Monday, December 28, 2015

Page 69: The Bohemian Guide to Monogamy

Disclaimer: 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 Andrew Armacost's The Bohemian Guide to Monogamy to the test!

OK, Andrew, set up page 69 for us:

Page-69 appears about midway through a story called “Johnny’s Blind Ambition,” a story about a college freshman or sophomore, Angel Sanchez, who treats women like trophies, who considers dating a form of hunting. By page-69, Angel has suffered many injuries already, physical and otherwise, and has recognized a new growth within his mind, something like an unwelcome polyp—a conscience, more or less; that is, the will to be good, to stop hurting people. 

Here, on page-69, his roommate has left a biopic piece of writing that allows Angel to see how others see him—not wholly without goodness, but certainly with the ability to exhibit the cruelty of an insect. Angel reads this screenplay and ruminates on it throughout the rest of the story. 

What is The Bohemian Guide to Monogamy about?

Books are like vessels or containers; sometimes they can hold one thing, sometimes many. I think THE BOHEMIAN GUIDE TO MONOGAMY is about several things. Chiefly, it’s about the intersection between young adulthood and full-blown adulthood, that period where concerns with yourself are forcibly overcome by concern for others, for your family. 

Birth and death have always had an intriguing relationship. I have a wife and two children, both under the age of five. In speaking with other parents, several aspects about the process of transitioning to parenthood are nearly universal. The magnitude of certain emotions can vary greatly…but the essence? No so much. You become a parent and there is joy, yes, and love, and appreciation for what you have. But there are other things. There is mourning. There is a happiness for your new life and remorse about the life you’ve lost forever. The goal of self-actualization has been supplanted by the goal of actualizing your children. There’s some sadness in this, initially. You trade the virtually unlimited potential of your youth for becoming one thing…a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, a salesperson, an accountant, what have you. There’s so much unseen momentum to it all. You sell your motorcycle, maybe, or put your scuba gear in storage. You quit leaning a second language and start teaching your child a first one. And so on. You expand emotionally and contract intellectually. The key, I think, after accepting parenthood in the abstract, is accepting all that comes with it, with moving quickly from denial and anger, right into the acceptance phase. Your life will never be the same. Get over it. I think the central character in these stories is trying to grab a new branch without letting go of the previous—and he suffers from it. He wants to be what he was and what he must become, which, of course, is impossible. Granted, I’m a huge fan of cautionary tales. 

Anyway, that was pretty specific. Probably too specific. More generally, THE BOHEMIAN GUIDE TO MONOGAMY is simply about the thrill of imagination, the ability to escape the monotonous through sheer mental will and playfulness. 

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

That’s a cool question, and yes, I think page-69 is representative of the overall text. By page-69, here’s how far we’ve come…

A disgruntled married father in a café starts writing a story about his previous love in college, and during this love affair they had exchanged love notes and stories…one of these stories was “Johnny’s Blind Ambition,” and, on page-69, the main character in this story is about to read a screenplay that unfolds within that story. Here, there’s a screenplay within a story, within a story…So that’s very representative of the book as a whole. It has layers. 

This book is obsessed with narrative and form, with the way the written word physically appears on the page as well as the ability to take seemingly disconnected pieces and connect them in a meaningful way. In this sense, the deep structure of the book probably has something in common with Arabian Nights, or “Chinese” boxes, or, to provide a more current example, maybe the film Inception.  The reader falls into a rabbit hole and winds up sprinting backwards and upside down to the surface in order to truly see that rabbit hole for the first time. And then it all comes together—well, I hope. That’s the goal, at any rate. 



Andrew Armacost studied writing and literature in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh after graduating from Indiana University and serving as a U.S. Naval Officer, at sea and overseas, with long-term assignments to Afghanistan and Singapore, where he met his wife, with whom he lives in Virgina Beach with their two young children. Mr. Armacost taught English in Japan and worked as prison guard in Indiana before becoming a civil servant. He's written several other books including SPACE BUSH, a sci-fi parody, and a literary novel, THE POOR MAN’S GUIDE TO SUICIDE, both published by Moonshine Cove Press.

Library Journal short-listed THE POOR MAN’S GUIDE TO SUICIDE as one of the “Best Books for Dudes” in 2014; it was also well-reviewed by Kirkus, The Midwest Book Review, The Portland Book Review, and others. His eighth-grade English teacher encouraged him to use less profanity.

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