The Page 69 Test

Until last week, I'd never heard of the "page 69 test." According to Marshal McLuhan, if you want to decide whether to read an entire book, turn to page 69. The contents of that page will likely exemplify the whole, and if you like what you read there, you'll probably enjoy the entire book.

Why? Beats me. By page 69, has the writer hit her stride and is spewing endorphins and creativity like crazy? Is page 69 the point at which the novelist gathers all the plot threads and they begin rolling toward their inexorable conclusion? I dunno.

All I know is that it works. I applied the test to 1. books I've already read 2. books I started but didn't finish, and 3. books that I've not yet read. In the first case, page 69 exemplified the book's whole content. In the second case, page 69 provided me with nothing that made me want to keep reading. In the third case, I was completely absorbed and wanted to keep reading.

Okay, so why am I bringing this up? Because Marshal Zeringue, who blogs for the Campaign for the American Reader (his blog is here) has invited writers to submit their works to the Page 69 Test and is posting their comments on the blog. I just wrote my piece for the blog, which I think will show up there next week. Interesting stuff. (Except I added the link above after writing this post.)

And you can bet that next time I'm standing in the library or the bookstore, trying to decide whether to read/buy a book, I'll apply the test. Because I don't know about anyone else, but I am sooooooo tired of picking up books, mostly novels, starting them, and abandoning them after 20 or 30 pages as unreadable. I won't start on my "where have all the good novels gone?" rant, but ....... jeez, where HAVE the good novels gone??????