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babzilla41
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Hi Bruce and Welcome to FL! 

 

 I just wanted to say that I have enjoyed reading TWOF and see myself reading it over and again.  So far I've already re-read parts of the book and always come away with a little bit more.  Some of the exciting scenes (like the horse race between Karel and Graciela) I read through quickly just to find out what happens, but then went back and re-read to enjoy the imagery. 

 

I look forward to your next novel.  Best of luck - I hope TWOF becomes a bestseller! 

 

b

 

 

 

 

"I love books. If I could eat them, I would. I love their scent and often put my nose in to inhale their aroma." - Kathleen Grissom
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Peppermill
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Bruce -- it was suggested to me that I place the following from one of my posts to you for your comments, so I guess I will.  I suspect you will side step the question, leaving the response to the readers' interpretations, but, still, am interested in what perspectives you might be willing to share.  (I had already commented that the smells seemed to be concentrated on those emmanating from secretions of various sorts, animal and human.  I have since begun to wonder still more on the literary impact, as opposed to the sensory one.  What is being said about or to the story?  Is the impact on the characters as much as on the reader -- in some cases "yes", other places seems like just part of the setting.)

 

But the place that finally got to me was the paragraph on p. 150 beginning "Still, these were days of a generous, ever-yielding landscape, days of bright red wagonloads of tomatoes come summertime, of railcars piled with maize and dimpled, rust-colored sweet potatoes, of dense bales of hay, of cattle herds ... spared the foot-and-mouth outbreaks...[of] way up north, of steers so plentiful that the slaughterhouse pens ...stayed full and the stench of the Yoakum tannery could water one's eyes from a half mile away...."

 

Amidst all those rich, earthy smells of fall, why is the stench of the tannery the one that Machart calls to our attention?  What has the author been (obviously? unconsciously?) evoking via the olfactory senses throughout the novel?

 

Pepper  (yes, sneeze) :smileyhappy:

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

nbmars,

 

I agree wholly that the writer doesn't always know the full extent of what he/she has made.  I think, except in some cases of marked genius (trust me, this is not one of those cases! :smileyhappy:), the thematics and some of the recurring images/symbols bubble up to the surface from the writer's subconscious.

 

All the same...I still content that even your desire to know when I was doing something consciously (as I was with tense) suggests that it CAN sometimes make a difference.

 

So...your vote has been recognized, but I will exercise, at least for now, the line-item veto.:smileysurprised:

 

Stalwartly yours,

 

Bruce


nbmars wrote:

Bruce,

 

I was struck by two remarks you made.  One was:

 

"...I can't even imagine myself chuckling over a reader's "misreading" of my work.  Without the reader, there would be no writer, no book, and one of my greatest joys in life would be taken from me.  All writers must first be readers, after all."

 

Later you said:

 

"I'm not super comfortable with this because it lends itself to thematic discussion, to my own extra-textual influence on your relationship to the text.  But I'll meet you halfway.  My use of tense in the story is quite deliberate.  I don't mean for it to be something that most readers catch consciously, but some of the sections are in present tense; others are in past tense; and it can be counter-intuitive at first glance."

 

I would say that if you are a reader of your book as well as a writer, you could express opinions in that way.  And secondly, I don't see that it's all that possible for you to exert extra-textual influence even if you wanted to do so!  The reader brings his or her own conceptual lenses to the process no matter what.  I don't eschew Auden for being an anti-Semite, for example.  Nor am I influenced by the fact that you intended Vaclav to be empathetic; for me, he is too much like someone in my own life for me to like him, and nothing about your intentions can change that!  But that brings up another point:  it seems to me that the writer is not always conscious about what influences or symbols or nuances go into the characters.  So in some sense, you are just [sic] another reader who brings your own preconceptions to the interpretation of the story. 

 

...which is all my way of saying that I too vote you tell us about the tense!  :smileyvery-happy:

 

 


 

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Bruce-Machart
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Thanks, Piper,

 

Yes, I have considered delving into Vaclav and Klara's story sometime in the future.  Right now, honestly, I'm looking forward to spending some time writing about a slightly more contemporary time period.  I am not a history scholar, and as much as I enjoy doing cultural research and the like, it is also a great deal of hard work, and there's always then in the back of my mind, writing about times in which I haven't lived, There's a nagging worry that I will not catch some anachronism or even an anachronistic or inappropriate expression.  It worries me, and I'd like not to have that extra source of worry.

 

That said, I also haven't lived in the fifties, and that is when my next novel will be set, but in that case, all I have to do is ask one of my parents, or one of the dozens of people I know who DID spend some time in Lavaca County in the late fifties.  Much, much less stressful!

 

But eventually, yes.  I am interested in Karel's children, in the Knedlicks, and, of course, in what happened in the years before the scope of this novel.  I know a great deal of what happened, and how Vaclav came to be where he is when we first see him in TWOF, of course.  The writer has to know much, much more than what eventually makes it onto the page!  That's part of the job. 

 

Thanks for the wonderful questions!

 

Bruce


PiperMurphy wrote:

Thanks for your response. I have a new appreciation for Vaclav. He's not a terrible person. He's just trying to deal with what life dealt him.

 

I realized, as I read further in the book, that everything that happened in the story was a result of, reaction to, or influenced in some way by Vaclav, even after he was gone. He had a lot more affect on the people around him than I'm sure anyone realized. You've take a lot of care to weave subtleties like this into the story. It's fun to discover them. I was wondering if you have considered telling Vaclav and Klara's story? I would be interested in reading it.

 

 


Bruce-Machart wrote:

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?

 
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Hi Madgy!

 

I'm so glad that you found those scenes compelling.  They were challenging to write, but I learned a great deal by doing so.

 

As for a movie, there hasn't been any concrete talk of it so far (as least that I have heard).  I would love it, of course.  I once heard Russell Banks (has anyone scene _Affliction_?  A great book AND a great movie...doesn't happen much) and Scott Spencer (who wrote a great novel that became a horribly underwrought movie, I thought.  _Endless Love_).  They agreed that the first thing a writer has to do when a movie is being made of his/her book is to surrender the thing imaginatively.  One shouldn't expect the movie to be too closely related to the book...one should expect the movie to be something akin to a second cousin of the novel from which it is adapted.

 

Mostly, I think it would give my mother a thrill of the highest order to have her son's story appear on the big screen.  That, I think, would be fun to witness!

 

B.


Madgy wrote:

Hi Bruce,

    I don't have a question for you at this time but I did want to say  WOW!!!  The horse race between Graciela and Karel and then the fire in the barn were so well written that I actually felt I was there!  Oh I guess I do have a question... Is this going to be a movie someday!?! 

Thank you for letting us read your book I'm enjoying it immensely!

Madgy


 

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Bruce-Machart
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

 

Oh, Babz, thank you so much!

 

That's a wonderful thing for a writer to hear.  We our bombarded, these days, with so many competing draws on our attention, that to hear that one's book is not only being read but being reread is a compliment of the highest order.

 

That tickles me all the brightest shades of pink!   It really does.

 

Bruce

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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Howdy, Pepper:

 

Side-step?  Me?  Not unless the band plays a good waltz!  :smileyhappy:

 

I think that the pervasiveness of olfactory image is duly noted, and likely part conscious and part subconscious construction.  Scent memory is very powerful, and it is fascinating to me that there can even be something alluring or compelling or attractive in smells that we often consider "unpleasant."  I, for one, actually like the smell of manure in a pasture.  It isn't a pasture without it!  I wouldn't want to smell it up close, and I wouldn't want to smell it on a city street, but it is comforting and pleasant to have that smell as a part of the greater sensation of being in a pasture.  It's not only a function of setting; it's vital to setting, methinks.

 

As for the tannery, this is partly key to setting (anyone who lives around a tannery or papermill or petrochemical plant, etc. will tell you that the smell is very much a part of the sense of place).  But your question about the images being so often those which emmanate from animals and people is an intriguing one. I think that character and place (atmosphere/setting, and this includes the animals that inhabit the place, and the weather, and the flora, etc.) are inextricable and interconnected, and this interconnection happens via the senses.

 

But honestly, I'm not sure I understand your question concretely enough to answer it in a way with which I'm satisfied.  Perhaps you could clarify a bit?  Are you suggesting that there might be some symbolic or thematic meaning in the olfactory images of living things?  This is certainly possible, but I can't claim to have done it consciously.  I write about the physical world as completely and clearly as I can.  I try not to shy away from difficult moments.  I am a realist, and it is my job to write what I am most afraid to write.  But you may be on to something here, and I'm sure it won't be the last time someone teaches me about my own book!  Thank goodness for that!

 

Cheers,

 

B.


Peppermill wrote:

Bruce -- it was suggested to me that I place the following from one of my posts to you for your comments, so I guess I will.  I suspect you will side step the question, leaving the response to the readers' interpretations, but, still, am interested in what perspectives you might be willing to share.  (I had already commented that the smells seemed to be concentrated on those emmanating from secretions of various sorts, animal and human.  I have since begun to wonder still more on the literary impact, as opposed to the sensory one.  What is being said about or to the story?  Is the impact on the characters as much as on the reader -- in some cases "yes", other places seems like just part of the setting.)

 

But the place that finally got to me was the paragraph on p. 150 beginning "Still, these were days of a generous, ever-yielding landscape, days of bright red wagonloads of tomatoes come summertime, of railcars piled with maize and dimpled, rust-colored sweet potatoes, of dense bales of hay, of cattle herds ... spared the foot-and-mouth outbreaks...[of] way up north, of steers so plentiful that the slaughterhouse pens ...stayed full and the stench of the Yoakum tannery could water one's eyes from a half mile away...."

 

Amidst all those rich, earthy smells of fall, why is the stench of the tannery the one that Machart calls to our attention?  What has the author been (obviously? unconsciously?) evoking via the olfactory senses throughout the novel?

 

Pepper  (yes, sneeze) :smileyhappy:


 

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literature
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Hi Bruce,

 

Vaclav misses his Klara so much, blames Karel for her death, is protective of her china dishes and gets upset when their wedding picture gets wet, but never says that he loved her.  He only says (on page 5) "...hands...stained with the blood of the only woman he'd ever been fond of".  Since page 5, I've been waiting to read somewhere that he loved her, but never came across it (so far, anyway).  I guess fond is as good as it gets given that he is neither the romantic nor the demonstrative type of person.  I'm interested in your take on this.

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literature
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Hi Bruce,

Reading some of the posts on olfactory images, the ones I don't remember reading about was the smell of wet clothes, horse's blanket and saddles.  You described the wet clothes, but I don't remember about the smell of them.  Wet clothes, especially wool, give off a distinct smell that I always associate with dismal, from the weather it comes from.  You did a subperb job describing the olfactory images of the land, trees, bushes, rain, clouds and wind, which each have their own smell, as does manure.  Manure was always there and after a while I chuckled every time the word surfaced and even waited anxiously for the next description to pop up.  You described it in every possible way, even as shiny and polished.  But it is part of life and has as much right to be included in the olfactory images as does anything else down on the farm, even the sweat and odor of the farmer!

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Peppermill
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Bruce -- what writings have particularly influenced your thinking about forgiveness?

 

Pepper

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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pen21
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Bruce,

I finished the book. I am impressed. This story really captured this time period well. The characters were flawed, but became very real for me. I like this era and this type of story, so I am very picky about the books I read in this genre. Excellent job.

 

For this book you stated you used a story told in your family about brothers used to plow instead of horses. Do you try to add a "true" or "real" element to your stories?

 

Thanks Luanne

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Bruce-Machart
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

 

Hi, lit,
It's a complicated matter, at least the way I see it.  I'm working in a kind of third-person POV here that allows for wild variations in what is sometimes called "psychic distance."  This means that the narrator can sometimes move back away from the characters (lending some objectivity) or move all the way "inside" the characters so that the reader has access to the emotions, thoughts, sensations, etc.  
Along with this closeness sometimes comes what I have heard called either the "central consciousness" or the "free indirect style" whereby the narrator gets close but not quite "inside" the character's mind, and this proximity results in the "indirect" revelation of the character's thoughts/feelings.  In other words, without the jargon, the narrator is so close to the character that the narrator's language begins to resemble that of the character.
In short, I would call Vaclav's feeling for Klara "love," but he would never have said so (at least not to anyone but her...as it is her proximity and tenderness alone that allow him to do so).  
This "style" of POV has become relatively common in third-person stories.  The narrative scholar James Wood discusses it at some length in his book _How Fiction Works_.

Thanks for all the great questions,
BDM



literature wrote:

Hi Bruce,

 

Vaclav misses his Klara so much, blames Karel for her death, is protective of her china dishes and gets upset when their wedding picture gets wet, but never says that he loved her.  He only says (on page 5) "...hands...stained with the blood of the only woman he'd ever been fond of".  Since page 5, I've been waiting to read somewhere that he loved her, but never came across it (so far, anyway).  I guess fond is as good as it gets given that he is neither the romantic nor the demonstrative type of person.  I'm interested in your take on this.


 

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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

[ Edited ]

 

Pepper,
Seriously?  Pretty much everything I've ever read!  Particularly?  Hmm...  So, so many...

St. Augustine's _Confessions_
Elie Wiesel's _Night_ and _Dawn_, among others
John Edgar Wideman's _Brothers and Keepers_
Graham Greene's _The Heart of the Matter_ and _The End of the Affair_
William Maxwell's _So Long, See You Tomorrow_
Greek and Elizabethan tragedy, a handful of Biblical and Philosophical scholarship
On and on...

And yours?
Bruce







Peppermill wrote:

Bruce -- what writings have particularly influenced your thinking about forgiveness?

 

Pepper


 

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dhaupt
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

Bruce, I also finished the book and found it incredibly wonderful. You deal with very real situations at a time period when women and children found themselves at the mercy of at times stubbornly difficult men and at some just downright cruel. I loved your dialogue and found it increased my pleasure of the read.

 

Thank You

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Bruce-Machart
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

 

Hi, Luanne,
I'm very glad you liked the way the novel turns out.
I don't think we can really get away from our personal histories, psychologies, emotional concerns entirely when we write.  We write from experience.  I don't write what I would consider particularly autobiographical fiction.  The thrill for me is in getting to live lives other than my own.  In this case, that one image (which became for me a challenge of the imagination) of the bows harnessed to the plow was one that stuck with me over years and years, and it doesn't surprise me that it worked its way eventually into my fiction.  
Most stories I've written have an impetus in my own experience, but once I leave the diving board, so to speak, there's no "real-world" connection between "factual history" and what Tim O'Brien calls "story truth."  My job, as I see it, is to create something "true" that only is such because I have imagined it fully.  
So, I write family stories, but not MY family stories, if that makes sense...
Bruce


pen21 wrote:

Bruce,

I finished the book. I am impressed. This story really captured this time period well. The characters were flawed, but became very real for me. I like this era and this type of story, so I am very picky about the books I read in this genre. Excellent job.

 

For this book you stated you used a story told in your family about brothers used to plow instead of horses. Do you try to add a "true" or "real" element to your stories?

 

Thanks Luanne


 

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Bruce-Machart
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

 

dhaupt,
Thanks so much.  I have always LOVED compelling dialogue.  It's a thrill, for me, to turn the page and find that there's a bunch of dialogue waiting there.  We can learn so much about character as much from the WAY they speak as from what they say.  I feel like I hear characters' voices and idiomatic quirks pretty clearly in my head, and I try to work had to ensure that the reader can hear them, too.  I'm glad that, in your case, it seems to have worked!  Really, I appreciate the kind words.
Regards,
Bruce


dhaupt wrote:

Bruce, I also finished the book and found it incredibly wonderful. You deal with very real situations at a time period when women and children found themselves at the mercy of at times stubbornly difficult men and at some just downright cruel. I loved your dialogue and found it increased my pleasure of the read.

 

Thank You


 

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thewanderingjew
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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

I wanted to tell you that I loved your book. I have never read a book that I have described in quite the same way as I have when I reviewed yours. I felt as if it was alive and it took my breath away at times. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to share your book with you.

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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

[ Edited ]

 

Dear TWJ,
And hearing that takes MY breath away.  Thanks to you for such kindness.  I am just thrilled and delighted to hear that the book came alive in your imagination.  
Warmest regards,
Bruce

thewanderingjew wrote:

I wanted to tell you that I loved your book. I have never read a book that I have described in quite the same way as I have when I reviewed yours. I felt as if it was alive and it took my breath away at times. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to share your book with you.


 

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Re: Questions for Bruce Machart?

 


Bruce-Machart wrote (excerpt):
.... I was trained in the craft of narrative at the MFA program at The Ohio State University.  I had marvelous teachers.   Literary art (all art, really) resides at the intersection of mechanics and concept.  The mechanics can be taught, and they teach them very well at OSU.  I had two wonderful mentors (Lee K. Abbott and Melanie Rae Thon), and they gave me gifts that I will never be able to repay.

 

As for the conceptual side of writing, I don't believe that can be taught.  I don't think you can teach someone how to imagine more vividly, how to dream characters into being, how to see a whole world in one's head.  I only know to count my blessings that I seem, most days, to be able to do so.


 

I was curious about the writings of the mentors Bruce names.  Others of you may enjoy the following links:

 

Lee K. Abbott

   Wikipedia entry

 

Melanie Rae Thon

    Wikipedia entry

 

Are there any of their works that you would particularly call to our attention, Bruce, now that many of us have finished TWoF?

 

Pepper

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy