Friday, August 27, 2010


The Campaign for the American Reader is "an independent initiative to encourage more readers to read more books" run by Marshal Zeringue who is thereby doing no less than making the world a better place for writers, readers, and humans. Also dogs. So a big, enthusiastic, heartfelt thank you to Marshal.

One of Marshal's blogs is The Page 69 Test which posits that page 69 of any book will be somehow representative of the whole and will give you, as you stand in a bookstore or library trying to decide what to read, a good sense of whether or not you'll like the book. Cute, no? No. Mind-blowing. This test worked so well for The Atlas of Love it seems like I made it up. As you see though, I did not. In case some time has passed and it's not on the main page anymore, here's the permalink to The Atlas of Love's Page 69 Test.

I'll also post it below, but you should click through. Marshal Zeringue runs some pretty cool blogs.

The Atlas of Love Page 69 Test

This is seriously amazing (and a little weird)! If you asked me to point to the one section of the book that most fully encapsulates its theme and central question, I’d point you to a passage on page...wait for it...69! Pretty unbelievable. Check it out:

People are always really gushy about nothing being more important than family and about real friends being like family. She’s like a sister to me, we say of close friends, like family’s not about blood or laws anymore but only love. Real family is much less sentimental than that though. Family is who you’re stuck with.

It goes on, on page 70 (and throughout the rest of the book), to clarify the point. Yes, good friends are family. Yes, there are many, many ways to be a family. Yes, those ways often have little to do with blood or legalities. Yes, alternative families are also beautiful and wonderful. But also, just because your family is the non-traditional kind doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and roses. All families, even the ones who aren’t technically related, are complicated, challenging, and often fraught. That’s the other thing that family means besides love. Love but also complication. Friends you can get rid of when they become annoying. Friends who are family? Well, them you’re stuck with, for better and for worse. That’s what The Atlas of Love is about.

Page 69 also includes this passage:

The card read, “For my baby (and her puppy) -- Sorry we forgot about you in all the excitement. You’re still my favorite baby of all. Love you. Guess who?” My grandmother signed everything, “Guess who?” which made it pretty easy to guess.

and this theme and Janey’s grandma’s “Guess who?” run throughout and come back centrally and movingly towards the end of the book.

So the page 69 test proves very successful for The Atlas of Love! This was fun (and revelatory).

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