PB: Both the narrator and his father have tough guy personas and yet both are artists, and in the case of the narrator, a caregiver. There’s a lot of ambivalence about masculinity and what it means, how confining it can be but also how necessary. Eventually, your narrator is allowed all sorts of release—crying, really letting go of his father, and figuring out what he needs to do next. Perhaps it was the slow painful aspect of a death by cancer; not to diminish the loss, but I’ve heard people say about certain deaths, “it was his time.”
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Wherein we talk My Father's House with the terrific Paula Bomer at Rain Taxi.
For real. All of it. We are My Father's House interview and we are so very appreciative that Paula, who is indeed most terrific, suggested we talk, and that Rain Taxi saw said discussion as fit to print. Now for some excerpt.
BT: It’s funny because one reviewer wrote how there were certain ways the character managed his emotions in the book that bothered him as an editor, but then he realized that maybe his own need to be tough was affecting his ability to embrace the emotions being expressed, and that made me smile. He was the first person to touch on this thread, and now you are the second. It was a conscious thing I wanted to play with, but if I’m the only one who sees it in the text, I’m not sure it qualifies as being part of the book at all. The character does need to find a way to be sad though, and experience grief, and to embrace that tough guy persona—or not—regardless of confusing signals about masculinity and what it means to be a father or son. I don’t know that the character gets there in a healthy way, but he does get there because he’s ultimately so overwhelmed by all of it he has no choice. It’s an implosion of grief, though in this character’s case it is also the start of something, because I wanted to connect all of this to being an artist as well. When my father died, my mom and I talked about whether he might have been more successful and better able to bring more layers to his work if he could have better embraced his feelings and been less caught up in being tough and not exploring things. I wanted the character to come to understand this in the latter stages of the book as he realized that he wants to create art as well. In terms of the idea that “it was his time,” we always have to separate out people’s suffering from their actual lives. If someone is suffering, then yes, it can feel like someone’s time because you can’t bear to watch them suffer, but that has nothing to do with what they may have still done with their lives if they were healthy and how you may have yet interacted with them. From that perspective, it’s never anyone’s time.