Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kim Barnes

From a Q & A with Kim Barnes about her new novel, A Country Called Home:

Q: Part One of A COUNTRY CALLED HOME is preceded by an epigraph by John Gardner: “The fall from grace is endless.” Why did you choose this quote?

A: My young life was defined by the teachings of religious fundamentalism and the constant reiteration of man’s fall from grace—that fall from the Garden of Eden. The fact that my own father was a man characterized by a mix of uncommon nobility and flawed judgment...well, that’s the very definition of a tragic figure.

My father was an absolutist, a man of deep conviction who was determined—driven, really—to create a better life for himself and his family. Even though my character Thomas Deracotte is a Yale educated physician, while my father was a logger with very little education, they both believed that they could control the world around them with a mix of superior insight and will. Such people are often blinded by their own vision, even though the vision itself may be an honorable one. And the fact is that, even in their failure to realize that vision, and even though their flawed judgment and blind hubris may result in chaos rather than order, we benefit from their attempts. This is why A COUNTRY CALLED HOME is divided into two parts: the first part is the story of Thomas Deracotte’s attempt to create a Utopian existence for his wife and daughter. Part II explores how Deracotte’s vision, though destructive, is also creative: in the life of his daughter, Elise, we recognize the chance for redemption.

Like Elise, I have been both scarred and shaped by my father’s vision. The strength of his will and demanding nature instilled in me a sense of fearful respect, but it also allowed me the opportunity to rise above the poverty and familial dysfunction that had informed his own life. Without my father’s vision, even though flawed, I would not have achieved my educational and creative goals, and I am grateful. But I’m also aware of how that fall from grace—from childhood innocence and adult obliviousness to consequence—is perpetual.
Read the complete Q & A.

The Page 69 Test: A Country Called Home.

--Marshal Zeringue