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.

137 thoughts on “Clusterbook #1

  1. Deron Bauman

    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.”

  2. Cindy Scroggins

    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.

  3. Phil Bebbington

    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.

  4. Sheila Ryan

    “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.)

  5. Lucy Foley

    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.

  6. Sheila Ryan

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

  7. Cindy Scroggins

    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.

  8. Sheila Ryan

    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.

  9. Deron Bauman

    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.

  10. Cooper Renner

    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.

  11. Deron Bauman

    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.

  12. Cindy Scroggins

    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.”

  13. Sheila Ryan

    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)

  14. Daryl Scroggins

    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.

  15. Sheila Ryan

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

  16. Lucy Foley

    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!

  17. Daryl Scroggins

    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.

  18. Sheila Ryan

    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?).

  19. Deron Bauman

    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.

  20. Deron Bauman

    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?

  21. Rick Neece

    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. (

  22. Rick Neece

    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.

  23. Rick Neece

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

  24. Pingback: Clusterbook #2, anyone? : clusterflock

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