Bill asks "If you had the first 300 words of NORTH in front of you, not knowing the author, would it have passed the Snark-O-Meter? "
You really know how to find my deepest fear don't you? I had visions of some clever Snarkling sending the first 300 words of an obscure but critically lauded novel and asking what I thought. So far, the Snarklings have resisted.
That said, once you know something is published and you think it's good it's hard to look at it with fresh eyes. Here are the first 304 words of NORTH by Frederick Busch. I think they would have passed with flying colors...do you?
In a marriage, you have to tell your secret. I came to believe that. But I also came to believe that my wife would die of ours. So I kept it to myself. The marriage ended. Fanny moved on in upstate New York. I went west and south. I didn't know what to look for so I looked for work. I was all kinds of hired security in the usual dark, cheap uniform that was always tight across the chest and shoulders or too short from the tails to the neck. One way or another, I worked with a patch of skin showing.
When we were together the dog tried to look after us. Whenever Fanny cried he thumped his tail against the floor. He'd done it since we got married. Sometimes it was the sound of his tail that lifted us out of that minute's misery.
He always knew what he was supposed to do, even after Fanny left with nothing but a couple of suitcases and some cardboard boxes and a cheap urn filled with ashes. He and I were together in New York and then New Mexico and across the Southwest. We went directly west for a while and then we went south and then we headed east. We stopped on the Carolina coast. I had been a military policeman, a deputy sheriff in three counties and two states, a campus cop in northern New York, a head of strip mall security in Arizona, department store security in Portland Oregon and a guard in a private psychiatric clinic not far from Eugene. I was climbing slowing down the ladder of police work. I figured soon I would be half-drunk bouncer in a porn palace in a medium-sized city I hadn't heard of yet in a state I hadn't meant to visit.