Gotham teacher Justin Kramon has just seen the release of his novel Finny
. It’s what you might call a picaresque
(in the tradition of Tom Jones
and Great Expectations
), chronicling the adventures of a plucky girl named Finny Short through two decades and across two continents. Author Jim Crace calls it “a debut novel of exceptional achievement,” and GalleyCat calls it “a super summer book.”
Here’s a glimpse of the first chapter:
She started out life as Delphine, named by her father for the city where the Greek oracle was from, but she’d always had an independent mind about things like names, so she’d gone by Finny ever since she was old enough to choose. It sounded Irish, which went with her dashing red hair, and in any case Finny always liked everything Irish, for no reason she could say. She had an older brother named Sylvan, probably because her father, Stanley Short, wanted to carry on the tradition of the S.S. initials, which always gave Finny the expectation that the name of a ship was to follow. She thought it was dumb to let someone else decide what you’d be called for the rest of your life—what if they named you Pooh Bear or Dishrag?—so she went ahead and made that decision herself.
Finny was a tough, rascally kid, with a plucky assurance, hair as red as a ripe tomato, a spray of freckles across her nose and cheeks like she’d been splashed with mud—cheeks that were puffed up like bread starting to rise, the kind of cheeks old aunties like to pinch. Sometimes when they did that, Finny pinched back. She wasn’t the type of kid to be ogled and fondled all day, to go oogly-googly when people told her how adorable she was. Once when she was four and her aunt Louise gave her a pinch on the cheek, Finny pinched the woman right back on the breast, so hard that Aunt Louise howled in pain and dropped Finny on the floor. It was a linoleum floor, and when Finny crashed down, everyone thought she was dead. Then Finny started to laugh. The reason she was laughing was that she’d plucked the button from Aunt Louise’s breast pocket clean off her blouse. She had it balled in her sweaty fist.
Finny’s dad was a lawyer, the managing partner of a small firm in Baltimore, though the family lived far out in the suburbs. All her father ever talked about at the dinner table was “great men.” It was his favorite subject, and when they had dinner guests, he liked to sound people out on the issue. He even talked about writing a book one day if he could ever get his ideas in order. He loved to apply quotations by great men to whatever people were discussing. “Good artists borrow; great artists steal,” Stanley would offer during any discussion even mildly related to the subject of art. Then he would say, in a more sober tone, “Picasso.” Just the name. Never Picasso said that or That was Picasso’s idea. “God does not play dice,” was another of his favorites, and to Finny it sounded like a warning, as if God were telling you not to mess with Him. Then Stanley would say, “Einstein,” in the way other people say Amen at the end of prayers. The name was enough to command respect, dropped like a punctuation mark at the end of whatever point he was making.
Reprinted by permission of Random House. For more information about Justin and Finny,