Saturday, April 18, 2009

Peter Rock

From Peter Rock's interview with James Warner at Identity Theory:

My Abandonment is inspired by the true story of a veteran and his daughter who lived undiscovered for four years in a tarp-covered, wood-framed structure in Portland's Forest Park. What drove you to write about this?

Peter Rock: That, I think, is always the question. Where does all this stuff come from? [laughs deeply] Anyway, as you say, it's based on a true story--about five years ago, I read a short mention of a thirteen-year-old girl and her father, discovered living in Forest Park, a rugged wilderness that borders downtown Portland. They had been living there for four years in a carefully camouflaged camp, ingeniously escaping detection, venturing into the city to collect his disability checks and to shop for the groceries they couldn’t grow. He had been home-schooling the girl, who tested beyond her age group. A second newspaper article described how the two had been relocated to a horse farm; the father had been given a job, and the girl was to start middle school in the fall. I thought the situation was resolved, and filed it away; then, a third newspaper article described how the two had disappeared one night. I waited and waited, searched the Web, but months passed and there was no more information. The two had truly disappeared. Unable to find out more information about how they lived or what became of them, my mind began to spin out possibilities. I realized I had to tell the story myself, in order to satisfy my curiosity. And the fact that there was such limited information was a good thing, for me; had there been enough information available to write a non-fictional account I wouldn’t have been interested in writing it. Perhaps some might hesitate at making fiction out of real peoples’ lives, or see it as a real imposition; I am a little uneasy about it, myself, but hope that my effort is a testament to my enthusiasm and respect. And wonder.

Tell us more about Forest Park. Did you go there much while researching the book?

Peter Rock: It's gigantic and full of secrets, wild animals, homeless people, huge trees, bones, secret paths. It's right up against the city of Portland and there's Lycra-clad folks running the trails, but off the trails it gets steep and tangled pretty fast. I did spend a fair amount of time there; mostly just climbing trees, daydreaming around, imagining scenes from the book, trying to...[read on]
Peter Rock is the author of the novels The Bewildered, The Ambidextrist, This is the Place, Carnival Wolves, and My Abandonment, and a story collection, The Unsettling. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow and recipient of a 2000 NEA Fellowship, he lives in Portland, Oregon, and teaches at Reed College.

The Page 69 Test: My Abandonment.

--Marshal Zeringue