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How To Read a Novel . . .

I am a sucker for book reviews. No, not the ones that sprout like mushrooms on the Internet, but those from more reputable sources like Bookmarks, PW, the New York Times, and People Magazine. (Hey, don’t knock People–Francine Prose reviews for them, and she’s brilliant. You need to read her book, Reading Like a Writer. It’s wonderful.)

Trouble is, I read all these reviews of books that look interesting, then I go to Amazon.com and click away. Result? A sizeable monthly bill and stacks and stacks of books on my library shelves. I could lose electricity tomorrow and be unable to work (forget the longhand), but I’d have enough to read.

Yesterday I read a review of HOW TO READ A NOVEL: A USER’S GUIDE by John Sutherland. It looked so good I’ve just ordered a copy, and I have to pass on this tidbit from the author: the McLuhan Test from Marshall McLuhan (and I have no idea who that is). McLuhan says: “Turn to page 69 of any book and read it. If you like that page, buy the book. It works.”

Ha! Maybe that’s another way of saying “If the author has found a way to defeat the Sagging Middles problem, you’ll know it by page 69,” but I think it’s hilarious in any case.

And I can’t help thinking of all the effort we novelists put into our first line, first paragraph, and first page. Maybe we should all start applying that effort to page sixty-nine? (To be fair, we should be applying that effort to every page, but you know what I mean.)

So I’ve ordered the book. I’ll let you know if it’s all as good as the page 69 advice.

(Aside: ever since Al Gansky and Jack Cavanaugh taught me to format my manuscripts like a printed book page, I can actually predict where page 69 might land. Thanks, guys!)

~~Angie

P.S. Just got a note from Amazon.com that says my Alias Season Five DVDs have shipped. Whoo-hoo! Something new for the treadmill!

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