Thursday, December 4, 2014

Benjamin Whitmer

Benjamin Whitmer was born and raised on back-to-the-land communes and counterculture enclaves ranging from Southern Ohio to Upstate New York. One of his earliest and happiest memories is of standing by the side of a country road with his mother, hitchhiking to parts unknown. Since then, he’s been a factory grunt, a vacuum salesman, a convalescent, a high-school dropout, a graduate student, a semi-truck loader, an activist, a kitchen-table gunsmith, a squatter, a college professor, a dishwasher, a technical writer and a petty thief.

His first novel, Pike, was published in America in 2010 by PM Press, and in France in 2012 by Éditions Gallmeister. Satan is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers, a memoir co-written with Charlie Louvin, was released by Igniter Books in 2012.

Whitmer's second novel is Cry Father.

From the author's Q & A with Court Merrigan at Electric Literature:

CM: In Cry Father, you write, “It’s almost impossible to measure the damage that damaged young men can do to themselves. Spending their nights drinking, doing whatever drugs they can afford, fumbling through the kind of endless and circular conversations only damaged young men can tolerate. Conversations full of self-pity and self-hatred they can only end by the sudden imposition of physical force.” The endlessly repeating nature of that sort of violence – because there are always more young men, everywhere, – is that what you mean by “violence not doing what you want it to?”

BW: Yep, that’s pretty much it. I had a lot of friends who lived that way, and I was one of the most pathetic. It ain’t real attractive, but that’s what a lot of us thought it meant to be a young man. Some of us lived through it, and some of us didn’t. I’m not a real religious guy, but there’s that old line, “there but for the grace of God go I.” Someday I’ll get that tattooed on my forehead to remind me how lucky I am.

CM: Alcohol and drugs figure heavily in Cry Father. But everyone’s using for a reason, and none of it’s fun. As Patterson Wells says of the men on the disaster-area crews: “The men I work with, they don’t grieve. They drink, then they erupt.” Would Cry Father be a totally different book if everyone were teetotalers, or would these damaged people find some other route to eruption? Games of horseshoes? Religious war?

BW: Man, I don’t even know what a teetotaler would look like. I mean, I know...[read on]
Visit Benjamin Whitmer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Cry Father.

--Marshal Zeringue