Friday, November 7, 2008

William Conescu's "Being Written"

You start reading a blog entry on a first novel, Being Written by William Conescu, and it’s written in the second person, and you’re not sure how you feel about that. But you read the second sentence, and it occurs to you that there might be some reason the author made this choice. So you pick up Being Written – which, conveniently, sits beside you on your desk – and you look at page one, and you see that the opening is written in the second person. There’s a guy at a bar. He hears a scratching sound in the distance. It’s the scratching of “the author’s pencil.” Some woman across the room is “being written.”

Okay. You flip ahead to page 99 – you’re forever flipping to page 99 – but this section is not written in the second person. The font is even different. Like this:

“Does he deal drugs or something?”

“No, no. Definitely not.”

“Then what?”

Jon doesn’t want to go down this path. It’s been a long night already. He fishes two glasses out of the sink and sets them on the drying rack. “They’re getting past some things,” he says, but Daniel looks unsatisfied. So Jon adds, “You might be familiar with one of those things, hmm?”

It takes a moment for this to sink in, but then the color rises in Daniel’s freckled cheeks. His ears actually turn magenta. It’s amazing.

You skim the back of the book and see that Daniel is the only one who knows he’s a character in a book that’s being written. A minor character, in fact, if the jacket copy can be trusted. You read on:

“But,” Jon continues, “like I said, they’ll be fine. They always are. They’re good together, they really are. You should have seen them in school and when they had their act. It was like they could read each other’s minds.”

“So why do you think Graham doesn’t want to go on the auditions?” Daniel asks.

“Maybe he’s not ready,” Jon replies, returning to the sink. “I think he gets nervous being in front of other people. Truly performing. It’s not the same as backing up Delia.”

“Yeah,” Daniel says quietly, and then, “Do you miss acting?”

Jon eyes Daniel through the mirror behind the bar. “No,” he says. “It’s not an easy life.” Jon rinses out the martini shaker before a sigh escapes him and he turns back around. “You don’t need to help me, Daniel. I’m the happiest person in this little group.”

Daniel says nothing, but the color rises to his cheeks again.

“I hear Monty’s getting a promotion,” Jon adds.

“Is he?”

“How about that?”

Daniel sure blushes a lot. Seems like he’s worked his way into this social circle of artsy types who are being written, and he’s interfering with their lives to try to get himself a bigger part and make himself integral to their story. (You’re an extremely perceptive reader, by the way.) And here he is on page 99 in everyone’s business, so something must be going right. And wrong. There’s not a wealth of love coming from Jon. The book – a paperback original from Harper Perennial, how handy that it’s sitting here – alternates back and forth between chapters of “the book” written in the third person and Daniel’s second-person perception of being written into it.

You hold the book up to your nose and sniff. Smells like something between a literary thriller and a dark comedy. (You have an extremely active sense of smell.) Okay, you’re kind of curious. Plus it’s a new author who seems like a reasonably good guy. (You’re an extremely sensitive person.) You’ll give the guy a break and pick up his novel, maybe mention it to a friend if you enjoy it.
That's William Conescu’s take on the “Page 99 Test” applied to his new novel, Being Written.

Browse inside Being Written, and learn more about the book and author at William Conescu's website.

William Conescu was born in New York and raised in New Orleans. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned an MFA in Creative Writing at North Carolina State University. His short stories have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, New Letters, Green Mountains Review, and other publications.

--Marshal Zeringue