Monday, May 7, 2007

Mil Millington's "Love and Other Near-Death Experiences"

Mil Millington has written for various magazines, radio, and the Guardian (he also had a weekly column in the Guardian Weekend magazine). His website has achieved cult status, and he is also a co-founder and co-writer of the online magazine The Weekly.

His novels include A Certain Chemistry, Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, and Love and Other Near-Death Experiences, to which he applied the "Page 99 Test" and reported the following:
I often say that context is everything. (Though, of course, what I mean by that depends on the situation in which I say it.) Here the first question I had was, do I take Page 99 of the UK version, or Page 99 of the US one? The former coincides with the start of Chapter 12; the latter is towards the end of Chapter 11 (so much for American get-up-and-go). The British edition's page is full of the protagonist's anxiety about a strange character who's previously accosted him on the street in the early hours of the morning; he's full of doubts and uncertainty (which is very LAONDE), and it also contains a joke about furniture polish that I quite like. However, with apologies to Surrey-born F. Mad' Fo', I'll concentrate on the version published in the former colonies.

I write comedy, and my main interest is characters and (oh dear) themes. In LAONDE an eclectic group of people are confronting that old puzzler, 'Why am I alive?' especially vividly because - for unrelated, and stupidly prosaic reasons - they've all narrowly missed being killed in accidents where others weren't so lucky. Apart from the main character, they're dealing with their oddly still having pulses in the ways that - if you look - people in that position tend to, with worrying regularity. It's not really a thriller - and absolutely not (as some have thought) a mystery riddle. It's a sort of existential, comic frolic with a serious point tugging at its coat. By Page 99, though, the pieces are still being assembled, and we're merely eavesdropping on the protagonist fretting to his best friend in a pub: things are a lot different by fifty pages later. That's not very representative of the novel, I don't think. Though the word 'wank' is used four times, so it is quite 'me'.

Actually, I'm not sure that any page - or even an isolated selection - can quite convey the feel and thrust of the book. I had this problem when doing readings: what ten or so pages should I choose?

It's not funny, which is uncharacteristic, but the opening of the novel is possibly more indicative:
"Hello. My name is Robert, and I haven't been dead for sixty-three days now."
Read an excerpt from Love and Other Near-Death Experiences.

--Marshal Zeringue