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Bruce-Machart
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Re: A word about typos

Susan,

 

I would LOVE to come to Vermont (and NH, and Maine!), but those decisions, alas, aren't usually left to the author.  I once lived in the Boston area, and I have many friends there...and that figures in to the publisher's decisions about where to send a writer on tour.

 

Maybe I'll get out your way next summer when the paperback comes out!  We can always hope, yes?

 

B.


Vermontcozy wrote:


Bruce-Machart wrote:

 

 

Friends,

 

You will just have to trust me:  I know how to hit the spell check button, and I do, in fact, know how to spell quite well.  Still, in the interest of using my time here to fully engage with your questions (and hopefully to get to know you a bit), I am not really proofreading my responses.  Nor do I seem to be able to remember to hit the spell check button each time.

 

So...forgive me the writerly guilty pleasure of writing with ONLY content in mind, won't you?

 

With gratitude a-plenty,

 

BDM


Good Morning Bruce..Of course you are forgiven.We are just glad you are with us..It can get a bit overwhelming.I have read that you will be touring and mostly at this point in the West.I will follow your website,because it would be great if New England would be included in your touring as well.selfishly,Vermont..but Boston is probably a better choice..Best Susan


 

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reader76
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

In the Wake of Forgiveness, most relationship that Karel has either with animals or persons have some thread of violence in it.  Was it your purpose to make the violence integral to your story in order to display characterization and plot? 

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Bruce-Machart
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Hello, MSaff,

 

Well, I hope that the novel ITSELF isn't "abusive."  I think what you mean is that there are some characters in the story who act violently, even cruelly, and that the emotions generated by witnessing such acts are difficult to stomach sometimes.  I agree.  When I read Faulkner or Steinbeck (and I am NOT putting myself in that league...only sharing some books that evoke in me very difficult emotions...) or the play KING LEAR, to name three, I have a visceral, pained reaction.  But I read them...and I reread them...and I think the Greeks were onto something when they suggeted that the catharsis we experience through drama is purging, cleansing, and actually good for us!

 

As for why I chose the story....really, I just chose the character, Karel. I was  total Mama's boy growing up, and I wanted the chance to empathize with a boy who was motherless.  That was something I could NOT understand, and when I don't feel capable of understanding, the best way for me to get it is through story.


MSaff wrote:

Hi Bruce and Welcome to our little corner of the universe,

 

  Thank you for sharing the novel with us here at First Look.  We are a friendly group who all love to read.  I personally love to get new books from new authors.  It's exciting and being able to discuss the work with the author is just a wonderful plus.

 

  My question is this -  I am find this novel to very dark and abusive.  How did you come up with the story line and is there any truth to the story? 

 


 

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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Dear nbmars,

 

I'm so glad you asked this question.  I think the McCarthy comparisons are easy for reviewers and such...there is the obvious similarity in that my novel and one of his most famous books (ATPH) feature Texans and an alluring female from Mexico...

 

I also feel that McCarthy is heavily influenced by Faulknerian and biblical language, and I plead guilty to both of those influences myself.

 

But I really believe that the similarities end there.  His narrative style is stripped down, featuring very short sentences (even dramatic fragments) that are them offset by the occassional long, profound sentence.  I tend to go in the opposite direction.  Especially in this book, with this narrator, I favored very lengthy, subordinated sentences punctuated by the occassional short final drumbeat.

 

Also, he's a genious, I think.  BLOOD MERIDIAN and THE ROAD especially are works of brilliance.  I don't tend to think of myself as being much of an intellectual.  I just love stories, love language, and love my characters.


nbmars wrote:

I notice you keep getting compared to Cormac McCarthy.  How do you feel about that?  Do you feel you write like him?  (And/or) What writers have inspired you?


 

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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

 

A few of you have asked about my favorite writers.  Here's a short (and incomplete) list:

 

Eudora Welty's story "Powerhouse" was the one that I was reading when I first thought, Hey, I wonder if I could do this?

 

I tend to favor writers from a different era...I love Wallace Stegner, Richard Yates, Graham Greene, Faulkner and Steinbeck.

 

From the last quarter century or so, I think Tim O'Brien, Andre Dubus (the elder), Richard Ford, Russell Banks and the like are top-notch.

 

And Franzen!  He deserves every last bit of praise being given him.  Those novels are marvelous.

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Bruce-Machart
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Wheeze,

 

Well, thankfully, the characters don't really resemble anyone in my family, so there's not a problem there.  My folks and brothers and sister are all wonderfully supportive of what I do.  They don't tend to be literary readers, but they love a good story, and they love that I have been able to do what I do since it is obviously so important to me.

 

Of course, though, I don't consult my family when I make fictional decisions.  I just follow the story.  It seems to me that the hardest part of being a literary writer is that you have to try to be brave enough to follow the characters and be true to them, even when what they are doing or saying is troubling.

 

I would bet that my mother is a little unsettled by the graphic sexuality in the book (she has a rather Victorian sense of propriety and morality)...but I would also bet that she's never going to come right out and tell me so!  That would entail talking to her adult SON about SEX, after all!  No, no, no.  Not going to happen.   :smileyhappy:


wheeze wrote:

Bruce, I am loving the book and still barely into it. It's really catching my eye!

 

My question... How does your family feel about the story line? (I'm sure they are quite proud :smileyhappy:) Yet with such a horrible family your charaters had, did your family agree with you to take the story in that way? Thanks Bruce!


 

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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Sheltiemama,

 

I KNOW!  Want to know something funny?  I felt the same way when I first read Willa Cather's MY ANTONIA.  I thought, What are all those Czechs doing up in Nebraska?!

 

There is a large concentration of Czechs and Germans and Austrians down here, but only in certain enclaves of the state.  My great grandfather came over from Bohemia to the port of Galveston in the late 19th century, and my Grandfather was born in Lavaca County in 1911.


Sheltiemama wrote:

Not a question, just a comment. I didn't realize so many Czech immigrants settled in Texas. It's interesting to think about the impact the two cultures had on each other.


 

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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Exactly.  The Scots-Irish and English (and, of course, the Spaniards and Mexicans...before they were so violently ejected by the Texas Rangers in the 1800s) preceded the Czechs and Germans in this part of the country. 

 

I have a map from 1896, and it shows a large parcel of land owned by Patrick Dalton...which is a distinctly Anglo surname.  Most of the names on the platte were English/Irish/Scotts in origin.  By the early 20th century, though, the county would be heavily Czech (Bohemian and Moravian) and German settlers.

 


Peppermill wrote:

 


Sheltiemama wrote:

Not a question, just a comment. I didn't realize so many Czech immigrants settled in Texas. It's interesting to think about the impact the two cultures had on each other.


 

Sheltie Mamma -- I found the following about Lavaca County interesting:

 

"Fueled by the influx of new immigrants, the population also rose markedly during the second half of the nineteenth century. It was 9,158 in 1870, 13,641 in 1880, 21,887 in 1890, and 28,121 in 1900. The majority of the new settlers were Germans and Czechs (in this case, Czech-speaking Bohemians). The 1890 census listed 4,402 foreign-born residents, with the largest contingents from Germany (1,884) and Austria (1,748). The German, Moravian, and Czech immigrants founded numerous new ethnic farm communities, including Glecker, Breslau, Witting, Moravia, and Vienna. As a result the once decidedly Anglo-American county took on something of a Central European character. By the turn of the century a wide range of German and Czech newspapers were being published, among them Obzor, Treue Zeuge, Novy Domov, Prozor, Vestnik, and Buditel, and many of the county's towns had Czech social organizations, such the National Sokol Society and the Slavonic Benevolent Order."

 

From Handbook of Texas Online - Lavaca County

 

I knew from personal experience that Czechs had settled across the Midwest.  In fact, the story brought back college memories of once having dated someone with one of the Czech names in this story!  (Sadly, who died not terribly long after we graduated.)

 

I still haven't figured out who the Czechs replaced in Texas as described in the story -- "red haired and ruddy settlers". p. 10.  My guess is the reference is to the Scot-Irish like Patrick Dalton, but I am uncertain and the link above did not add to the probability of the correctness of my guess.


 

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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Hi, PiperMurphy,

 

I did enjoy writing Vaclav, and I have a great deal of empathy and compassion for him.  Of course, the readers have to draw their own conclusions, but Vaclav was so clear and complex and vibrant in my imagination.  Faulkner always spoke of stories being about "the human heart in conflict with itself," and I see this in Vaclav.  I just thought a great deal about my own grandfather, who had, as they say, a bit of the devil in him.  He could be stern and hard, and he was certainly from a "don't spare the rod" culture and time, but he was also playful and mischievous and unpredictable.  But he had my grandmother, whom he adored, and that, as so many of us are fortunate enough to know, can make all the difference in the world.


PiperMurphy wrote:

Hello,

 

I am really enjoying your book, it's excellent. The characters are so well developed. They're believable and true to their time and setting. Believe it or not, I really like Vaclav - not as a person (he's a terrible person), but as a character. He's fascinating and intriguing because there are so many layers to him. I was wondering what it was like to write him? How did you go about creating him? I bet he was fun to invent.


 

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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Sandra,

 

Thanks for such wonderful praise.  It means so much to me.

 

And please (and everyone else, too!), call me Bruce!  When I see that "Mr." on the page, I start looking around to see if my father is in the room with me!  :smileyhappy:

 

Yes, my sentences run particularly long in this novel.  I think long sentences can work both ways, depending on the rhythm.  They sometimes speed things up and render the experience kind of breathless (especially when the normal commas are omitted in favor of lots of conjunctions), and sometimes they can lend a slowly liquid, meandering pace to the sentence.  I tried to make use of both of these effects.  Mostly, the long sentences are meant to evoke a past era, an Old Testament cadence.  Also, of course, stylistically speaking, it's just the way I write. 

 

But "run-on sentences"!?!   Tsk, tsk!  :smileyhappy:  Never.  


sandrabrazier wrote:

Hi Mr. Machart,

 

I found your book to be an inspiring and beautiful experience. One thing I noticed right off was that many of your sentences are excessively long, bordering on what teachers would call run-on sentences. Since you were so meticulous about style and word choice, I wonder if the use of such sentences was purposeful, if maybe they were meant to evoke the meandering, slower-paced life of the old mid-west. In any case, that's what those sentences did for me. Thanks again for such a treasure.

 

Sandra


 

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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

[ Edited ]

Dear Erinsam,

 

Thanks so much for the question, but really I intend no irony at all in the title.  I am playing a bit with the various denotations of the word "wake," but we will just have to agree to disagree here.  I find the word forgiveness highly applicable to numerous characters in the story...

 


 

erinsam wrote:

Is the title meant to be an ironic twist on the life of Karel?  Forgiveness is not a quality I would use to describe any of the characters with the exception of Sophie.  Thought provoking book.


 

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Vermontcozy
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?


Bruce-Machart wrote:

 

A few of you have asked about my favorite writers.  Here's a short (and incomplete) list:

 

Eudora Welty's story "Powerhouse" was the one that I was reading when I first thought, Hey, I wonder if I could do this?

 

I tend to favor writers from a different era...I love Wallace Stegner, Richard Yates, Graham Greene, Faulkner and Steinbeck.

 

From the last quarter century or so, I think Tim O'Brien, Andre Dubus (the elder), Richard Ford, Russell Banks and the like are top-notch.

 

And Franzen!  He deserves every last bit of praise being given him.  Those novels are marvelous.


Thank you Bruce.Knowing what you like to read Andre Dubus the elder,I have only read the son"House of Sand and Fog",and Richard Yates Short Stories.Collection..some still haunt me..But Beautiful..My Daughter has the book,in safe keeping,because its signed...Some at different times in my life..Franzen..Is on my TBR..He tours a bit in New England..Will look into Eudora Wiley"Powerhouse as well..Gives us a glance into your likes......Thanks for Sharing..Susan

Kindness,I've discovered,is everything in life...Issac Bashevis Singer
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nbmars
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Bruce,

 

I notice in previous answers you have indicated your empathy with your characters.  I was wondering if this is why the sons of Vaclav seem to admire their father in spite of how horribly he treated them, but the Knedlicks chose to destroy their abusive father.  Do you think your love of your developed characters led you to give Vaclav's sons positive (in addition to negative) feelings, or was there some Stockholm Syndrome psychology going on, or what made the difference between the reactions of these boys and the Knedlicks?

Author
Bruce-Machart
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

A compelling and interesting question, nbmars.  Simply fascinating. It's really quite humbling to see how deeply all of you are considering these characters with whom I alone have lived for so many years!  It's a hoot of the first order; it really is!

 

 

 First of all, I consider the Knedlicks to be among my developed characters.  I think for me, the difference lies in the fact that the Knedlicks' father sinned against their mother...an act against which his sons rebel in the most violent way possible. 

 

While the Skala boys resent their father, even hate him sometimes, it is a resentment laced, as you say, with respect...even admiration.  He adored their mother, and this is clear to them even if he isn't terribly demonstrative.  They may not understand it, but I believe it is clear that Karel knows it to be true.

 

I don't really think the Stockholm Syndrome, as I understand it, applies here.  He is their father...not a stranger/captor....and the attention and favor of even rotten or failing or floundering or distant fathers are often desired by their children. 


nbmars wrote:

Bruce,

 

I notice in previous answers you have indicated your empathy with your characters.  I was wondering if this is why the sons of Vaclav seem to admire their father in spite of how horribly he treated them, but the Knedlicks chose to destroy their abusive father.  Do you think your love of your developed characters led you to give Vaclav's sons positive (in addition to negative) feelings, or was there some Stockholm Syndrome psychology going on, or what made the difference between the reactions of these boys and the Knedlicks?


 

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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Bruce,

 

Thank you so much for your answers!  And I wanted to clarify that when I used the phrase "

your developed characters" I was referring to the Knedlicks' father, not the boys.  

 

I understand your point that "the attention and favor of even rotten or failing or floundering or distant fathers are often desired by their children."  But compare the example of girls who have been sexually abused by fathers.  Compliance is often a function of fear, and hatred and the desire to escape seem to eclipse any positive feelings.  With your four boys, they too have been physically abused, and have the bent necks and bashed-in face in one case to prove it.  But they somehow feel reverence in addition to hate.  Do you think the fact that they are the same sex as their father, and that there are mystical or psychological as well as sociological (role model) ties between fathers and sons, that they felt like this?  Or (and this was my previous point), is it your affection for Vaclav that makes you compelled to add positive reactions to him?

 

(I should add, sort of amusingly, that although I know Freud's tenets weren't common knowledge at the time in which your novel is set, I kept waiting for Karel to have some sort of insight like "Oh no, I'm acting just like my father!")  

 

 

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MSaff
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Hi Bruce,

 

  Thank you for your response.  Just to let you know, I am not saying that your story is brutal, only that it certainly shows a brutal time.  And yes, it does and is bringing about strong emotions as a read the story.  Like you, I do read what I start, and each time I re-read a book or passage, I usually find something new that I missed the first, second or third time I read the story. 

  I admire what you do, and again, thank you for allowing us to read your novel. 

 

 

 


Bruce-Machart wrote:

Hello, MSaff,

 

Well, I hope that the novel ITSELF isn't "abusive."  I think what you mean is that there are some characters in the story who act violently, even cruelly, and that the emotions generated by witnessing such acts are difficult to stomach sometimes.  I agree.  When I read Faulkner or Steinbeck (and I am NOT putting myself in that league...only sharing some books that evoke in me very difficult emotions...) or the play KING LEAR, to name three, I have a visceral, pained reaction.  But I read them...and I reread them...and I think the Greeks were onto something when they suggeted that the catharsis we experience through drama is purging, cleansing, and actually good for us!

 

As for why I chose the story....really, I just chose the character, Karel. I was  total Mama's boy growing up, and I wanted the chance to empathize with a boy who was motherless.  That was something I could NOT understand, and when I don't feel capable of understanding, the best way for me to get it is through story.

 


 

MSaff wrote:

 

Mike
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Seuss
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Bruce

 

I have lived in South Texas almost all my life and every thing in your book rings true to me except one sentence.  On page 10 you write: "...and until this week there's been neither a man or woman in the county who's often laid either an eye or a thought on a Mexican."  This seems difficult to believe even in 1910.  Was this something you found when doing research on Lavaca County during that period?

 

In the next chapter you write about "Mexican pickers."  Did they only come on the scene in the 20's?

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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

[ Edited ]

         "SPOILER UP TO PG 225"   Good Evening Bruce..It certainly has been a busy day for you.. One of my favorite passages is on page.224..Starting with pg223. Graciela says.  ."Wouldn't you like to tell me about yours?" Referring to Karel's Mother,last sentence on pg224 Starting with "You already know all about her.She was just like you.I was inside her,and then she was gone..That is when I truly knew Karel..I felt his loss and just that one line,has made him seem more like a man rather then a boy,,As I continued reading,and having all the brothers together and what transpired between them,has set the stage for me,in truly understanding who they are.....Beautifully written,and  emotionally charged .That's where I am in TWOF..Tonight I will read on and finish..Your passion certainly has been revealed..,Thank you for that..Susan..

Kindness,I've discovered,is everything in life...Issac Bashevis Singer
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Bruce-Machart
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Dear nbmars,

 

All I can really say is that I hope not, and I think it unlikely.  One of the first hard lessons of writing character-driven rather than plot-driven fiction is that one must learn to avoid depicting characters with either too much judgement or too much sympathy.  Empathy is something else altogether.  I think that if I was favoring the character beyond my knowledge of what I perceive to be his very human faults and weaknesses, I would have tempered his harsh words and harsh hand.  I believe, in this case, that the boys simply have no other father.  I think of a totally unrelated book (I am a big tennis fan), that being Andre Agassi's co-written memoir.  His father, by all standards, was single-minded and egocentric (very likely heartbroken himself in some way, I would guess), and while Agassi doesn't temper his father's destructive behavior, he also speaks quite humanely of him.  Of course, seeing as this is only one example of what I am getting it, you may not find it quite compelling...


nbmars wrote:

  Do you think the fact that they are the same sex as their father, and that there are mystical or psychological as well as sociological (role model) ties between fathers and sons, that they felt like this?  Or (and this was my previous point), is it your affection for Vaclav that makes you compelled to add positive reactions to him?

 


 

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hookedonbooks09
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

I agree that the time changes were a little confusing for me as well.  While it lended nicely to the total layout of the book and story, I also had to flip back to see where we were!  Reading cover to cover, it would probably be no problem, but I didn't have that luxury this time out.

 

Barb


Clevegal42 wrote:

Hello,

 

I was wondering why you decided to make the story jump to different points in time throughout the book.  I'll admit that it made it hard for me to read at times because I would have to put it down and then pick it back up and I would forget what "time" I was currently reading.  It isn't like some of the other books I've read that has flashbacks, but it did make it very interesting.

 

 

Thanks for the opportunity to read and discuss your novel - it was an interesting story that I'll be reading again throughout the discussions.


 

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. ~Groucho Marx