In this installment of Page 69,
We put Joe Halstead's West Virginia to the test.
Set up page 69 for us (what are we about to read):
Page 69 is one of my favorite sections of the book. Jamie Paddock returns to West Virginia to investigate the suicide of his father in his own blundering and discursive way. He ends up having dinner with some family that he hasn't seen for the better part of a decade. They all have brain-related illnesses and they're sad and regressive and think Wendy's is a nice restaurant, but Jamie's had a sick and twisted longing for this melancholy the entire time he's been in New York City, so he feels like he's finally home again.
What’s the book about?
West Virginia is about a twenty-something writer who revisits the seamy underside of Appalachia when he returns to his holler to investigate what led his father to suicide, finding parochial prejudices, strange sexual tensions, and family skeletons.
Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the book is about? Does it align itself with the book’s overall theme?
Though Jamie's not a detective--he's just this weird, messed up Millennial country guy who doesn't know what he's doing--the page 69 moment is a kind of mise en abyme; it cuts really close to the bone and is a great teaser for what the book is about. Jean-Francois Lyotard had this idea that a literary character is just an intersection point in a network of different trajectories in the story. The uncle on page 69 keeps saying, "But if anyone would know what your dad was going through, it'd be you, it'd be you." And this notion: it's about a feeling Jamie has--he maybe saw a kid kill himself at Bobst Library once and maybe aligns himself with suicide, so, when his father kills himself, Jamie's trajectory takes him from flirting with suicide, enacting all the pathologies that could be associated with it without actually doing it, to dealing with it in a very real way.
Joe Halstead is the author of West Virginia (Unnamed Press). He currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky with his wife Molly. Find him on twitter @joehalstead.