Caught up in pasts both personal and epic, Downs's characters struggle to maintain their peculiar, grounded manners in an increasingly detached world. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem.
Return to Book Page. With a reporter's eye for the inside story and a historian's grasp of the ironies in our collective past, Greg Downs affectionately observes some of the last survivors of what Greil Marcus has called the old, weird America. Living off the map and out of sight, folks like Embee, Rudy, Peg, and Branch define themselves by where they are, not by what they eat, drink, or wear.
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The Quivering Pen: The Great Big Roundup of Short Story Collections
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Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Now, my cousin is the deputy chief of police there. Along with a taste for some foods, a slightly midwesterny version of the southern accent, and complicated feelings about army bases, the main thing I carry with me from there is a recognition that nothing is quite as important or painful as University of Kentucky basketball.
Pretty big deal, but not like UK losing to Louisville. As a kid, I once saw a neighbor throw his television out of his window after UK lost a game. This year, though, the TV is a possibility. So , Tubby Smith, or the TV gets it.
My mother and I lived for a quite a while, though, in Nashville and for several years in Kapahi, Kauai, Hawaii, at the end of a dirt road that was itself at the end of a one lane road, just a valley over from the wettest spot on earth. We lived there a few times, and my dad lived there for the duration, alongside a commune of burnt-out hippies and groups of paniolos Hawaiian cowboys and Filipinos and assorted refugees from the life on the mainland.
Now, I live in Philly, which is neither homogenized nor home, even though there are parts that do feel like the old South, which is to say homey, impoverished, and a little violent.
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Were you one of those Iggles fans throwing ice balls? Aurelio , the Eagles are a football team from Philly, but I like to say it with the proper Pixtburgh accent. My lawyer advises me not to answer that question. If I did throw an ice ball, though, it would only have been in the direction of a known war criminal like T.
And what were you doing that got you so sweaty?
Greg likes Marah! But the kind of music they do is not Southern merely because they play banjoes and harmonicas but because they sing with the oldest Southern faith in the reality of pain, the recognition that anomie and displacement and soul-searching are luxuries of a rich world. In the Nation of Defeat, people experience loss of a more corporeal kind. Southern music, like a lot of Southern literature, was really about poverty, not necessarily about being poor but about the experience of living around poverty all the time.
Spit Baths (Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction): Stories
Not a political platform about poverty but just a take on life that grew out of an awareness of it. The same thing for violence. Now, there are poor people in the South, but as the South has suddenly got rich and put on its fancy shoes, it has become much more adept at doing what the North was always adept at, hiding them away. And now a lot of the poorest places in the country are northern cities.
What people experience there is what people used to experience in the South. So Marah are a hardworking band that plays honest, painful rock and roll and sings tough songs but without an ounce of self-pity. Going is like going to a revival, and even someone as self-conscious as I am ends up shouting by the end. A friend of mine had seen the author photo they were using for the back book jacket — which is beautiful — and told me that she was going to take a picture of how I really looked, and that is the picture she took.
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On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, though, I say the best Southern band around is the Drive-by-Truckers who are actually from the South and who have a sense of history to keep them from turning the Southern thing into a cliche. Greg fails to quiet new baby Sophia! I wish it were images. I always think it would be a better idea to start writing from an image and move out into the story. I start with a character or a bit of the story or a voice and try to fill in around it.
I like the moment the reading is over. Not because I love signing my name — I actually was never one of those kids who practiced his autograph all day — but because I do like talking to people. And what will happen if everyone just scoots politely out the door without even acknowledging your presence?
Some of the first drafts were written on a manual portable Royal typewriter that had belonged to one of my grandmothers. More recently, though, I switched to doing first drafts longhand. Okay, on the cover of your book, I have to say the little pencil drawing thing is very eye-catching, but what exactly is it? A puddle? I think someone at the press spilled their beer on the cover mockup, and they drew the circle around the edges to make it seem artistic and not a mistake. Maybe a year and a half or so, not nonstop. I had an earlier, longer, uglier version of the book that included all the stories I had published.
I was proud of those stories.
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- On Extended Wings - the Newsletter of the Spalding MFA in Writing Program;
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Getting those stories made me want to keep on writing. And I had to admit that she was right. A couple were too raw, a couple were repetitive, a couple were just in a different tone. So it was good news. The house in Swisher, Iowa where Greg started the stories. None of my history colleagues, though a couple of English professors and administrators who work in the same division that I do.
- Olaf the Glorious A Story of the Viking Age!
- Sister Assassin!
- Antwerp Left Bank Water Front Development.
- ONE STAR.
One is sometimes reminded of the aphorism that writing is not a vocation or an avocation but simply a bad habit. Kentucky and Tennessee have the bourbon and whiskey down pat, but I do love the Pennsylvania beers. Troegs and Yuengling and Yards, especially. But you probably meant beyond the next five minutes. Clearly the whims of a year-old with a glandular disorder are more important in the bigger scope of things than my family or my work.
If only I were kidding.
So, we stripped Greg down. And when you see him at a reading in his fine leather jacket and his hair all combed. Okay, this is a different Greg Downs! But no more will we think of Greg Downs as a fancy, award-winning author with a PhD. Oh no. Tagged as: flannery o'connor award for short fiction , greg downs , litpark , spit baths , susan henderson.
Great interview, Sue! And, oh yes, Spit Baths is a wonderful book. His stories ring so absolutely, heart-breakingly true.
Related Spit Baths (Flannery OConnor Award for Short Fiction): Stories
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