In this installment of Page 69,
We put Giano Cromley's The Prince of Infinite Space to the test.
Ok Giano, set up page 69 for us:
The page 69 excerpt below is from my novel-in-progress The Prince of Infinite Space. Our protagonist, Kirby Russo, has never been very good at figuring out how to get along in the world. He’s seventeen and just starting his second year at Haverford Military Institute, after law a law-breaking escapade across Montana (which was the subject of my earlier novel The Last Good Halloween). At this point, Kirby has finally come to the realization that no matter how hard he tries, there’s no way he’ll be able to successfully follow the rules of life. As such, he’s decided his first course of action is to get himself kicked out of school. This page opens with him being sent to Dean Yellin’s office, for what Kirby hopes will be his dismissal from school.
Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the book is about?
This page, though largely taken up by description of the dean’s office, happens to capture one of the major themes of this novel. Namely: Is there a way to make peace with the gap between what we hoped we’d be, and what we actually turn out to be?
The Prince of Infinite Space
On the wall behind him is a picture of President Bush, smiling in that insecure way he has, as if to admit that even though he oversaw the fall of communism he secretly knows he had nothing to do with it. Next to the Bush headshot is a black and white photo, taken at an odd angle, of two people shaking hands. After twisting my head to get a better view, I realize it's a very young, possibly idealistic, version of Dean Yellin shaking hands with a gleaming-toothed JFK.
The 1990 version of Dean Yellin is a paunchy guy with a mop of white hair that's definitely not military-grade. Rumor has it that, after finishing a tour in Vietnam, he became an antiwar protester — one of those guys who used to do sit-ins at administration buildings, before eventually settling down and acquiring a desk in one. I think that's why he always looks like a guy who's trying to impress everyone – the lefties and the righties, as if both of their causes were compromised by his presence here.
"Mr. Russo," he says without turning from his green-glowing computer screen, "do you know why I called you here today?"
"I've got a pretty good idea," I tell him. "But do you know why I'm glad you called me in here today?"
This conversational curveball catches him off guard and he finally turns from his computer to look at me. I can tell he wants to take the bait and ask me why, but instead he flips open a manila folder on his desk and cocks his head to aim his bifocals at it. If he had taken the bait, we could have ended this kabuki dance before it even started.
Giano Cromley is the author of The Last Good Halloween. He lives in Chicago.