Monday, June 22, 2009

Julie Metz's "Perfection"

Julie Metz is a graphic designer, artist, and freelance writer whose essays have appeared in publications including Glamour and Hemispheres magazines, and the online story site

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal, and reported the following:
I will be worn down.

I will lose my mind.

I will have to live a completely false life.

I can’t pretend. I don’t have the stomach for it. I have always been a terrible liar. No more lying.

Page 99 of my memoir Perfection (Voice/Hyperion) comes right after a huge wad of dark matter hits the fan, the moment when I discover, after seven months of widowhood, that my husband had been having a long affair with a woman in my town, who also happened to be the mother of one of my daughter’s friends.

Though Perfection is nonfiction, I usually I read novels, though I make exceptions for James Woods’ How Fiction Works, David Sedaris, Susan Orlean, and current affairs and history books I hope will make me smarter. Some novels manage to pack in both—Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty taught me more about life during the Thatcher years than I’d ever learned from newspapers even as it rocked my world with sentences I had to read over and over again. We won’t get into my To Be Read pile here, taller than I am, at any rate.

When I began my memoir, a writer friend suggested that I re-read the novel Jane Eyre, the great nineteenth century fictional memoir in which an innocent narrator is shattered by a devastating revelation at about the midpoint of the novel.

A check of page 99 of my paperback edition of Jane Eyre reveals that the heroine is still at Lowood School, the orphanage where she spends her childhood before leaving to become a governess at Mr. Rochester’s gloomy Thornfield Hall:

“I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the wind then faintly blowing.”

The shattering revelation of Mr. Rochester’s mad wife in the attic is still 126 pages away. Jane will spend the remainder of the novel searching for her liberty and her true self. The rest of my book after page 99 is also about coming to terms with some painful truths, and rebuilding both a life and an identity after betrayal and widowhood. I hope readers will see something of themselves in my midlife journey.
Read an excerpt from Perfection, and learn more about the book and author at Julie Metz's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue