Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lauren Groff's "The Monsters of Templeton"

Lauren Groff 's short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals, including The Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Hobart, and Five Points as well as in the anthologies Best American Short Stories 2007, Pushcart Prize XXXII, and Best New American Voices 2008.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her newly-released debut novel The Monsters of Templeton, and reported the following:
Odd that only two days ago, during an interview with a book journalist, I first heard the mention of the page 99-test -- the journalist used it, too, to figure out if she wanted to read the heaps of books that she was always sent. But it absolutely makes sense -- page 99 is where the fire and zest of the initial chapters may begin to lapse, before the writer gears up again for the grand finale. Writers have very little control over how a book is set, so we'll never know what will eventually appear on page 99 -- but I guess we'd all hope that every page is interesting.

As for my book I'd say this: Page 99 of The Monsters of Templeton is square in the middle of Sarah Franklin Temple's journal entry, just at the moment when she meets Asterisk "Sy" Upton, the man who will soon be her husband. It's a bit of a fractured narrative, full of ellipses and full-stops, which is close to Sarah's mindset at the time (she's a neurasthenic, hysterical, recent graduate from a woman's college who is brushing dangerously close to full-blown psychosis), and she's beginning to feel her world cracking to pieces around her. Though this page is definitely not representative of the book as a whole (because Monsters has so many different narrative strands and modes of telling the story, I don't know if any single page is actually a good sample), it does show that Monsters is a narrative of pastiches -- many individual characters and voices that together make up the chorus of the novel. I tried to make the novel as joyous and ebullient as possible -- I wanted it to be the representation of how I felt about my hometown, Cooperstown, New York, on which the town of Templeton is modeled -- and the best way I found of doing that was to allow the historical characters to speak in their own voices. Poor Sarah's voice just happens to be one of the edgiest in the entire book -- it's not easy to live inside the brain of a (maybe) slightly loony girl.
Read an excerpt from The Monsters of Templeton and learn more about the book at the official The Monsters of Templeton website.

Visit Lauren Groff's website and her blog.

--Marshal Zeringue