Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Storm of History behind The Drifts’, Part 2

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The Storm of History behind The Drifts’, Part 2

Frequently, I dip back into the well of Walter Benjamin. He turns me on. That gaze. His intelligence & creativity burn into us. When it got to be minutes before The Drifts went to press, I decided to find an appropriate epigraph/metaphor/allegory for the book, I came across his angel again (Angelus Novus, see “The Storm of History/ Part 1” exclusively on Open Book). I think I first came across WB in Kayley Vernallis’ ethics class more than ten years ago when we read his On The Concept of History. WB’s tight little blurb of that angel’s path is an exact metaphor/allegory for what happens to the people in my book. You can find it at the beginning of The Drifts. It became one of the epigraphs I was seeking.

Around the same time, I was invited to submit an abstract to the Double Dialogues:“The Hunger Artist: Food and the Arts” conference,being held in August 2010, at the Univ. of Toronto. The theme is food and art. For me the theme translated as "Art as Food/Food as Art".

Track with me, but during this time, and even now, I’ve been doing a lot of press to promote the book. I’m doing a radio interview later today. You can listen to several of those interviews at Question number one is always, “What the book about?”; question number two is usually, “How did you come to write The Drifts?” Both logical, reasonable and appreciated questions.

But I have grown dissatisfied with my response. To the first question, I give my nickle response: “It’s about four people fighting like hell to get what they want during a mean blizzard, over three hours, in northeastern Arkansas.” ‘Nickle’ because I sense there is more to say but have learned to keep my mouth shut if I can’t make a somewhat cogent answer. And, I tend to ramble. Not good in live interviews. If they want to know more, I’ll talk about each of the people in the book.

To the second, I usually give the best answer I can. My aunts (Doodle, Sarah & Ale) told me stories my whole life about this little town in Arkansas, Bay – where they grew up. So, I interpreted the ‘how’ of question number two as “What inspired you to write The Drifts?” I’ve learned from my movie star friends that no matter what an interviewer asks you, you bring it back to what you want to talk about. Those stories are the inspiration behind the book, but not the meat of it.

That answer has niggled at me. There is something more tectonic going on within me when I’m writing right. And, The Drifts feels like it was largely written right. Something about WB's traces and the art we can create from them. The pile of debris at the feet of WB's angel is where art is created. Or so I think. Stay tuned. Part 3 next week.

Food, Art & “The Hunger Artist” continues in the The Storm of History Behind The Drifts’, Part 3; upcoming posts talk about the use of social media, rewriting and lots of other good stuff.

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The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Thom Vernon

Thom Vernon has worked in film, television and theatre since 1989. He has been the Actors’ Gang Youth Education Program director and has worked as an arts educator at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People. The Drifts (Coach House Books) is his first novel.

Go to Thom Vernon’s Author Page