09-04-2010 09:11 AM
Thanks for sharing this brief history of your life and your inspirations for "The Wake of Forgiveness" with us! I have read the first chapter and an looking forward to the rest.
09-04-2010 11:22 AM
Thank you so much for those nice remarks. BN really seems to get it right when they choose a book for us!
thewanderjew, Patti, here. I read your post and agree wholeheartedly.
Bruce's book is very beleiveable and very readable. I want to read more and hope it never ends.
09-05-2010 11:34 AM
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read this book. I'm about 2/3 of the way through this book and am enjoying it. It was interesting to read the backstory. It's hard to believe anyone would actually use their children as horses. It was a different time, I suppose. I'm looking forward to participating in the discussion. I only hope I can figure out how.
09-05-2010 02:42 PM
Thank you for sharing your book and thoughts with us! I can't wait to hear more.
First, I’d like each of you to know how humbled and delighted I am to be sharing this experience with you. Because writers most often meet their readers only in passing, and because those encounters rarely offer the chance for prolonged conversations about the stories at hand, this feels to me like an uncommon—and uncommonly wonderful—opportunity. I thank you for that. I thank you deeply.
To tell you the whole story behind the writing of this novel would be to tell you the story of eight years of my life. Much of that story would be horrendously boring, and I would never inflict it upon you. But it would also depict my son’s birth, a difficult divorce, a move from New England back to my home state of Texas. It would dramatize a frantic search for employment, a tale of a sometimes-floundering father and his young son, and a flourishing love story. Along the way, while I was living the kind of real-life story that each one of us lives, the novel endured many stops and starts, many setbacks. I can remember (though I’d like to forget) one unsettling afternoon when I highlighted nearly sixty pages of polished prose on my computer screen and then took a deep breath before pressing the delete key. And so, while it is true that I wrote the first words of The Wake of Forgiveness eight years ago, I can’t honestly say that it took eight years to write the book. Instead, what I believe to be more accurate is that it took me eight years to learn how to write the book.
As so often happens in my writing life, the work on this novel became a kind of divining rod, one that bent toward my own capacity for empathy. I grew up in the city, the second son of blue-collar parents. My father was raised on a cash-crop farm in south Texas, not far from the landscape of the novel. Many years ago, he told me the story of a man who farmed a parcel of land not far from the one my grandfather had worked—a man who, out of meanness or desperation or both, harnessed his own sons to his plow instead of using a mule or a horse. As a result, the boys were permanently disfigured, their necks kinked in one direction or the other because of all the time spent straining against the shoulder harnesses as the plowshare cut through the hard, sun-baked earth. Years after hearing this tale, I wondered if I could make such an outrageous truth both believable and compelling in fiction, if I could make it as indelible for the reader, for you, as it was in my father’s memory, and that was the driving question behind which The Wake of Forgiveness widened.
This past winter, after I had finished the novel, I asked my father about those boys with their bent necks. At the time, he didn’t know that I’d written them into my book, and he gave me a curious look, one which suggested that he’d forgotten he’d ever shared this story with me. “That was Benny,” he said. “Your Aunt Dorothy’s first husband. Him and his brothers.” I hadn’t known that part of the story, and I was surprised, but in hindsight it seems a perfect distillation of what writing means to me: It’s a way of arriving at the truth of something even if I don’t recognize that truth as such immediately when I get there. It’s a way of satisfying a longing for something that I hadn’t even realized I desired.
And so now it comes down to this: I give the book to you, hoping, as I do, that it satisfies some similar, if unforeseen, need in you. In the meantime, I thank you all again for such a rare and wonderful opportunity. I wish you happy reading, and I look forward to our discussion over the coming weeks.
09-05-2010 11:00 PM
It's such an honor to be able to read a book like this. I started as soon as I received it. It's definitely a can't-put-down book.
I look forward to discussing the book with the other First Lookers!
09-06-2010 09:05 AM
I finished this book over the weekend - loved it. Thanks, Bruce for sharing the story of the novel (how you came to it)...I am always curious about what ends up in a novel which is actually from the author's own story. I am really looking forward to discussing this with other readers.
By the way, I read one of your short stories back in 2007 (which appeared in Glimmer Train) and was blown away by it - I am very glad you have put your talents to writing a novel
09-06-2010 10:37 AM
09-07-2010 08:39 PM
Bruce, Thank you for your story and for writing this book. I have found myself unable to stop thinking about it and hate to put it down. I am nearly through and have highlighted dozens of passages that have "spoken to me" This is a book to be shared and I thank you for the opportunity to read it.
09-07-2010 08:50 PM
I wondered is there any particular meaning to the fact that so many of the young male characters wind up with scarred faces, at least in the first assigned reading section?
09-07-2010 10:07 PM
Hi Bruce. I wanted to also thank you for sharing your personal story and The Wake of Forgiveness with us. This is my first First Look and I am really enjoying your book I'm almost through the first reading assignment - I practiced self-restraint and didn't start it until Sunday. Looking forward to the upcoming discussions.
09-08-2010 01:15 AM
To clarify, the self-restraint reference is solely meant as a personal triumph - a challenge to myself. Normally, I'd dive right in and this being my first book club, I wanted to try to follow the schedule.
09-08-2010 09:04 PM
Hi Bruce. NIce to meet you and learn a little of the history behind your book. Very interesting.
Looking forward to hearing more from you in the coming weeks.
09-09-2010 12:51 PM
we are all so thrilled to be able to have a First Look at your novel and your introduction and background makes it even more appealling. We are looking forward to discussing this immensely interesting book.
09-09-2010 09:29 PM
Hello Bruce, and welcome!
All of us in FL love 'meeting' the author and hearing firsthand the insights you can give us about how the book developed and what it means to you. We tend to speculate about all sorts of things we come across as we read, and it's such a delight when an author can say, "no, I didn't mean to imply that," or "Yes, as a matter of fact, that part came directly from an experience I had myself." So thank you very, very much for agreeing to be part of that process with us.
I've been away from home since late last week, so I haven't had a chance to get my hands on the book yet. A bit frustrating! I tend to be one of those who plunges right in and reads straight through as the story pulls me along. I hate to stop the flow after just a few chapters to keep to the discussion schedule - but I do promise to avoid spoilers and allow everyone to enjoy the reading equally.
I admit to feeling a little queasy about the sound of that father. Cruel parents in books rather turn my stomach since there's nothing you can do to stop them. You just have suffer along with the child. I always hope the abused get strong enough to get away without serious damage, and that someone else comes into their lives to bring some affection; someone worth admiring. I'll be hoping for that sort of character and resolution as I read. And if the dad gets his comeuppance I'll be perfectly content; it'll be interesting to see who is forgiving whom for what, because sometimes none is deserved.
I'm really looking forward to the book and the discussion, and I thank you again, most sincerely, for giving your time to join us here.
Derrida writes in his book On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness words to the effect that only the unforgiveable is forgiveable. He worked with international cases like genocide.
09-09-2010 10:44 PM
Thank you for letting us read your beautiful writing! It's so very descriptive, I feel as if I am there alot of the time! I love your writing style, and am almost finished with the book! When I have to stop reading, I find myself thinking of it and can't wait to get back at it!
09-10-2010 03:16 PM
Thank you for sharing your wonderful introduction with us. I am always curious about the genesis of a story for an author and was pleased that you shared this with us. I am about halfway through the book and can't wait to finish. Your characters are compelling, your prose is inspired. Thank you for sharing it with us. Congratulations on your novel and I wish you much success with it.
"A room without a book is like a body without a soul"
~Marcus Tullius Cicero
09-11-2010 08:03 AM
Thank you for sharig this insight into your book with us, Mr. Machart. Your struggle to "learn how to write it", was well worth it. I enjoyed the experience of your book very much, and it is not one I will forget.
with sincere gratitutde,