March 1, 2009

Clusterbook #1

Clusterbook #1 from Lucy Foley on Vimeo.

After much arranging, technological soul searching and editing, here is the Inaugural Clusterflock Bookclub Meeting, which I’m calling Clusterbook. Four Clusterflockers huddled over their computer microphones and skype in San Francisco, Kansas, Pittsburgh and County Clare one saturday afternoon/night recently to discuss Daryl Scroggins’ This Is Not The Way We Came In, and this is what tumbled out.

A lot of people expressed a desire to get involved in this project, and there is so much more to discuss about this book, so I look forward to the expansion of the conversation in the comments here.

This little project has been a lot of work and I have learned things. It was fun to hear some of the voices whose words we see every day around this site. I hope this public meeting is the first of many.


  1. Cindy Scroggins on February 23rd, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Oh, Lucy, this is wonderful! I will listen to it tonight at home and hope to have something to offer in comments. Thank you for doing this!! I can’t wait to hear y’all’s voices (I detest phones but love voices.)

  2. Sheila Ryan on February 23rd, 2009 at 10:57 am

    So very glad this is up, Lucy; I am only now getting over being steamed over my abrupt but unavoidable departure from that afternoon’s festivities just as they were getting underway in earnest.

    I know how much damn work it can be to edit these things, both with respect to content and the tech aspects. For this and for being the catalyst, a big clusterkiss!

    (And I’ll be there for the whole of the next gathering, no matter what manner of malarkey threatens to interrupt.)

  3. Lucy Foley on February 23rd, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Well if anyone wants to jump in with a response, feel free. Responding to an aspect of the conversation would be a good place to start. I have plenty more questions to ask people about their responses.

  4. Deron Bauman on February 23rd, 2009 at 11:48 am

    can’t wait! and thanks. Lucy, it looks like Vimeo is having a hiccup but when it’s back online I’m sure we’ll all jump in.

  5. Lucy Foley on February 23rd, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Seems to be back up now. But here’s what it said on Vimeo’s homepage:

    We’ve had a major outage at one our datacenters which took down a major chunk of our database cluster and backup cluster.


  6. Cindy Scroggins on February 23rd, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    I stole some time at work and listened to this delightful conversation. I missed much of it due to bad sound on my end, but what I heard does my soul good. Thank you, dear Lucy, for doing this.

    I can fill in some blanks. The group discussed how the book seems to be “all at once,” with a kind of organic wholeness to it. In fact, the pieces were written over a span of 30 years. The oldest is “Down the Rivers of the Windfall Light,” which was written in 1979 or 1980; prior to that, Daryl had written line poetry exclusively. I don’t have the book with me so am not sure which is the most recent piece–I’ll let you know.

    Rick, yes, Daryl wrote the found poem in “Inscription.” I think the poem–and the woman’s finding of it–illustrates our interconnectedness through storytelling. While some people can never “get it,” others will–even if after we’re gone.

    As to the place in “Prairie Shapes,” I think the place is what shapes the story. It has a certain control over the people (I recall Daryl saying it was like a door with a lower than standard header that knocks people out again and again). And the cave strikes me as overtly vaginal. I need to read the piece again, though, to hone my perceptions (I re-read all but “Prairie Shapes” when the book came out–but PS knocked the wind out of me the first time I read it.)

    I was really interested to hear that similar language and imagery is used in various stories. This is something I’d never picked up on, but it makes perfect sense. One of Daryl’s earliest memories is of lying in his crib, looking at blue sky through a window. He says he remembers feeling like he was falling up. So it is no wonder that this imagery, along with the high ice clouds, appears again and again.

    I’d originally intended to keep my private knowledge to myself and simply participate as just another reader, and if y’all would prefer that I not share details such as this (or prefer that I not participate at all), just say so. This whole thing is strange and wonderful. For all of these years, Daryl and I discussed his stories pretty much in isolation. It’s grand to hear the views of others.

  7. Phil Bebbington on February 23rd, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Lucy, thank you so much for pulling this all together and making it happen. I have not read anything in many years (not even the newspaper) something shot my ability to concentrate away many years ago, I’m working on it.

    I did however listen to the whole piece and if anything were able to motivate me to pick it uip and read it then all of your words would do that.

    FAB! Role on the second one – sorry I have nothing constructive to add to the debate about Daryl’s book – I did have several pieces read to me recently and enjoyed what I heard so much.

  8. Lucy Foley on February 23rd, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Oh Cindy, I am delighted to hear what you have to say, and that this post is part of a wider exposure of Daryl’s work. It is important that good work is read, that it finds the people who need to read it.

    About the “whole book happening at once” theme, what I meant by that, and what I think was generally being alluded to at that point, was that I got a strong sense as I was reading this book of the simultaneous existence of the people drawn therein. This book exists as an entity now, and this is how people will experience it. And the world evoked within it is very particular, operates according to its own rules, and contains its own wildlife.

    Elizabeth puts it very beautifully when she says that the book suggested to her “the possibility of this incredible resonance in very ordinary everyday life, and it’s overlaid, simultaneous”.

  9. Lucy Foley on February 23rd, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    About the concentration issue, Phil, good luck. You’ve hit a good point there though: this is not easy work, it requires commitment to get into it, I think. The language is not overwrought, it’s spare and necessary, but it’s like the air is sucked out, the tone is very dry throughout, and the characters are profoundly specific and contrary. They seem to exist in many realms at once.

    I have a specific question for anyone who wants to jump in on this: what did ye think of the lack of character names in “Prairie Shapes”, the flash fiction? Do you think it added an allegorical layer, or would you have preferred the characters to have had names? Could it perhaps have brought the book into a more specific time frame, and what effect do you think that would have had on the impact of the fiction?

    Christ, I sound like an English teacher.

  10. Cindy Scroggins on February 23rd, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Oh, thank you, Lucy. And I did understand your sense of the book’s wholeness. This observation will be especially meaningful to Daryl, who has long battled editors (including one really important editor) who pushed him to write in a single, identifiable style. We’ve discussed this many times, and I’ve always told him that the style is consistent because it all comes from his own particular sensibility. He knows this is true, of course, but it has been a source of tension over the years and has left Daryl inclined to write only for himself and for me and not to bother sending things out for publication as often as he might. I am happy, happy, happy that he will hear your (absolutely correct) insights on this.

  11. Daryl Scroggins on February 23rd, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    (hello! i’m not supposed to be here–but thank you! )

  12. Lucy Foley on February 23rd, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Well, I think we could all do with a nice cup of tea.

    I appreciate that people are at work, and a 27+ minute audio is probably not feasible for most to listen attentively to, let alone respond to the whole concept so quickly. It only occurred to me after I posted it that the weekend might actually have been the best time for this, but however, it’s here now, and I’m happy for this to have a more gradual participation as the day and even week, bears on.

    Bookmark the link, subscribe to the comments, and the conversation will continue at its own pace.

  13. Kelsey Parker on February 23rd, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Oh Lucy, you’ve sewn the whole hour together in a way that serves up a unified vision. I’m genuinely impressed. (I’m also in awe of your skill with decreasing echoes!) Cindy, thank you too — we’re lucky to receive further insight so close to the source. (Hello, Daryl!)

    It was great to participate, even if nervously, in the inaugural Clusterbook… and it was greater still to discuss such a talented flocker’s work. Yay!

  14. Rick Neece on February 23rd, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Lucy! Thank you for delivering this. And thank you for your beautiful editing.

  15. Lucy Foley on February 23rd, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Yay back, Kelsey and Rick! I’m delighted about the whole thing, really.

    Yerra sure it’s the four voices together that make it what it is. Ye had great insights and responses to the book, and so varied. A great kickoff.

    It was, I have to say, great fun to edit, though also a bastard with the skype bongo. I fucking LOVE to edit! I could recite the whole thing by heart at this stage!

  16. Rick Neece on February 23rd, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    The fact this was thirty years in the making only makes it more ashtonishing for me. To see the bones Daryl comes back to time after time. For us as readers, now, seeing how we come to the word with what’s in our arsenel. To compare it to what one may have assumed the story meant? But isn’t this what one might propose as universal? We approach the story with our own bag of “knowledges” we must have validated, or desire to have validated, by the author? And when that author delivers? Doesn’t the universe open up?

  17. Rick Neece on February 23rd, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Let’s do it again!

  18. Elizabeth Perry on February 23rd, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Lucy – I believe I will give up speaking live, and only respond to people if I can be distilled and edited by you. What a gift you’ve given us! And what fun we had. Thank you.

    Now, how about that cup of tea, and the moment of reflection before the conversation wells up again…

    For the online extension of Clusterbook, could we look more closely at one of the stories, or at one of the threads we tugged? So much more to talk about, and here in the comments we can sustain conversation in a different rhythm.

  19. Deron Bauman on February 23rd, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    this is really beautiful, emotional in a surprising way. I am grateful for this. the same could be said of Daryl’s stories.

  20. clusterflock book club : clusterflock on February 24th, 2009 at 10:22 am

    [...] wanted to move Lucy’s wonderful work with the first clusterflock book club back to the top of the page. All the favorite quotes yesterday knocked it quickly off. I know the [...]

  21. Lucy Foley on February 24th, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Elizabeth, a great suggestion. That’s certainly a way in. I’d like to suggest discussing “Prairie Shapes” for its structure, and the notion of the landscape creating the characters.

    The narrative has a particularly cyclical shape to it, which seems to me to be reinforced by the shapes of the prairie itself, and the kinds of archetypes and story arcs the characters represent and fulfil. It reminds me of Rick’s theme of recurrence, which you picked up on also with the ice clouds. Does anyone else want to pick up on this theme, or aspects of it that struck them?

    Would anyone like to offer what they thought of the book? Totally different responses? Please feel free to share. Cribs? Found it difficult? We’re not going to jump on you if you didn’t like it. I think we’d actually love to hear what you have to say.

  22. Rick Neece on February 24th, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Cindy says above, One of Daryl’s earliest memories is of lying in his crib, looking at blue sky through a window. He says he remembers feeling like he was falling up. So it is no wonder that this imagery, along with the high ice clouds, appears again and again.

    This came up in our discussion as I recall. Don’t remember exactly what was said but somebody said something about the prairie being a bowl or the sky being a blue bowl overturned above it or something about us being upside down hanging onto the ground over the sky? Anyone remember?

  23. Lucy Foley on February 24th, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Yeah, I think we tried it both ways. That the sky was a bowl, a kind of omnipresence holding us, and then there was the notion that the earth was the bowl and we were in the sky, looking down at it. I can’t remember who I passed the joint to at that stage so I can’t say for sure.

  24. Lucy Foley on February 24th, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    So, Deron and I are cooking up notions at this point, to schedule a kind of comment-in over the weekend, to give more people a chance to read the book (that means you, Michael Smith) and maybe people will be around more at the weekend also.

    I also dig the languid time quality of the comments, that we can post our impressions whenever the hell we want, through the week too, but if people want to get together and comment jive over the weekend, say on sunday, there might be a dynamism to that too (see for reference, Sheila’s birthday comment fest)

    We’ll bump this post to the top of the front page for sunday. (hold the news!)

    What do ye think?

  25. Elizabeth Perry on February 24th, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    A great notion.

  26. Sheila Ryan on February 24th, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    I dig it! Maybe this time I can stay out of trouble at least long enough not to flee the scene in a cloud of dust.

  27. Clusterflock book club this Sunday! : clusterflock on February 25th, 2009 at 10:43 am

    [...] Introducing Clusterbook: The Comments. [...]

  28. Lucy Foley on February 25th, 2009 at 11:20 am
  29. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Hey folks! It’s Clusterbook Scroggins day! Wake up and talk to me!

    Meow meow meow meow meow meow meow
    Meow meow meow meow meow meow meow
    Meow meow meow meow meow meow meow

  30. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Hi Lucy
    I’m skipping church this morning. I’m just relistening. Here’s another theme that crosses over stories. “Workers in back rooms.”

  31. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Another compliment on your editing. How tired you must have gotten listening to my hemming and hawing. Worse than the echoes to deal with I imagine.

  32. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 9:30 am

    I’m waking up. I’m waking up. Drinking coffee. Might even smoke my annual cigarette. I’ll be along terreckly. Hey, RIck. Morning.

  33. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 9:31 am

    I never listened to the last five minutes or so and am going to do that now.

  34. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Skipping church? Bro, you’re in church! That’s an interesting observation. I’m coming at the archetypal angle. Here are a few notes i just jotted down:

    The repeating, cyclical nature of history and the human unawareness of the repetition, from the adolescent sense that we are creating ourselves, that the world is ours alone to be moulded to our whims and desires.

    One of the things being pointed to in this book, in both parts but explicitly in Prairie Shapes, is that we are the living repetitions of stories that are ancient, and modify endlessly.

  35. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Aw cool, thanks. I enjoyed doing it but you know the whole thing crashed more than once so I did it over a couple of times. We all talked a lot of shit, Rick. They will never ever know. But I gotta tell you, your timing with the stripper was extraordinary. Thank you for that.

  36. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Morning, Sheila!

  37. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Workers in backrooms reminds me of the unconventional ways the characters find to support each other, generally. Like the story with the road ragers, finding brotherly love when a new enemy appears. Or the stolen children given new homes to replace each other’s loss. Or the restaurants that give the girl artist their walls to paint her visions on.

  38. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 9:51 am

    And I’ll jump in with my response to a question of Lucy’s from last week, something that sprang, I believe, from observations offered in the original conversation. She asked about the absence of character names in Prairie Shapes and linked this to the non-specific time frame (which is something I think I recall Kelsey mentioning).

    I quite liked these aspects; for me they are integral to the tale and to my initial response to it. Lucy referred to it an “an American folk/fairy tale”, and “fairy tale” is how I characterized it to a friend. “Once Upon a Time in the West,” as it were.

    This may be a cock-eyed comparison, especially as ages have passed since I read what I’ll mention here, but I was reminded vaguely of Italo Calvino’s collection of Italian folk tales, which I recall as feeling both timeless and rooted in specific regions.

  39. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 9:59 am

    The absence of name allows one to widen their perspective, perhaps? Or to fill in the blank with someone you know/knew? I believe I pictured my maternal grandmother as the woman with the baby. And oddly, in her more elder years for some reason.

  40. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this topic lately. On one hand, I find the absence of names annoying, especially when you have to talk about them endlessly in terms of their relation to each other. But even that gets interesting: how you refer to them. So, the woman who goes off on the first journey in the prairie is really fast referred to as ‘mother’, her relationship to her child, then child lost, child re-found, and all the children in search of their mothers, of home, of the landscape as brutal but unbiased mother to all her children.

    And then you’ve got the kid characters who also equally easily, it seems to me, become referred to as boy and girl. It is as though the characters in search of themselves, are without history, as it were, even though we can see them utterly embedded in history and living it out.

    So this is interesting, but I’m still not sure about the absence of names.

  41. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Now see I think you might be onto something there, Rick, about how a story like this conjures up images and scenes from elsewhere in the consciousness of the reader. But I don’t know that names would get in the way of that.

  42. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Well, it’s interesting what Rick says about the absence of specificity allowing us to ‘fill in the blanks’, and that’s very much how it worked for me. I think it says a great deal for Daryl’s art that it works and does not come off as an affectation.

  43. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 10:12 am

    I don’t know that they would either, do you think there may be a bit more of an “everyman” (pardon my lack of p-c-ness) quality without the names? Make me wonder if the decision “not to name” were a conscious decision on Daryl’s part. (Though given his sure-footedness in word and line, I doubt little is left to chance.)

  44. Phil Bebbington on March 1st, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Am I allowed to lurk? Seeing as I haven’t read the book yet – I’ll be quiet, I promise.

  45. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Welcome, Phil. Thanks for stopping by, and do stay.

  46. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Hi Phil, come on in. I think I’ll get a Bloody Mary. Want one?

  47. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Well, either way, the Prairie Shapes story sets out the landscape of the heart of the book, to me. All the other stories relate in some way to it.

  48. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 10:20 am

    I agree. As if the characters in “Prairie Shapes” are the ancestors of all the characters inhabiting the rest of the stories. Hmm. That thought interests me.

  49. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Like if the “girl’s” baby were the grandfather of the dude who didn’t buy the horse for his wife.

  50. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Yes, that’s more than a fancy, that notion has a stark presence throughout the book.

  51. Phil Bebbington on March 1st, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Hi, Sheila, Hi, Rick – a bloody Mary sounds perfect – hell it’s almost too late here! Let me get them whilst you guys chit chat – I can be the gopher – you know food, drink, neck massages if it gets tense.

  52. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Chit chat! Lawks!

  53. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 10:32 am

    (He’s English. Speaking of which . . . a cup of Oolong, perhaps? Thank you!)

    Thinking of Prairie Shapes as a tale of origins: yes. The anecdotal detail and the specific genealogy come out in the shorter pieces.

  54. Phil Bebbington on March 1st, 2009 at 10:37 am

    I’ll brew a pot – just in case we have visitors. Anyone interested in a few liquorice whips as well? I fetch them, you never know.

  55. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Is it tacky, in literary circles, to talk about the conversion of a literary piece to film?

  56. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Well, I would hope that we are a literary fuck-in-the-pot rather than a literary circle, so talk away, Rick.

  57. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 10:40 am

    I try to steer clear of literary circles, Rick, so I couldn’t say what they find tacky.

    Maybe if you say something like ‘cinematic’ or ‘filmic’ imagination, we can slip under their radar.

  58. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Rick, if you say something about film, then I can jump in with my thoughts about the importance of ‘seeing’ and of the visible world and it won’t seem so out-of-left field, perhaps.

  59. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 10:47 am

    I see this book as a movie.

  60. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Wellllll, the thought occurs, that Daryl’s book could be adapted to film as a series of short vignettes with “Prairie Shapes” as the link between them. After talking about the entire book being like a flip movie perhaps “Prairie Shapes” could be a flip movie, hand sketched in simple doodles but with some wonderfully nuanced animation–or shot in grainy black and white–either with no dialogue. And used to anchor the film with the stories transitioning out from it and back into it.

  61. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Such shit’s been done, but Daryl’s collection could be a great base for this form.

  62. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 10:50 am

    My thoughts on the visible and invisible sprang from the short piece “Trauma Man”. (Kelsey alluded briefly to this business of ‘seeing’ in her observations about ‘superstition’ in the original conversation). What hit me like a freight train was the reciprocity between what we see and what is seen. Once I’d read “Trauma Man” I began finding echoes of this throughout other stories and within Prairie Shapes.

  63. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 10:52 am

    The interpenetration of the visible, actual, tangible world and invisible worlds — the realm of the artist.

  64. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Cyclical. Everything echoes everything else.

  65. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Actually, Lucy, it was the specter of Rothko and your speaking of the Tate exhibition that was hovering over me as I read Daryl’s book.

  66. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Yes, I couldn’t name it. I mentioned something like the “inference of ghost-like behavior.” And workers in back rooms. Who is the worker in the back room of this piece. Why, Daryl, of course.

  67. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 10:55 am

    What you see imprints itself on you; the artist reinvents this vision. (‘Reinvents’ is not what I mean but stet.)

  68. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Yeah and of course what is visible and actual is by no means universal or constant. From the time of that wanker philospher who refuted Locke’s ideas about the instability of matter with a thump on the table, there has always been this assumption about the actual, tangible world. But we each have different actual, tangible worlds, and different intuitions of what is and is not possible.

  69. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 10:58 am

    See, this is great. We can talk over each other without drowning anybody out.

  70. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Me too, Sheila. #Rothko

  71. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Sometimes the echoes are loud! Recursions! Repercussions! Sometimes inaudible but for the whispered words to describe a bit of fluff released out a window to ride currents in the air.

  72. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 11:01 am

    The specter of Rothko.

  73. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Rick made an allusion. A Scroggins allusion.

  74. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Thankin’ you, missus Sheila. When Deron gets up, he’ll put this post at the top of the front page. Or can you do it, Sheila? Without changing the url? (this is very important)

  75. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 11:03 am

    I couldn’t help but think of the sadness that crept into the girl’s murals in terms of Rothko.

  76. Deron Bauman on March 1st, 2009 at 11:03 am

    sorry I’m late. I’ll bump this to the top and be right back.

  77. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Groovy, Deron. If what I did doesn’t quite work, trash it.

    (Thanks to Phil for pointing out the need for . . . something!)

  78. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 11:05 am

    That’s a good point. Though to be honest, I didn’t sense much sadness in those monsters. They’re like fucking stonehenge or something.

  79. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Gotcha, Lucy. Yes, I’d not think one would see sadness in them.

    Actually, there are a whole slew of things I underlined having to do not only with the girl’s murals but with the maps in wood grain that the boy perceived — other things throughout the shorter pieces as well.

    I saw the whole collection in a kind of [William] Blakean light, but then I’m inclined to do that.

  80. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 11:10 am

    See, I was really wanting to talk with Elizabeth Perry about this as well. (Guess there’s nothing stopping me, eh?)

  81. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 11:11 am

    The artist as intermediary between visible and invisible worlds.

  82. Deron Bauman on March 1st, 2009 at 11:15 am

    okay, it’s been bumped, and I’m here.

  83. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 11:16 am

    I’m wondering now about the arrangement of the short pieces that lead up to the big tale (back to our talk of specifics and archetypes).

    I know Renner is inclined to stay out of this, but I really would be interested to hear the editor’s thoughts on this.

  84. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 11:18 am

    This reminds me of something I would have changed, editorially: the inclusion of the piece, oh I think it was called “But not this way” or “Not like this” or something. It’s a very emotional and strong viewpoint, but I don’t think it belongs here. I would have argued very strongly for editing that one out. I think it jars with the rest of the book.

  85. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 11:22 am

    “Not This Way”, yeah, Lucy?

    Actually, I might have placed it as a sort of preface.

    An ‘artist’s statement’, as it were — or to put it in terms that don’t suggest boilerplate, a statement of one aspect of the author’s poetics.

  86. Deron Bauman on March 1st, 2009 at 11:24 am

    what a great fucking book, huh? I had the pleasure of hearing many of these stories over the years as Renner and I would visit with Daryl and Cindy and the chance to reread many of them and see ones that were new to me and enhanced my pleasure and understanding was wonderful. Daryl knows how to create a world and let it be in its most essential terms. I love how many of the stories are both colloquial in the sense that they welcome you comfortably yet have been paired down either in the execution or the editing to only what you need. often, in some writers, this concision can appear aloof, off-putting, or confusing. never with Daryl. this, I believe, is a rare strength.

  87. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Yeah, that might have worked.

  88. Cindy Scroggins on March 1st, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Morning, y’all (pert near afternoon here in Dallas). Re: the absence of names, I see it as an essential element of Prairie Shapes. It would work with names, but the absence of names draws attention to the circular nature of events: In the beginning, a woman is in the little house with a baby. In the end, a woman is in the little house with a baby. The place shapes the events, over and over again. The sense is that this will keep happening repeatedly, regardless of who the people are.

    Stupid Texas–liquor stores aren’t open on Sundays, and no alcohol can be sold before noon. So I’m dry.

  89. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 11:26 am

    As our friend Phil has not read the book (but may do so soon, as a copy is on its way to him), I was sharing with him some passages and a few of my thoughts. And some of what I said echoed your words, Lucy, when you noted that “the language is not overwrought, it’s spare and necessary, but it’s like the air is sucked out.” Phil responded by saying something like, “You mean, without the filler?”

    And that is the light by which I read “Not This Way”. I do agree that it doesn’t quite belong, but I’d have tried to find a place for it either fore or aft.

  90. Deron Bauman on March 1st, 2009 at 11:27 am

    couldn’t agree more Cindy.

  91. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Mornin’, CIndy. I’ve started in on drinkin’. Wish you were here.

  92. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 11:31 am

    I have to take the dog for a walk. See ye later.

  93. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 11:31 am

    I can’t imagine these stories in any form other than as rendered and yet I know they were. And they are, by my reckoning, finely honed. I can imagine sitting, hearing them. Wouldn’t want to put him on the spot, but what do you think Daryl might say to reading a couple for us sometime in the near future?

  94. Cindy Scroggins on March 1st, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Lucy, I (privately–now very publicly) questioned the inclusion of several pieces. I think it came down to practicality–a person has to have written a lot of flash fictions to fill a book with them, and I think Daryl included pretty much everything he’s had published in that genre that isn’t already in Winter Investments.

    As to a film, I often think of Daryl’s work in that way. Not to keep mentioning the other book (which will be re-released for wider distribution, probably in a few months)–but his story “Winter Investments” really needs to be made into a film. I can’t read it without fully seeing it. I think Sheila has read it, and I know Deron has, so they know what I’m talking about.

    Sorry, I can never stay on point.

  95. Cindy Scroggins on March 1st, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Deron and Cooper, I miss those days when we’d get together. I don’t know why we stopped.

  96. Deron Bauman on March 1st, 2009 at 11:36 am

    a couple quotes:

    “The man is on a mission with a blunt instrument , and he gives himself over to the love of such work. The boy thinks of water and waves; he thinks of the rhythm of pain that is part of the pang felt when something beautiful presents itself to the senses: evening clouds in the moment when they lose flame and pale to ash; the tiny lights fish carry with them into weed caves; the bird’s beak still open after the call is finished.”


    “And she would have to become smaller before she could escape.”

  97. Deron Bauman on March 1st, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Rick, I think at clusterstock we must insist on hearing work from Daryl, and Renner, and Brandon.

    Cindy, it feels like our lives all got pulled elsewhere. I love my memory of those evenings. the excitement of the new work. the pleasure of the company. Renner should be involved in this conversation.

  98. Deron Bauman on March 1st, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Cindy, I couldn’t agree more about Winter Investments. it is perfect as a story and would make a great film. I remember telling Daryl after I read it the first time it made me blubber like a baby.

  99. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Absolutely! Gotta run. Wish I didn’t have to. See you later.

  100. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 11:47 am

    OK, one more thing. In Winter Investments, I don’t have it near or I’d quote. But the story about the kid with the stutter who lost his dog? Knocked the wind clean out of me, I was telling Danny about it a couple of days later and I nearly started bawlin’, choked up ’til I couldn’t speak.

  101. Deron Bauman on March 1st, 2009 at 11:48 am

    people have already mentioned the repetition of patterns in the book. I love the way the first story riffs against prairie shapes and the way it fits with the story the title comes from, the people who end up inhabiting spaces that in turn inhabit them. I love the idea of the marble pressed into the dirt is the bowl of sky we see elsewhere. I love how the child protects that marble and am crushed when his brother removes it. I love: “If you fill a glass with water, if you fill it to the top and then fill it some more, the water bulges above the glass and wobbles. That’s the only part I drink.”

  102. Cindy Scroggins on March 1st, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Okay, I ate some lunch and have a beer and am feeling better.

    Deron, you always hone in on the best quotes.

    The repetition of patterns in the book actually came as a surprise to me (and to Daryl as well, apparently). When things are written over the course of many years, those patterns don’t obviously present themselves. It’s fascinating to be able to step back and say, yes, that pattern, that imagery repeats. I’ll be curious to see what Daryl has to say about it when he appears at the end of this thread like the baby Jesus.

  103. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    This feels a little like St. Patrick’s Day. Will there be a parade?

  104. Phil Bebbington on March 1st, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    I did take the liberty of wearing green from the off – it had that sort of feel about it!

    Hey guys, I know I haven’t read the book (yet) but, I have been following every single word – for what it’s worth I have found it very emotional – thank you for a wonderful chit-chat – I have loved it. I’m sure it has legs yet.

  105. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Did anyone think the book sucked? I don’t want anyone to feel left out.

  106. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    “Hearing nothing from the floor” . . . nobody thought it sucked.

    And, yes, y’all, I have read Winter Investments, too, and it didn’t suck either.

    “Winter Investments” is so damn fine.

    (And I have read the story — dang! the title? got ‘Uncle Tump’ in it — read that one aloud to several friends.)

  107. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Maybe Renner (known to some as Cooper) will stop by later to enlighten us.

  108. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    I am looking forward to the parade. I hear the centrepiece is a Texan writer who will descend and will be recognised instantly as the messiah in baby form, with a little cherub’s wings and pink lipstick.

    I’ve got my popcorn.

  109. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Refreshments will include sugar cookies studded with red candy stigmata. (Searching for a link to the photo of Cindy’s Easter cookies!)

  110. Cindy Scroggins on March 1st, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Sheila, that story is “No Help in Big Spring.” What’ll happen, do you think? You think he’ll have a stroke and maybe end up in a wheelchair?

    The messiah with an accent has gone to Kroger and has to do some chores before he can put on his wings and lipstick. He should make his appearance here around 3:00 or 3:30 US CST. That gives anyone who thought it sucked plenty of time to chime in.

  111. Cindy Scroggins on March 1st, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Oooo, stigmata cookies. It’s getting to be that time of year, all right.

  112. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    That’s it! “No Help In Big Spring”! Somewhere there is an email message from a friend to whom I sent a copy of Winter Investments; she says funny things about the real Big Spring. I should send it to y’all.

  113. Deron Bauman on March 1st, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Cindy, do you think if I came by with the camera Daryl would read a story for me? I could post it here on clusterflock. in fact, that reminded me I had thought about doing a sort of oral history of writers I admired that way, getting them to read something for me, and maybe a short interview.

  114. Cooper Renner on March 1st, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Uncle Tump! (“No Help in Big Spring”) Absolutely classic. And “Oracle” is for me a kind of emblematic piece–emblematic of a whole way of thought, perhaps of our times. Extraordinarily ‘easy’ to jump into (i.e. “popular”), but in its essence very much a literary piece. Walking the kind of line that Yeats and Frost walked with verse.

  115. Deron Bauman on March 1st, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    excellent point Renner. the accessibility is something I was trying to get at earlier. Daryl is really good at it, creating a way in for anyone interested and still doing what is important to him.

  116. Cindy Scroggins on March 1st, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Sheila, I’d love to get some stories about Big Spring. That’s one peculiar town. Once we ate Christmas Eve dinner at a huge Chinese Buffet in Big Spring, while on a road trip to El Paso. It was surreal. I still regret not buying one of the dolls they had for sale in a case near the cash register. As I recall, she had a girl face and a pumpkin body. (Hell, the doll’s probably still there–this was only three or four years ago.)

    Deron, yes, I think Daryl would do a filmed reading (for you, that is!) He’s really busy this semester, though, so he might prefer to do it this summer.

    Uncle Tump: “Shot a bird once what had a glass eye.”

  117. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Uncle Tump: that one about the seeing-eye dog. That was a knee-slapper.

  118. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Cindy: “You can tell Daryl that I love the name Big Spring, and that Steve and I once went there and even looked at the Big Spring. But it was fake water . . . but kind of the Big Springers to pour some bluing into the fake Spring. I used to have a post card of the real big spring with old timey folk from about 1880 standing around the spring looking stupid and tired.” (Lee)

  119. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    I think Rick’s idea for a ‘moving picture’ version of Daryl’s book is flaming brilliant.

  120. Daryl Scroggins on March 1st, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Hello everybody–and thank you so much for reading my book and taking the time to comment. And Lucy, a special thanks to you for all the work you have done here. I can’t wait to hear future book gatherings you record and edit in such a splendid way.

    I never write in order to earn money (and it’s a good thing I don’t!); the reward I want comes when Cindy admires something I have written and when lovely people such as yourselves are made glad by any bit of mine. I am really the luckiest fellow in the world to have received all I hoped to from writing. Another reward, of course, is the practice of writing itself. I always try to not know too much about where a piece might go (Bartheleme has a great essay–”Not Knowing”– about this process), so I always look forward to the time when I can sit down and write in order to see what appears. It’s much like wanting to get back to a book I’m reading and am excited about. So I never outline things, even when it’s something like “Prairie Shapes” I’m working on–I simply have a sense of what might happen that runs in my mind like the little fast-paced dreams one sometimes has just before waking. This process probably accounts for similar patterns appearing in different bits over time: when one tries to be “nothing,” in order to see the modeled lives of characters in the way a stranger would see them (in order to be surprised by their actions), what one is, in terms of the actually small bank of archetypal images and conflicts and fears and hopes that make a life one’s own, appears there anyway. For instance, the thought of a small child calling out tentatively in a sleeping house fills me with pain and a kind of anger about human frailty–a frustration–and I have to get up and write. But there are also images of delight that do the same thing.

    I have enjoyed reading the responses here to “Prairie Shapes.” I’m not the sort who would think that I have answers because I wrote the thing; what it is is the experience of reading it. But I find myself wanting to say things about it too, as if I were commenting on something another person wrote. When I first started it I had only an image and a very large mood. The image was of a tiny house out in a vast prairie, built so close to a dirt road that a baby in its crib by a window could reach out and touch the flanks of passing horses. The mood was one of an indifferent omniscience. I knew I wanted the tone to be more like music than an attitude. As I looked at these things I looked at them in the context of things I had been reading (always the case; I won’t go into the specifics). I had been thinking about how insentient forms in nature can become “labs” that shape human activity: the only place for miles to ford the river becomes a town and an economy. I started to wonder how complex this process might become–if a set of geographical features could become a kind of printed circuit, with humans coursing through it like electricity. I guess that’s enough about that, except to say that I wanted this bowl of prairie, surrounded by mountains, with only one way in and one way out, to write a story that might happen again and again. Hence the matter of naming or not naming the characters, which is something I struggled with, and changed, and changed back, and so on.

    Deron–I will be happy to see you anytime you want to come over, and I’ll also read and talk to you with the camera. I don’t like being on that side of the camera but it wouldn’t be so bad if I got to see you in the bargain; we can go to lunch too, at Goldrush down the street. Maybe have some drinks.

  121. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Thank you, Daryl, for stopping by — but thank you even more for writing what you write.

  122. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 4:13 pm


  123. Cooper Renner on March 1st, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    And another big thank you to Lucy, the mistressmind.

  124. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    I love Lucy.

  125. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    See, now I am blushing and I might cry.

  126. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Doubtless you are fetching when you are blushing and crying.

  127. Lucy Foley on March 1st, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Thank you all for coming by and making this such a great double event… this is now an established place for the discussion of this book, and I would love to see more opinions and impressions left here.

    Daryl wrote a beautiful book that took a long time to get writ, and I just think it’s wonderful that these disparate people who have largely never met each other, gather around like this to buy it, read it, take care over it and discuss it, honestly. This I think is true support.

    I got the notion and posted about this bookclub long before I read a word of Daryl’s book, and this one has turned out to mean a lot to me.

    Thank you to everyone who contributed in both the audio club and this (as yet unfolding) comments club, and Daryl, I am truly looking forward to reading your next book!

    Long live Clusterbook!

  128. Daryl Scroggins on March 1st, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    P.S. I believe I need to credit Deron with the observation that tone in a work may be related more closely to music than to narrator attitude; I now remember him speaking of this in relation to a screenplay of his, and the thought matched my own sense of a similar impulse so closely that I fear I have appropriated his language. I am indebted to him in so many ways, and I have met few people so able to speak of aesthetic matters in ways that open whole worlds of imaginative possibilities.

  129. Sheila Ryan on March 1st, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    That is so damn gracious of you, Daryl — so far removed from the bilge one reads in mainstream acknowledgments (though how could it be otherwise?).

  130. Deron Bauman on March 1st, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    thank you, Daryl. that is very gracious, Sheila has the word just right. I feel a similar gratitude for our relationship and interaction. reading the comments today, and listening to and reading your stories over the years, I have known how closely we feel the world and how similarly we are struck by its terror and beauty. a brotherhood in whatever process we are involved in.

  131. Deron Bauman on March 1st, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    and thank you again, Lucy. the way you put this together was just perfect.

    should Renner’s Mosefolket and Brandon’s The Levitationist be the next clusterbooks?

  132. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Honestly, of all the beautiful things, this [whole thing] is among the most.

  133. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    I vote yes, but how to choose which?

    BTW, I have an extra copy of The Levitationist through my own goof-up with Ravenna. I thought I’d ordered, but hadn’t received it, and emailed Ravenna, but later discovered the unopened envelope in a pile on the desk. Danny had piled it up without my knowing. I sent payment to Ravenna to cover the second copy that came two days later. I’ll gladly send my extra to the first person who emails me an address. (

  134. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    FYI, y’all, Elizabeth Perry chimed in, my extra copy of Brandon Hobson’s The Levitationist will be in the mail to her tomorrow. Honestly, I’ve said it before, if you don’t have a copy, you should.

  135. Rick Neece on March 1st, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    If I’m mistaken I apologize, but Cooper, did you not edit “The Levitationist,” too?

  136. Cooper Renner on March 2nd, 2009 at 12:17 am

    No, I didn’t. I believe that one was Deron’s. All I did was prepare an ad for it for NOON.

  137. Clusterbook #2, anyone? : clusterflock on June 9th, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    [...] is anyone up for another Clusterflock bookclub meeting? I’m thinking a low-fi kind of thing, reading or re-reading a book we might have on [...]