared in the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, and the International Herald Tribune, among other publications.

Read an excerpt from Inglorious and more at Kavenna's website.

The Page 69 Test: Inglorious.

--Marshal Zeringue