Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Laura Smith's "The Art of Vanishing"

Laura Smith is a staff writer at Timeline with bylines from The New York Times, the Guardian, Slate, Mother Jones, and others.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Art of Vanishing, and reported the following:
I did the page 99 test and was blown away for several reasons. The Art of Vanishing is about my search for Barbara Newhall Follett, the child prodigy novelist who disappeared in 1939. But it's also about my marriage and my search to reconcile stability and adventure. My and Barbara's stories are both about a kind of restlessness that is particular to youth, and this page really captures all that. Page 99 falls on a passage about the time Barbara and her husband quit their jobs to hike the Appalachian trail. It begins with one of my favorite quotes of hers from a letter; "God knows I may end up in an awful mess. Still, all I can do is follow the best I know—take the greenest and most verdurous trail I can see. If it ends in a desert or a swamp, maybe I can go back and try another one ... I've a new, and I think better structure of life, though time alone can tell that!" It was difficult for me to read this passage now. In just a few short years, she would experience a kind of pain that she couldn't have imagined. The tone of this page really captures her adventurous spirit but also her naivety. You can only feel this bold when you're at the height of your powers. I once really related to this quote, but these days, in my own story, I'm feeling my own fragility and looking upon the self that loved this quote with a mixture of nostalgia and sadness.
Visit Laura Elaine Smith's website.

--Marshal Zeringue