Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Jay Kirk's "Avoid the Day"

Jay Kirk is the author of Kingdom Under Glass, named one of the Best Nonfiction Books of 2010 by the Washington Post. His award-winning nonfiction has been published in Harper’s, GQ, the New York Times Magazine, and anthologized in Best American Crime Writing, Best American Travel Writing, and Submersion Journalism: Reporting in the Radical First Person from Harper’s Magazine. He is the recipient of a Whiting Award, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, and was a finalist for the 2013 National Magazine Award. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania, where he founded, a journal of experimental nonfiction.

Kirk applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Avoid the Day: A New Nonfiction in Two Movements, and reported the following:
From page 99:
I can hear something distorted in the way I'm speaking: a little trancy as I talk about Clyde, savage exhumer of the dentist's Night Gladiolus. This slurred story being a chapter from my most intimate folk oeuvre, a way to signal my gothic origins to new friends. The mad pastor for a father. A childhood in the shadow of the asylum.
This is the second graf on Page 99. I am in the midst of telling a childhood story (after a moonshine session with a local singer) to the musicians I'm traveling around Transylvania with: how my pet dog, Clyde, was given away to the state hospital, that being the main industry of the town I grew up in, in Vermont, the warehousing of the insane, circa early eighties. I think in this case the Page 99 Test definitely works. This brief excerpt gets at the central expression of the book, and part of the central struggle, which is, how much does perception define character? It also gives a glimpse of the scene of the crime, where I will return repeatedly over the book, and where any resolution, if resolution can be said to exist, can be found.
Learn more about Avoid the Day at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Kingdom Under Glass.

--Marshal Zeringue