Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Laurie Gwen Shapiro's "The Stowaway"

Laurie Gwen Shapiro has most recently written articles for publications including The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Slate, Aeon, Los Angeles Review of Books, and has her own history column focusing on unsung heroes for The Forward. Shapiro is also a documentary filmmaker who won an Independent Spirit Award for directing IFC’s Keep the River On Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale and an Emmy nomination for producing HBO’s Finishing Heaven.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Stowaway: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica, and reported the following:
Is Ford Madox Ford's statement "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you," accurate for The Stowaway?

I would say yes - because in many ways this nonfiction book is about a boy's coming of age - a New York City truant who matures at sea.

On page 99 of The Stowaway there is a key moment with Billy Gawronski, the wise-cracking 17-year-old stowaway who was given a chance by Commander Byrd to be a mess boy. He is reporting back to New York via the ship’s radiograms – he is in the coal room now at Byrd’s bequest to replace a crew member who had to go home at Panama Canal. Mess boy is the much easier job – but he is hoping that by not complaining in the hottest part of the ship he will be asked to join the most valued to winter over in Antarctica with the crew – it is hard not to imagine him forlorn taking his turn heating ash and clove cleaners, regretting his actions. In fact, in letters I saw, home he was miserable. And his parents who hated the idea of his stowing away, now encouraged him to stay put and prove himself a man. It is a critical moment when he is respecting authority for the first time, and on his way to manhood.
Visit Laurie Gwen Shapiro's website.

--Marshal Zeringue