Thursday, June 14, 2007

Emily Maguire's "Taming the Beast"

Emily Maguire's first novel, Taming the Beast, was nominated for the Dylan Thomas Prize and received a Special Commendation in the Kathleen Mitchell Awards.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her novel and reported the following:
From page 99:

Mike lit himself a cigarette and inhaled deeply. ‘So here’s what I wanted to tell you. Last night, at your place, we got so dirty, right in front of everyone. No one had a clue!’

‘At my place?’ Jamie’s face flushed. ‘What are you on about?’

Me and Sarah were going for it, right there at dinner.’

Dinner. Jamie ran the tape over in his mind. Nothing had happened at dinner. Before dinner Sarah had kissed Jamie and flirted with Mike. After dinner Shelley had driven Mike and Jess home and Sarah had ... God! What was Mike talking about?

‘There I am, eating the delicious meal your lovely lady cooked up, and suddenly my pants are open and there’s a hand on my knob.’ Mike shook his head as if he couldn’t quite believe it. ‘There’s Sarah, chatting away about variable loans or some shit, and all the time she’s pulling me off under the table. I returned the favour though. When I licked my fingers after the meal, it wasn’t just the chicken I was lickin’ if you get what I mean.’

‘Sorry, I have to - ’ Jamie bolted for the toilets and made it inside just in time to vomit up what felt like everything he had ever eaten and drunk in his entire life. After a couple of minutes he stopped and rocked back on his heels to catch his breath. Then he remembered her saying I’ve never been so wet in my life and his stomach heaved again.

Taming the Beast is the story of Sarah Clark, a young woman still reeling from an affair with her sadistic English teacher eight years earlier. The book’s action is mostly concerned with the re-ignition of this abusive relationship now that Sarah is an adult with sexual experience and agency.

Page 99 is a glimpse into the effect Sarah’s self-destructive sexual fury has on her best friend Jamie. Jamie’s girlfriend is pregnant and another couple in Sarah’s circle – Jess and Mike- have become engaged. Sarah, comfortable only in the midst of chaos, has taken the opportunity of an engagement dinner to seduce both Mike and Jamie. Mike takes it as a bit of fun, but Jamie has been in love with Sarah for a decade and he assumes her sexual attention means his love is at last being returned.

Page 99 represents a turning point of sorts for the Jamie-Sarah relationship. From here on in, Sarah will charge headlong into a destructive relationship with her former abuser, and Jamie – feeling sexually humiliated but still in love – will cast aside his long-time role of Sarah’s protector in an attempt to become her lover – whatever the cost to his wife and child, and to Sarah herself.

This page is interesting because it shows the effects of Sarah’s sexual relentlessness which is itself an effect of her earlier abusive relationship. The book is, in one sense, about the ways in which a single event can have momentous repercussions and this scene is a glimpse at the hurt that still radiates from the damaged woman at the centre of the story.
Visit Emily Maguire's website and read an excerpt from Taming the Beast.

--Marshal Zeringue