Monday, July 6, 2015

Page 69: The Glen Rock Book of the Dead

The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 
we put Marion Winik's The Glen Rock Book of the Dead to the test!

OK, Marion, set up page 69 for us.

Page 69 is the first of two containing a micro-essay about the late writer Caroline Knapp, who is not mentioned by name, but whose identity would be obvious to anyone who knew her or her work based on the details given. No one in the book is identified by name in the book — instead each has a label, like "The Jeweler," "The Queen of New Jersey" or "The Bad Influence." Their death date is also given, and their order in the book corresponds to when they appeared in my life.

What The Glen Rock Book of The Dead is about:

It's a group of tiny essays, most no longer than 300 words, each a portrait of someone important to me who died. It starts with the first death I remember, a friend of my parents' whose funeral coincided with Visiting Day at my sleepaway camp so they didn't come. It goes through the decades -- the 70s, 80s, 90s, up through 2007. It includes very close people (father, husband, etc.) and a few I actually never met but were important to me, like this one on page 69. It sounds like it would be a terribly sad book, but there's a lot of tenderness and humor and even anger as well.

Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the collection is about? Does it align itself the collection’s theme?

Well, there aren't very many public figures in the book. Almost all the entries are people I knew. But Keith Haring and Caroline Knapp were two that felt so personally important, I had to give them their own entries. The very last selection in the book is called "The VIP Lounge" and here I grouped a whole bunch of celebrities that I couldn't leave out but didn't have the unique feeling of connection that I had with Haring and Knapp. The VIP Lounge has Jim Morrison, Marilyn, Kurt Cobain, people like that, but also my beloved literary idol, Grace Paley.



Marion Winik's books include the memoir First Comes Love (1996), a New York Times Notable Book, and the cult classic The Glen Rock Book of the Dead, the book Cheryl Strayed said she most often recommends to other people, as well High in the Low Fifties, The Lunch-Box Chronicles, and others. She writes a monthly column at and reviews books for Newsday and Kirkus. She lives in Baltimore with her teenage daughter and teaches in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore. More information and links at

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