Monday, February 28, 2011

Deb Olin Unferth's "Revolution"

Deb Olin Unferth is the author of the story collection Minor Robberies and the novel Vacation, winner of the 2009 Cabell First Novelist Award and a New York Times Book Review Critics' Choice. Her work has been featured in Harper's Magazine, McSweeney's, The Believer, and the Boston Review. She has received two Pushcart Prizes and a 2009 Creative Capital grant for Innovative Literature.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War, and reported the following:
Okay, so it was about time someone taught us to dance.

Revolution is a memoir about when I was 18 and dropped out of college and went to Nicaragua to join the Communist revolution with my boyfriend. Page 99 is the final page of a short chapter titled “Doctors,” which lists a few of the strange illnesses, bugs, and doctors we ran into.

In Nicaragua, during the Sandinista revolutionary government, there was free health care for all Nicaraguans, a lot of free clinics and Nicaraguan doctors, and a lot of foreign volunteer doctors. This page describes one doctor, a Canadian, whom we met.

I still remember him clearly, after all these years—his gentle manner, his alarm at our eating habits, his conviction that we would soon be very ill, maybe irrevocably so. Then out of nowhere he sighed and said, “Can you do the waltz at least?” Alas, not even that.

And by God, he may have come from his far-away land to right wrongs, save lives, change the world, and perhaps he hadn’t figured out how to do any of that yet, and maybe he would go home unsuccessful, but he could teach us the waltz at least, he could straighten this one asymmetrical thing, and he did.

One two three, one two three, one two three…
Read an excerpt from Revolution, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue