Author Archives: Todd Gleason

About Todd Gleason

Editor-el-Heifer of DMC. Head Drunk. Big Sinker. John the Conqueroo. Like a knight from some old-fashioned book.

#7 – THIS THING CALLED LIFE – Prince and the Nature of Collective Grief

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As we approach our third anniversary on February 6th, we are counting down the top-ten most-read posts from the last year.

 


When beggars die, there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.


William Shakespeare – Julius Caesar


“Style ain’t sittin’ court side with the owner of the team
Style is owning the court and charging ’em all a fee
Style is not lusting after someone because they’re cool
Style is loving yourself ’til everyone else does 2 “

Prince – “Style”



It was just hours since the news of Prince’s death had been released, and social media was already filled to the brim with shock, news stories, remembrances, and a massive outpouring of grief. I was behind the counter at the shop where I work, listening to every Prince song I had on iTunes, which thankfully was several hours worth, when two women walked in. They were fairly unassuming Pearl District types, which by Portland standards generally means freshly scrubbed, gluten-free, Barre workouts, and a mild aversion to tipping. That’s all fine for what it is, but I only mention it because it tempered my expectations for the interaction. They were around my age and nice, and we fell right away into casual, friendly conversation. We were talking as I rang them up, and just then the song “Purple Rain” came on the speakers. The woman who was paying froze, and her face began to twist with pain, her cheeks flushing and her eyes filling with water. “Oh my God,” she said. “I haven’t heard any Prince songs yet today. Oh my God I’m so sad. I can’t believe it, I’m going to cry.”

And that’s exactly what she did. Real, wet, hard tears, right there in front of the register. She wiped her eyes, embarrassed, but that didn’t stop them from coming. In fact, they seemed to flow even harder. Her friend touched her arm, and said “Oh honey,” and she had tears in her eyes too. And then there I was, raw from too little sleep, and those warm, sweet opening chords filling the room and Prince’s wounded but upright voice singing earnest lyrics about sorrow and pain and laughter, which had certainly made me weep before in other distant personal circumstances, and I too felt my throat tighten and tears burning my eyes. The three of us stood there suspended together for a moment, the only ones in the whole place, as the song rose into its gospel-infused chorus, between us the absolute encapsulation of grace and beauty and loss, and the guts and talent it takes to give such a gorgeous gift to the world.

“Unbelievable,” she muttered, sniffling and doing her best to gather herself. We all looked at each other wiping our eyes and laughed. I handed the woman her change, and she said thank you with a trembling smile that I will never forget, and they turned and walked out together, leaving me there, shaking and laughing to myself as the rest of the song played out.

Later, when I thought about what had happened, there were a number of surprising things about it. Firstly, I had not expected a moment of such unbounded intimacy over the far-out, sexed-up artiste. Not there, certainly not with them. I mean, I suppose when I saw them I unconsciously expected them to not care that much. They didn’t seem like outwardly sensitive or musical people, or that the music of Prince would be anything more than a distant soundtrack to their lives, no different from any other dusty, cracked CD in a box in the basement. But then, of course it was. He was such a massive musical force, his divine gift was to create the kind of music that transcended any and all boundaries. It was so contagious, so potent, so emotionally resonant that it made its way into even the most obscure cracks and corners of the world, filling them with his wild, transcendent soul. Continue reading


LIGHT AND LINES: A Conversation With Ruth Galm

sslo-scanne16111613030_0001I FIRST MET Ruth Galm about ten years ago in San Francisco. I was sitting at the bar at Cafe Zoetrope, Francis Ford Coppola’s cafe/restaurant in the North Beach flatiron building he owns, right where Columbus and Kearny slope down toward the Transamerica Building and the Financial District. It was a spring day and I was into my second Espresso Nutini (I was an enthusiastic day drinker back then), and she was sitting at a table nearby, with a coffee (no booze) and a stack of papers in front of her. We started talking and it turned out she was a reader for Zoetrope: All Story, Coppola’s excellent short fiction magazine, whose offices were right above us. Both of us being writers, native Californians, and North Beach residents, our conversation quickly took on an easy and familiar tone, and out of it grew a friendship that has lasted over a decade.

She had recently moved back from New York, after getting her MFA at Columbia, and had a novel-in-progress that she let me read. A few things about her writing struck me right away. One was just pure relief that it was actually good. If you have any friends who are writers, you’ll know what an awful experience it is to read their work and find out that it’s not very good, and what a challenge it is to find enough to say about it that is both genuine and positive. (I’m pretty sure she had this experience with me a few times, but I can live with that, as there has never been any question who is the better writer.) From the very beginning, it was clear she had a knack for the sound and shape of words, and could make a sentence do exactly what she wanted it to do, even if what she wanted was to be surprised. She could create bright, burning images that lingered for weeks and months. She could render suspense and drama out of the smallest situations, and you could tell she was mining deep experience and desire to create this world on the page. I was also struck that from someone so outwardly modest and sweet could come writing so fierce and dangerous, so charged with dread and erotic heat. But that, of course, is where writers live – in that space between the inner and outer worlds, summoning the darkest forces at their disposal to give life to the gnawing, terrible mystery that can’t be silenced.

When I moved to Portland from San Francisco in 2012, much to my surprise, a few months later, she moved there too, ready to start her own new chapter. Though we didn’t see each other as much we should have, it was good to have her nearby, another familiar comrade in an unfamiliar city. However, less than a year later, she decided to move back to the Bay Area. Despite all the cultural and economic changes that had happened to our home state, despite it being less and less hospitable to those of us that had grown up there, something deep and necessary called her back there. Something unfinished, some part of her she couldn’t shake. I understood that. I have it in me too, the memory-pull of those endless brown hills and twisting cypress, the searing heat of the valley, all that golden light, crisp fog curling over ancient redwoods, the “fruit hang[ing] heavy on the vine,” to quote Kate Wolf. The blaze at the edge of the world, the very furthest tip of the American Dream, in all its blown-out, illusory, sun-beached glory.

When I read her debut novel, Into the Valley, which came out in August of 2015 on Soho Press, I finally understood fully what she had been after in going back home, and in her writing. It is a California novel to the core. The story of a young San Francisco woman in the 1960s (known to us only  as B.), struck with a kind of existential malady she describes as “carsickness,” and the most effective way she finds to ease the profound discomfort of this condition is to drop everything and drive aimlessly through the Central Valley, cashing bad checks and encountering other adrift souls, as she hurtles toward a dark and uncertain fate. It is gorgeously written, lush in its language, unsettling, mysterious, and the ostensible aimlessness of the narrative has its own woozy, disorienting effect on the reader. One can’t help but sympathize with this young woman, but part of you wants to avert your eyes, knowing that the weight of her situation may be too much, and that she may be, despite all efforts, doomed. Continue reading


THE LIGHT LET IN – On Being Sweet & Earnest: A Correspondence With Kelly Sundberg (Part 3)

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Stanley Kubrick – 1946

 

[Click the following links for parts 1 and 2 of the correspondence.]

“What makes a man, Mr. Lebowski?
Dude.
Huh?
Uh… I don’t know…sir.
Is it being prepared to do the right thing, whatever the cost? Isn’t that what makes a man?
Sure, that and a pair of testicles.
You’re joking, but perhaps you’re right.
Mind if I do a jay?
Bunny.
Scuse me?
Bunny Lebowski, she is the light of my life. Are you surprised at my tears, sir?
[inhaling the jay] Fuckin’ A.
Strong men also cry… Strong men also cry.”

-The Big Lebowski

 

Dear Kelly,

I’ve long had (ever since I stumbled across an exposé in a 1995 Esquire) what is likely an abnormal fascination with prison. It’s not quite an obsession, but at times it has been pretty close to one. What draws me to it is the unfathomable horror of it all — the misery, the boredom, the myriad indignities, the violence. Particularly in that final year or two of my drinking freefall, I read and watched everything I could find about prison— movies, tv shows, articles, documentaries, books. I didn’t consciously think about why beyond a general curiosity, but in hindsight, I think there were a few reasons fueling it. One, I was giving myself some perspective on my own misery, delving into a far worse situation to remind myself of how good I had it compared to how much further down I could go. It wasn’t the first time I had tried this. Years before, during a time of awful, sickening heartbreak, mixed with being hospitalized (yet again!) for Crohn’s disease, I had read and watched anything I could about the Vietnam War. I guess I was trying to figure out how to grit my teeth and bear it — to “Shut up and take the pain!” as Sgt. Barnes yells at the screaming wounded soldier in Platoon — partly so that he won’t betray their position to the enemy, but also out of the cold cruelty of a man whose soul had shriveled and hardened under the relentless brutality of war.

I think the other unconscious reason for my prison fixation back then was that I was preparing myself for the (highly unlikely) possibility that I might end up there. It was an absurd fear, as I wasn’t doing close to anything that would put me there. I never sold drugs, never carried more than a few grams of weed, never stole anything worthy of a felony, never forged any prescriptions, or any of that. At the very most I was perpetrating very low-level crimes, stealing a few dollars or a few pills here and there, whatever could get me through a few hours or days. (For the record, I have since made full amends for these acts.) I didn’t have a car, so I rarely drove, but I suppose under certain circumstances I could have driven drunk and killed someone, which certainly would have earned me a stint behind bars. Fortunately, gratitude to all the celestial powers that be or may be, I am terribly, terribly lucky that that never happened. But mine was the irrational fear of a man not in control of his life, a man so full of chaos and self-loathing that he believed his fate could easily be, for no realistic reason at all, to live out his days in the worst place imaginable.
Continue reading


THE LIGHT LET IN – On Being Sweet and Earnest: A Correspondence With Kelly Sundberg (Part 2)

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Georgia O’ Keefe – Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue – 1931

For Part 1 of the correspondence, as well as an introduction to how this all came about, click here.

 

Are these words or tears?

Is weeping speech?”

-Rumi

 

Kelly,

Indeed, I have often compared alcoholism to a dysfunctional relationship, and though I never quite used the term abusive, it most certainly seems to apply. There is a passage in the Big Book of AA that compares the alcoholic to a compulsive jaywalker. Jaywalking gives him a perverse thrill, but even after a few minor injuries, he keeps at it. Then one day he gets hit and fractures his skull. You would think he’s done, but he keeps at it, getting hit again and again, breaking more bones. After a particularly bad injury, he finally swears off jaywalking, only to go out immediately after leaving the hospital and get hit, breaking both his legs. This continues on and on, until his wife divorces him, and none of his friends or colleagues will have anything to do with him. He shuts himself up in an asylum hoping to cure his insane compulsion, but when he finally feels better and comes out, he goes right back to it, getting hit by a firetruck and breaking both his legs.

It is no wonder most alcoholics end up caught in the impossibly narrow space between the seemingly equivalent alternatives of suicide and abstinence; between not being able to drink safely, and not being able to stop. I’m not exactly sure what to call that pull toward the thing that kills us. It may have once been love, but it is really the nexus of comfort, fear, self-destruction, shame, and hopelessness. It is even more difficult to define that restless, grinding feeling that needed so badly to be doused with alcohol. Perhaps early on, it was fear, pain, emotion, shame, and/or boredom, and alcohol did a pretty good job of numbing those things. But towards the end, those things screamed all the way through everything, never quieting, even under gallons of booze and fistfuls of pills and whatever else I could find to ingest. But take all of the intoxicants away, and that restless grinding is still there. In the untreated alcoholic, it is a deep, churning well of discontent, and thus the common prescription, particularly after all else has failed, of a thorough program of spiritual recovery.

It is, of course, a universal human condition, that inner itch that each of us tries to scratch with food, sex, love, power, work, money, praise, escapism, cheap thrills – anything to distract from it. It is the spiritual and existential no-man’s land in the human heart, that crux between desire and compassion, survival and altruism, pain and pleasure, love and war. That inherent emptiness, shaped like an unanswerable question, is why religion and spirituality has been part of the human experience since before we even had a written history. As Bernie Sanders summarized recently during a CNN Town Hall Meeting, “Every great religion… essentially comes down to ‘Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.’” This, of course, is true, but there is more to it than that. It’s what you are left with when you find yourself alone in the dark, empty belly of night. It’s what you spoke of, that faith that you are going to be okay, no matter what happens, whether you get what you wish for or not. How we cultivate that faith is our own journey. The paths are myriad, from religions we are born (or re-born) into, to quantum physics, with its theoretical abstractions that plumb the mysteries at the heart of a near-unfathomable universe. I for one am grateful for “hitting bottom,” for having had nowhere else to turn, no more tricks up my sleeve. Because now I have no choice but to live a life within some framework of spiritual principles, which makes for a lot more serenity and peace than a life lived in fear and selfishness, jumping from desire to desire, comfort to comfort, with little regard for anyone else. Continue reading


THE LIGHT LET IN – On Being Sweet and Earnest: A Correspondence With Kelly Sundberg (Part 1)

heart-dirt

Kelly Sundberg and I became Facebook friends a little over a year go, after I read her beautiful essay on The Rumpus, which led me to her already widely celebrated essay in Guernica, “It Will Look Like a Sunset,” (selected by Ariel Levy for the Best American Essays 2015 anthology.) Her blog, Apology Not Accepted, featuring essays by her and occasional guest contributors, focuses primarily on life as a survivor of abuse and the many issues that surround it – from institutional complicity, to dealing with anger and resentment, to finding fellowship, to learning how to thrive as much as survive.

Kelly is an amazing writer and does powerful, important work, but she’s also a lot of fun. She’s self-deprecating and unapologetically silly, and I immediately felt a kinship with her as someone who had lived through some deeply traumatic and painful life experiences, and through arduous self-reflection and courage, emerged kind and whole and full of a certain unmistakable lightness – the lightness of hard-earned wisdom, and having survived something potentially unsurvivable. “Some days, I am the light let in by my wounds,” she wrote in the Rumpus essay. There are those days where everything seems impossible, when the damage resurfaces and makes us raw and uncertain, and it feels like it hurts too much to even exist. But on most other days, life is so much easier, so much less dire, because we have lived through the worst thing we will ever know – or so we hope. And that’s the key here – hope. What killed me faster than anything during my long alcoholic slide was not the shame and guilt and violent recklessness, but the utter hopelessness that it would ever get better.

Of course, living life on life’s terms still always has its share of bumps. Some awkward, painful moments can come out of just trying to have ordinary daily human experiences, but it usually works out just fine if you are willing to find the humor in it. Continue reading


THIS THING CALLED LIFE: Prince and the Nature of Collective Grief

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When beggars die, there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.


William Shakespeare – Julius Caesar


“Style ain’t sittin’ court side with the owner of the team
Style is owning the court and charging ’em all a fee
Style is not lusting after someone because they’re cool
Style is loving yourself ’til everyone else does 2 “

Prince – “Style”



It was just hours since the news of Prince’s death had been released, and social media was already filled to the brim with shock, news stories, remembrances, and a massive outpouring of grief. I was behind the counter at the shop where I work, listening to every Prince song I had on iTunes, which thankfully was several hours worth, when two women walked in. They were fairly unassuming Pearl District types, which by Portland standards generally means freshly scrubbed, gluten-free, Barre workouts, and a mild aversion to tipping. That’s all fine for what it is, but I only mention it because it tempered my expectations for the interaction. They were around my age and nice, and we fell right away into casual, friendly conversation. We were talking as I rang them up, and just then the song “Purple Rain” came on the speakers. The woman who was paying froze, and her face began to twist with pain, her cheeks flushing and her eyes filling with water. “Oh my God,” she said. “I haven’t heard any Prince songs yet today. Oh my God I’m so sad. I can’t believe it, I’m going to cry.”

And that’s exactly what she did. Real, wet, hard tears, right there in front of the register. She wiped her eyes, embarrassed, but that didn’t stop them from coming. In fact, they seemed to flow even harder. Her friend touched her arm, and said “Oh honey,” and she had tears in her eyes too. And then there I was, raw from too little sleep, and those warm, sweet opening chords filling the room and Prince’s wounded but upright voice singing earnest lyrics about sorrow and pain and laughter, which had certainly made me weep before in other distant personal circumstances, and I too felt my throat tighten and tears burning my eyes. The three of us stood there suspended together for a moment, the only ones in the whole place, as the song rose into its gospel-infused chorus, between us the absolute encapsulation of grace and beauty and loss, and the guts and talent it takes to give such a gorgeous gift to the world.

“Unbelievable,” she muttered, sniffling and doing her best to gather herself. We all looked at each other wiping our eyes and laughed. I handed the woman her change, and she said thank you with a trembling smile that I will never forget, and they turned and walked out together, leaving me there, shaking and laughing to myself as the rest of the song played out.

Later, when I thought about what had happened, there were a number of surprising things about it. Firstly, I had not expected a moment of such unbounded intimacy over the far-out, sexed-up artiste. Not there, certainly not with them. I mean, I suppose when I saw them I unconsciously expected them to not care that much. They didn’t seem like outwardly sensitive or musical people, or that the music of Prince would be anything more than a distant soundtrack to their lives, no different from any other dusty, cracked CD in a box in the basement. But then, of course it was. He was such a massive musical force, his divine gift was to create the kind of music that transcended any and all boundaries. It was so contagious, so potent, so emotionally resonant that it made its way into even the most obscure cracks and corners of the world, filling them with his wild, transcendent soul. Continue reading


Turn And Face The Strange: The Starman Bids Goodnight

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“Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now”

-David Bowie-“Lazarus”, from Blackstar, the album released on his 69th birthday,  two days before he died.

 

The padded envelope came without a note or a return address, but according to postage and markings, it had come from Thailand, and it was addressed to me. Inside was a jersey style t-shirt with a picture of the Goblin King on the front. It was an odd gift. Anyone who knows me even marginally well knows I’m more than a casual Bowie fan, but I’ve always been pretty indifferent to Labyrinth. Even as a kid, I was never swept under its spell like so many of my peers. At 13, perhaps I was just a bit too old (and prematurely cynical) for the child-like wonder of it, but not old enough to really understand who David Bowie was beyond the “Let’s Dance“, “Modern Love,” and “China Girl” videos that MTV played on heavy rotation in its early days (though in  hindsight, I do find it hard to believe that at the very least, 13 year-old me wasn’t completely enamored with 16 year-old Jennifer Connelly–sadly, I was clueless about nearly everything back then.)

After some asking around, I discovered that my brother had bought it off Etsy and sent it to me for my birthday. He knows I love Bowie, of course, and the Goblin King was probably referencing shared childhood memories  that seem a bit cloudy now. I think he was also making fun of me a little. Either for being too cool, or because the Goblin King is ridiculous, or both. Either way, the shirt is fucking awesome, and I love it, and every time I wear it, I get streams of compliments. I mean, apparently people of all stripes unironically love the Goblin King! Go figure. Anyway, I’m wearing it right now, and I haven’t taken it off since I learned of Bowie’s death late Sunday night (which I could hardly believe, and am still not totally sure I believe). Cosmically, according to Facebook, that shirt arrived at my house on December 10, 2015, exactly one year before the great Starman passed into the next dimension. Continue reading


Dustiny’s Child (Revisited)

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[In Honor of Dusty Baker’s book Kiss The Sky, to be released on November 10th, 2015, and this fine little New Yorker article, as well as the Cubs losing the NLCS yesterday to the Mets (on “Back to The Future Day”, no less), we re-post this article from August 11th of last year.]
 

“Longing on a large scale is what makes history.”

-Don DeLillo; Pafko at the Wall

 

“God’s on both sides; he ain’t just on my side. If he was, I would’ve won a long time ago.”

Dusty Baker; Esquire, 2004

 
 

There were only eight outs left.

Eight.

More.

Outs.

When your starting pitcher has already made 19 outs through seven innings of two-hit shutout ball, and you have a healthy five run lead, eight outs seems like a mere handful. The last few stones in the path that have finally led you home out of the dark and terrible woods, the warm light of the hearth glowing in the distant windows. It seems like the giddiness you feel being so close to the first World Series Championship in your city since the club moved there 45 years ago can safely start to supercede the tension and anxiety you’ve had to wade through in the last weeks and months to get here. It seems that even though that same starter just gave up back to back hits, and the Manager decided to pull him so that the bullpen could knock off those last eight outs, that he is deserving of the game ball. Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, your team up 3 games to 2, ready to close it out on enemy turf. Your visiting locker room draped in plastic, the champagne on ice, a whole city 400 miles to the north on the edge of their seats, barely able to contain themselves.

So when Russ Ortiz comes off the mound in the seventh inning, and you’re the Giants’ Manager, you do just that. You give him the “game ball.”

And then, inevitably, horribly, all hell breaks loose.

I was watching the game at Lefty O’ Douls on Powell Street, just off Union Square in San Francisco, surrounded by hundreds of Giants fans, all of us jostling, laughing, cheering, ready for the biggest celebration in that city since my birthday in 1995, when the 49ers had last won the Super Bowl (Yeah, that was a pretty awesome day.) But within minutes of Ortiz’s departure, those cheers were replaced by groans of disbelief. His bullpen replacement, Felix Rodriguez, gave up a 3-run homer to the very next batter, Scott Spiezio, cutting a cushy 5-0 lead to a suddenly very precarious 5-3.

With only a two-run cushion, eight outs now seemed like a massive number to get through.

And it was. Monumentally so.

Continue reading


American Rot

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..[W]e are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.”

-President Barack Obama, October 1, 2015

 

I don’t have any answers, but I have observed some things. Yes, mental illness is a major factor. But clinical mental illness alone does not explain 294 mass shootings in 274 days. It can’t possibly. There is a massive coalition of historical, cultural, and political forces at work that have produced this insane phenomenon of violence, and it will not soon be undone. It is a psychic cultural wound. Our spirit is being crushed on every front. What it comes down to is that we do not value each other. We value things. And ideologies. We are deeply divided across so many lines, and we have our loose tribes, but even then we are an “every man for himself” society. In this society, we are told that you are only worth what you can get– money, fame– and our form of mega-capitalism tells you that the sky is no limit, and there are no regulations about getting what you want, and that you can and should acquire as much as humanly possible at any cost. We are a repressed puritanical society that shames you for wanting sex and alcohol and drugs and pleasure, and then trillions of dollars are spent dangling all of these things in front of you, telling you that you are not good enough unless you buy everything they are selling so that you will finally be worth something. In the meantime they feed you all the porn you could ever want, and stoke your frustration with violent films and computer games, tripping your automatic impulses over and over, instilling deeply misogynistic and racist and fundamentalist ideas in your head, as a focus for your ire and frustration. Continue reading


Building Impossible Houses: A Conversation With Traci Brimhall

Brimhall Side 14

 

I first encountered Traci Brimhall’s work when I stumbled across the poem “The Sunken Gospel” in the Kenyon Review. I was immediately swept into its strange and mysterious world, mesmerized by its “blue zodiac hymns” and “green valentines,” the fierce, sensuous physicality of the language and the mercilessness of the life and death it portrayed, the pain that pulsed through it, the steady hum of longing, and the emotional and spiritual heft as massive as the creature at the center of it. I finished it and immediately read it again, and then again. It was like a song you put on repeat, trying to immerse yourself in it. Then I went searching for more poems like it. Often when you search an artist’s catalogue for more songs like the one you love, you come up empty-handed– but not so in the case of Traci Brimhall’s poetry. I found legions more, spread out through various publications and two books, Rookery and Our Lady of the Ruins– all with the same power, mystery, virtuosity, and unflinching vision of that first one.

With each new poem, after the initial enjoyment and sense of awe, I often found myself asking “How does she do that?! I mean… how in the hell is she doing that?” The sleight of hand is seamless. The wires do not show. The cracks, the doubt, the pain, they seep through many of the voices in her poems, but they only strengthen the spell. Reading one of her books is like eating really rich, delicious food– I want to scarf it all down at once, but after two or three in a row, I find myself having to pause for breath and gather my senses.

I have given her books as gifts on numerous occasions. The last person I gave Our Lady of the Ruins to, I knew for sure that she would love it and it would knock her on her ass. Sure enough, she texted me a few days later: “TRACI FUCKING BRIMHALL! Holy crap!” When I told Traci this story, she thanked me for putting her work in the hands of people who know her real middle name.

The following conversation took place by email. Traci is a gracious and thoughtful correspondent, and I am grateful and honored that she was willing to give me even a faint glimpse of those wires.

 

Todd Gleason: What you are up to these days?  Do you have a new manuscript in the works? How is that going?

Traci Brimhall: I had a draft of the new manuscript about two years ago. I knew it wasn’t set in stone, but it sat in that order and structure for two years and kind of congealed. Recently, a couple of conversations led me to rethink the book and how it was operating, and I realized I’VE BEEN ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION! I had to ease everything apart, like breaking rigor mortis that’s set into a body. The previous question had been a distraction, but it had gotten me writing. The previous question had to do with the town in Brazil my mom is from and helped me create a fictional history for that place. What I realized after my mother died was that the book wanted to know both who and where I come from. 

Continue reading