The Fiction Circus Interviews Barry Gifford

JONES: This is the Fiction Circus, and we're here with Barry Gifford...

FUTURE: ...the author of an extremely large number of books, and we're here with him down at Seven Stories Press down in TriBeCa to talk about starting off with his new book, Imagination of the Heart, which is the last book in the Sailor and Lula series. So let me start off just by talking about Imagination of the Heart. So when I was looking up some of your bibliography, the previous six books in the series were written roughly in a cluster of a time.

GIFFORD: '88 to '90,'91.

FUTURE: Okay, and then there's this new one that's coming out with a pretty substantial time gap between, and I just was wondering, what made you want to come back to Sailor and Lula at this point?

GIFFORD: I hadn't intended to come back to it at all, and then I was between projects and had a little time, but I had begun thinking about Lula and how she had to be close to 80 years old and what she might be doing or thinking, and so I never forgot her. She's, to me, to my mind, it's the strongest and most interesting character that I created, and the smartest perhaps in a certain way. So I figured if she was going to be able to tell her own story, she'd have to do it in diary form. I mean, not being a writer... so I started writing this diary of this 80-year-old woman who was Lula and now living in native North Carolina having moved after Sailor's death 15 years before in New Orleans, and that's how it came about. And it just came out, bang.

FUTURE: And the book, it alternates between the diary chapters and the third person chapters?

GIFFORD: Correct.

FUTURE: Did that happen where you sort of wrote it in the order it eventually was, or was there a diary, some parts of which you turned into third person or where you interpreted it as third person?

GIFFORD: No, the idea was that here, she's writing down her thoughts, but then she's also in contact with her old best friend Beany Thorn who appears in the first chapter of Wild at Heart and Sailor's Holiday. Also, in Louisiana, she was living there, and so Beany proposes that they go on a trip together. They decide to revisit New Orleans, where Lula has not been since Sailor's death, and it's sort of a last road trip for these two old ladies who are still pretty spry and full of life, and also because Lula and Sailor's son Pace has a construction company. This is after Katrina, so he's working to rebuild the city. I had just recently been back in New Orleans and toured the devastation soon after the hurricane, and so that prompted this trip.

FUTURE: Yeah, there's definitely a strong sense of a lot of that in there.

GIFFORD: Well, all through the Sailor and Lula novels and the books that came after, which I call the Southern Nights trilogy -- at least that's what it was called when it was put together in one volume in the UK...

FUTURE: Is this books like Night People and Baby Cat-Face?

GIFFORD: Yeah, I mean Night People, Baby Cat-Face, Arise and Walk. Those books, those three. And even with the later ones, like The Sinaloa Story. There are all these random events, you know? You can make plans, but just don't depend on...

FUTURE: You talked a little bit about why you kept coming back to Lula as a character. I was wondering about Sailor, because it seems like he's there a lot, even though he's died long before -- 18 years before the narrative starts. But he gets talked about...

GIFFORD: Yeah, but he's a very strong presence in Lula's mind. I mean, he was the most important person to her in her lifetime. And having chronicled their lives together... in fact, even in my book Baby Cat-Face, there's a prequel to the Sailor and Lula novels when she's still in high school. Somebody once wrote in a review somewhere of these books saying, "If a writer's lucky, these characters come along once in a lifetime." And it's really true. I mean, they're enduring characters. And thanks to the film -- the enduring interest in the film -- and Perdita Durango was made into a film, which is the second volume. And now we're trying to make the movie of The Imagination of the Heart, and now there's talk again about doing one of The Sultans of Africa, which is one of the Sailor and Lula novels. So these characters are very strong. They won't go away.

FUTURE: But they just sort of came up upon you. What were you thinking back in '88 when you were first...

GIFFORD: Well, actually, I was involved in a journalistic project. I was writing about deep sea fishing tournaments. [laughter] And I was in Florida and North Carolina and going out fishing for billfish every day. I was actually doing two projects for The Atlantic Monthly then. One was on horse racing, which I did -- ran horses with a guy for a year, thoroughbreds -- and the second one was on deep sea fishing. These were journalistic projects, and I had a family to support, and these were things I enjoyed doing anyway, so I was writing about them. So in the midst of writing about the fishing, doing the fishing book, I woke up in this little hotel room in Southport, North Carolina on the Cape Fear river right on the South Carolina border and had this conversation in my head. It turned out to be Sailor and Lula talking to one another. I just got up, and I remember a strange sort of blue room. It was almost like something out of Twin Peaks, this strange color. I mean, itt was really bizarre. Twin Peaks came later, and I didn't even know David Lynch at that point. But it really was like that, and I just woke up and started recording the conversation, I mean writing it down. And it kept going. It sort of overtook me.

CARTER: So it was almost like a transcription?

GIFFORD: Well, I mean, I really hesitate to say that it's like that. Like taking dictation or automatic writing or something. It was just there. The characters were there, and I was enjoying their conversation, and I thought, "I've got to get them out of this hotel room, and what better way to do it then get them out on the road?" So it started taking on its own life. I don't know if you want this whole story behind it, but that's how it happened. And I remember calling my agent, my literary agent, and I said, "Y'know, I can't write this book on deep sea fishing," which I never did. [laughter] And I said, "I want to ask them if they'll take this novel instead, because I know where it's going ." They refused. They said, "Write the deep sea fishing book first, and then write this novel." I said, "No, I can't do it." So I said to my agent, "Give them the money back." And it was a lot of money at the time. He had apoplexy and said, "What do you mean we're going to give them the money back?" I said, "No, no, don't worry about it. We're going to make more money." [laughter]

JONES: Well, what did he say?

GIFFORD: Well, he works for me. So he did, because I don't take advances for fiction. So then, I finish the book and then immediately have offers for that novel. Obviously, it went on and had a big life and we made a lot more money than we would have on a deep sea fishing book.

FUTURE: I want to stop you for a moment, and go back to... you say you don't take advances for fiction?

GIFFORD: Hardly ever. The only time that I ever did it was for my first novel, Landscape with Traveler. I really needed money, and my publisher then was E.P. Dutton, and my editor actually had gone to E.P. Dutton from Macmillan, with whom I'd done the biography of Jack Kerouac, Jack's Book. In any case, I had been writing fiction, I had published a book of short stories previously, all that... and he asked me if I wanted to write a novel, if I had that in mind. I said, "Oh sure, I do, but I need money." I was in New York. He said, "Well, why don't you go back to San Francisco, write up a description or something like that of 50 pages, and then I'll see what I can do here." I said, "No, I need the money now." So he was going. He said, "Well, I'm leaving for lunch now, I have to go out for lunch..." And I said, "Well, let me use your typewriter." So I sat down at his desk, and I made up this story which turned out to be my first novel, Landscape with Traveler, which he came back from lunch, read the description, and got me a check.

CARTER: Wow, that's incredible.

GIFFORD: That really happened. Well now, I was confronted with the whole project of writing the novel, which I had never done. [laughter]

FUTURE: You'd never done it?

GIFFORD: I had to come through, I mean, I had taken the money. And it wasn't a lot of money, believe me. I think it was $5000 or something, or $3000. It was nothing. But it was a lot of money to me then -- this was in the '70s -- and I did. I wrote the novel, and it was successful, and that's how it happened. That's the only time I ever took an advance on fiction.

FUTURE: Because you just don't want to be tied to a project that you don't...?

GIFFORD: I don't want anybody to tell me what to do. I mean, I'm open to suggestions after it's finished. Somebody might have an idea about moving a chapter around, or adding something here or deleting something there, and all that. I'm always happy to listen, but basically during the composition, I don't want to be interfered with. Non-fiction's a different story. Then, I always took money, because you need money in order to do the research, whatever roadwork you're doing or whatever it happens to be. And so, that money is spent in the course of creating the book. Now for fiction, I'd just not. I'd rather just do it.

FUTURE: It's probably easier for you to do at this point after Wild at Heart and everything, but was it difficult to make that choice? There are about ten years between your first novel and Wild at Heart when you weren't taking advances for fiction. Was it difficult to do that at that point, or did you have a pretty steady stream of money?

GIFFORD: A steady stream of money? There are very few writers who have steady streams of money. [laughter] But then, starting around that time, in 1978, we did Jack's Book and then later did one of Saroyan. We created this form, this oral biography form. It was never done before Jack's Book. Even George Plimpton came along later and did the Edie Sedgwick books, that at this point was created by Barry Gifford and Lawrence Lee, and this is what we're working off of now, which is the nice thing. But I'm trying to remember what happened in there. Yeah, then I wrote another book for Dutton. So basically, I've been able to make a living pretty much just from my writing and from my books since the late '70s.

FUTURE: It's obviously helped at some point to have the flexibility that not taking the advances from fiction gives you, I guess. Is that right?

GIFFORD: You know, it's just that I don't like to make promises. Not that I wouldn't keep the promises. It's just that the project itself might change somewhere along the line. It might become something else. If I promise to write a book about butterflies for you, and you sign me up, and then I decide that, "No, I don't really want to write about butterflies. I want to write about fleas." You'd say, "Well, books on fleas don't sell." And now, here I am, deep into this project about fleas. Well, what do we do? How do we resolve this problem? Anyway, maybe this is a silly comparison, but I'd really just rather do this interference-free. And then, if somebody wants to publish it, that's great. I've been pretty lucky my whole life, in terms of the fiction, in that people tend not to change things around very much.

FUTURE: I wanted to move on... there's sort of an inevitable question I was going to have as far as how well you're known abroad -- in France, particularly -- versus how well you're known in America, where Andrei Codrescu had the quote about how you're "both a cult writer and a great one." I was going to ask you what your take is on the New York publishing world. I read an interview that you did with Robert Birnbaum in 2003 where you talk about some of the reasons you were thinking about why you haven't really been canonized in America.

GIFFORD: Well, I think the Birnbaum interview is not a good one, and it's full of errors. And we don't need to go into that. But no, I'm not complaining, and I wasn't complaining there. And I think that first of all, I think there's strength in numbers. We wouldn't have a Jack Kerouac industry today were it not for Allen Ginsberg, were it not for his idea of this Beat Generation, which was basically four people -- whatever it is -- with a good PR man, which was Allen, whom I knew very well for 31 years. But the thing is, you go where you're liked, and your work strikes people differently in different places. Europe's been very good to me, Italy, France, Spain. You never know where you're going to be embraced. David Lynch is like that. I mean, he's canonized in France for example. There are a lot of writers like this, filmmakers, directors, obviously. And I never lived in New York. I never really played the game here in a certain way. I've certainly gotten my share of attention; it doesn't bother me. But I'm not an academic, I don't teach, I don't have any favors to do for anybody. There's always that aspect of it. But look, there's great writers like Jim Harrison who are outside of the loop in a way who still, after a long period of time, finally was accepted and got a certain kind of recognition that had eluded him for many, many, many years which should have come much earlier. And so when it happens, it happens.

FUTURE: Sort of like James Purdy who died recently.

GIFFORD: Purdy died, yeah... I mean, I don't know what to say about that. That's for other people to judge. I've never lacked for attention.

FUTURE: No, of course, of course. I just wanted to bring it around to couple that with what you were saying about advances, where specifically because you don't play the New York game, this sort of advance game that's going on now where the advances climb up to $50,000, $500,000.

GIFFORD: Oh, don't get me wrong. When Wild at Heart started, it was published first modestly by Grove Press, but then the book took off. It was a bestseller in various countries. It was doing well here, then the movie got made. It blew up, right then and there. Trust me, I took a lot of money...

FUTURE: No, of course, of course...

GIFFORD: ...from Random House and Vintage and all these places.

FUTURE: No, this is wise, this is wise.

GIFFORD: But the point is that I had four children to support too. That's what we're supposed to do here, we're supposed to make a living. Writing, to me, literature is not a competitive sport. I was an athlete. I played every sport you can think of. I played on the college level, all of this. I understand: the idea is to win. You score more points than the other side. Writing is not like that to me. It's entirely subjective. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate all of that. And of course, I'm not just writing for myself, otherwise I wouldn't bother to publish.

FUTURE: Right, that's sort of where I was going, where I think that your writing is free from the sort of compulsion that you'd get if you were involved in the New York scene.


GIFFORD: I don't know that that's true. I just don't live here.

FUTURE: Right.

JONES: What sports did you play?

GIFFORD: Mostly baseball, football...

JONES: Football? What position?

GIFFORD: I was a quarterback and running back.

JONES: Do you think that influenced your writing at all?

GIFFORD: Maybe when I got hit in my head. [laughter] Knock some ideas out of it.

CARTER: You wrote a book about your personal history with the Cubs...

GIFFORD: Yeah, early on, called The Neighborhood of Baseball.

JONES: There's a profound difference between playing offense and playing defense in football.

GIFFORD: I was a defensive back too. But baseball was my best sport. Two of my sons played too. The youngest one was great. He was a great player.

JONES: Do you think there's anything to the discipline of it that carried forward?

GIFFORD: Oh, I think so. I think that's a good point. Concentration is what you're talking about. You have to completely concentrate and focus in this way and shut everything else out and be also within the rhythm of the game. And to me, it's very similar. Because actually, some people might not understand this, but it's actually quite true what you're talking about. That ability to concentrate has served me extremely well, so that I've been able to write in all kinds of situations where there can be all kinds of chaos going on around you. But in the center of it, something's happening in my own head. I'm able to get it down and do it. I prefer not to do that, but eventually, I got to the point where I could write what was right and often quite a lot in a short period of time. It was there. There it is, it's ready to come out. I'm fully loaded. That's what happens.

JONES: Sort of like in sports where you visualize what you do next a lot, sort of obsessively, and then when you're ready to do it, you're ready.

GIFFORD: To tell you the truth, I'm not so analytical about this. I like to think that I'm more spontaneous in this way, but I think you're right. I mean, visualization does have something to do with it. But I never really know where the story's going. I'm not Mickey Spillane; I don't write the ending first. I like to be surprised. I like the mystery of it, and it's all character-driven. It's the characters that interest me, and so since I invest myself in that way with the characters, I let them carry me along. And not to sound disingenuous, that again going back to this thing of taking dictation or whatever it is, or just writing down what they say, that's a bit absurd on the face of it. So the thing is that I do trust the characters. I mean, you have to know your characters. You go with them.

FUTURE: You're working with this character Roy now in Memories from a Sinking Ship. Is it "from" or "of" a Sinking Ship?

GIFFORD: From, from.

FUTURE: Memories from, and I think you're doing more with Roy as well?

GIFFORD: Right, the new book is Sad Stories of the Death of Kings. That's of, not from. [laughter] That's the one that I'm doing now, and again, it involves -- and not in all of the parts -- but, yeah, the character Roy. And it's really... for so many years, for ten years or more, I really documented my life having grown up half in the deep south and then also in the north. But with the Sailor and Lula novels and the other ones I mentioned -- like Night People, Arise and Walk, Baby Cat-Face, even Sinaloa -- it's written out of that half of my life. And then after that, I thought, "Y'know, why can't I sort of do this and document my Chicago period, more or less?" Growing up there partially as well and going to high school there, and that's what these books are. (Memories from a Sinking Ship and Sad Stories of the Death of Kings.)

FUTURE: And I think I've heard them described somewhere as a fictional memoir? I think-- I don't know if that was you...

GIFFORD: Well, no, I started-- years ago, when I did The Phantom Father, that's what I called it, because they were saying, "Well, is this a memoir? Is this fiction?" I said, "It's gotta be fiction, because I'm making up a lot of this stuff." [laughter] It was only years later that guys like James Frey would get in trouble, you know, purposely calling it something like that. But Edward Seidensticker, who was a great translator of Japanese. He translated The Makioka Sisters and Tanizaki and many of Kawabata's books and did a first-rate translation of The Tale of Genji, Shikibu Murasaki's work.

FUTURE: Did he translate all of Tanizaki's work, or just The Makioka Sisters?

GIFFORD: I don't remember anymore. He did probably some more, but he was a great translator. But he talked about this method of shosetsu, which is a kind of a chronicle novel. Kawabata used this too, in The Master of Go, so that it's somewhere in between fiction and non-fiction.

FUTURE: That's right, like the Japanese have the long-standing tradition of that, right? Like the I Novel?

GIFFORD: I'm not as informed as you about that, but I love this concept of shosetsu. And that's what I chose to call it then. And now I just call it fiction. [laughter]

FUTURE: Talking about Jack's Book a little bit and talking about this whole idea about writing out of periods of your life that you're sort of doing now with the Roy books. How long did it take you to write Jack's Book and what brought you the material beyond, I guess, you knew Allen, you were in San Francisco with some of the people, right?

GIFFORD: Well, I knew a lot of the people involved. You know, obviously, they were this whole generation ahead of me. But Allen had nothing to do with it. It was really a radio show. Larry Lee, my partner, had a radio program in San Francisco on Metro Media, KSAN radio there, K-S-A-N, called "The Talkies." Somehow Larry and I met, and he asked me to co-host the show with him on the radio on Sunday mornings, interviewing various people. He came to learn that I knew a lot about Kerouac. And so he sort of suggested, "Why don't we do a radio documentary, because many of the people are still around living in the Bay Area, and you know, we can talk to them. Ginsberg and this one and that one and Corso and so forth." And I said, "All right." So we started with that idea, but then I realized we never did anything with it, really. But then we realized that it was a much bigger idea. So there had not been anybody who did Kerouac, and if you can believe it, there were maybe two or three of his books in print. There was nothing, nothing. And this was the mid-'70s, in 1975.

FUTURE: Just to interrupt really quick, why did you think that was, because he had sort of the eclipse a little bit at the end of his life?

GIFFORD: He had been assassinated in New York. They didn't like him. Now it's an industry, and they're happy to take the money. But anyway, no, because he was iconoclastic. I mean in terms of his lifestyle, what he had to say, how he wrote, all this kind of thing. He was not part of academia, you know, academia, academic. There are all kinds of reasons. So I went to Viking who were Kerouac's publishers who published On the Road, The Dharma Bums. They were willing to pay me quite well to do a conventional biography of Jack Kerouac. And I said, "No, I don't want to do it that way. I want to find all these people, let them tell the story, we'll put it together with narrative..." And they said, "Oh, you won't get $2000 in New York to write a book like this." No, they just didn't want to. But we did. We got a little more than $2000, maybe like $12,500 or something. Very little at the time, because believe me, Kerouac was not a popular subject then. But now we're talking 35 years ago.

CARTER: This is before Beat scholarship or the entire industry like you were talking about. It was about these four people.

GIFFORD: Exactly. Except for City Lights keeping some of the books in print and carrying the banner. So that's what we did: we became literary detectives and went around finding all these people. And you know what it really came from? In 1972 and 1973, I wrote about a visit that I had made to Stella Kerouac in St. Petersburg, and this was not long after Kerouac had died. He died in '69.

FUTURE: So wait, this is the very last wife?

GIFFORD: Yes, Stella. Yeah, he had three wives. In any case, I published in a literary magazine at Yale as an author, and I had gone to Lowell and all of this just because I was interested and started reading Kerouac when I was 12. And he inspired me as he inspired so many other people. I loved his gift of language and his playfulness, and I never really put him together with what became the Beat generation. I always separated Kerouac as a great writer on his own. So in any case, that's where it started. That's what Larry found out. So that's what we did, we found all these people, many of whom were never found again. We knew that conventional scholarly biographies would follow, but this was a much more immediate form of biography which had never been done. The only samples were Other People's Letters by Mina Curtiss about Proust, using letters and talking to the Comte de Montesquiou and stuff like that. There was one, I think, on Charles Ives, the composer, where people went and talked to his friends and neighbors, and it was almost like a fest riff. But not like this, not to put together a whole continuous narrative in this way. And we did it. The book was a real success; it's never been out of print. Then, in fact, the irony of the thing was Viking-Penguin bought it. [laughter] They bought the paperback and had it for eight years or more, something like that. They bought the paperback rights right away.

FUTURE: Can I ask you what your favorite Kerouac book was? Was it the first one you read?

GIFFORD: Well, probably the first thing I read was On the Road, and then I found the other paperbacks and read those as they were available.

FUTURE: Do you have a favorite? Would you pick one?

GIFFORD: Oh, I always love Dr. Sax, because it's a great, fantastic old childhood story. But you know, it's a funny thing. The book that I go back to most often of Kerouac's is his first novel, The Town and the City, which was written more influenced by Wolfe and Dreiser, in that vein. It's really beautiful. There's great stuff in there, and there's more of him in a way rather than other people. And then I love things like October in the Railroad Earth and those pieces. So there's a lot to like. Some things better than others, that's all. But Kerouac was just an interest of mine in that regard. Jack's Book caught on, it's never been out of print, and as I say, it's like 30+ years later. It's been through numerous paperback editions in many countries and here, and it coincided then and helped to engender the Kerouac industry. [laughter] Because then people came after that.

CARTER: This is before Charters and any of those kind of people...

GIFFORD: No, Annie... Ann Charters had done the first biography of Kerouac. The problem with Annie's book -- and I love Annie, really -- she took Allen Ginsberg's word as gospel, and she was friends with many of these people. And let's just say that there were many inaccuracies in that book. It was early. It was like Charles Norman's biography of Ezra Pound. That was the first one, but we needed Noel Stock to come later and really have all the information available. And that always happens, and that's why Larry Lee and I knew that the scholars would come after us. We were the least academic kind of people. Actually, Larry Lee went to the University of Texas. He was from Fort Worth. His mother was the reporter on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for 40 years, Anita Lee. So we have a Texas connection. In any case, that's how all of that happened. It was really good, and I was very glad to advise and help biographers who came later. But it was a different kind of community then. It wasn't seemingly so disparate, it wasn't... I'll tell you, the one great thing I always like to mention about Jack's Book: Allen Ginsberg, who is really the carrier of the torch -- Allen was very concerned about how Kerouac would appear and the whole history would be told and people would be portrayed. And Allen was terrifically helpful with the book. I had first met Allen I think in 1967 in London. But in any case, he wanted to read the manuscript before the book went to press. So I said, "Allen, you can read it... I'll let you in to read it... but the only corrections you can make would be factual ones. Right?" Because Allen was a terrible revisionist. I mean, he was a great PR man. He wasn't only a PR man, as Gore Vidal said, but he really wanted to shape this. He understood how it would be perceived and how they all would be perceived and that sort of thing. So he went in. Three hours later, he came out of the room, and he said, "My God, it's just like Rashomon. Everybody lies and the truth comes out." [laughter] He said that directly to me.

JONES: You keep talking about how you're not an academic, and how it's served you well as far as your research.

GIFFORD: No, no. I don't mean that it served me well as far as my research. I never said that. I'm just saying that I don't teach, you know, I never graduated from college. I went and played ball in college. That's how I went there. I was there for barely one year. That was basically the end of my academic career. So all I was saying is that I'm not associated and never have been really associated with universities, that sort of thing. And there is a kind of commonality, a common ground in terms of a community of writers who... most writers can't make a living writing. So teaching is a great way to make a living. You know, they get paid, they get time off. That's really all I was saying.

FUTURE: I wanted to talk to you a little about some of the publishing stuff you have done...

GIFFORD: I created a line of noir crime novels called Black Lizard Books which still exists and is now part of Vintage. Random House, it was sold to Random House in 1989. That we did, we published about 82 books over four and a half years and helped establish Jim Thompson and re-establish people like Charlie Willeford and David Goodis and Charles Williams and writers like that.

FUTURE: You did Charles Williams? I didn't know that.

GIFFORD: Dan J. Marlowe, wonderful writers. But it started that whole Thompson industry, the Jim Thompson industry. So I guess I'm responsible for kicking a couple of those guys out into the public eye again.

FUTURE: Do you find that that was sort of interesting, being in an editorial role? I just think you're a fascinating figure because you wear a lot of hats, where you're a non-fiction writer, you're a fiction writer, you're sort of...

GIFFORD: But I have a lot of interests. I do all kinds of things you don't know about.

JONES: Do you have any deep and terrible secrets you want to get off your chest?

GIFFORD: No, I'm not a confessional writer.

JONES: It seems like religion plays a pretty big role in your books as far as the deep south goes.

GIFFORD: Well, you know, you grew up in Texas, right?

JONES: I did.

GIFFORD: Well, okay, for anybody who's grown up in the south, and when i was a kid.

JONES: Texas isn't the south.

GIFFORD: I always considered Texas the south.

JONES: Well, you're wrong.

GIFFORD: It's a different part of the south, but the attitudes are similar.

JONES: They're similar.

GIFFORD: And growing up in the deep south, you're constantly accosted -- I was, as a kid in the '50s -- you're really constantly accosted by evangelists, Pentecostals.

JONES: Every day.

GIFFORD: And you constantly get it. So it's actually... yes, it's throughout the Sailor and Lula novels and the other ones I mentioned, the Southern Nights novels, because it's just part of the fabric of the daily life, just as you said. Like every day, I mean, it's just there. So Lula, of course, raised as a Christian and she had joined that church... it's just part of it. I'm not obsessed by it in any way. It's just part of that fabric. That's all. Even just like in the Chicago stuff, a lot of it revolves around the Catholic church and being an Irish neighborhood and that sort of stuff. So it's just part of the daily life. Go to the end.

FUTURE: Thank you very much for your time. We were talking with Barry Gifford. He's got a book called Imagination of the Heart out and a paperback edition of Memories of a Sinking Ship coming out.


FUTURE: It's Memories from a Sinking Ship. I told you.

GIFFORD: Get your prepositions straight. [laughter]

FUTURE: And his website is or .net?


FUTURE: Thank you so much.

[Full disclosure: Stephen Future by day works for Gifford's publisher. He likes Barry Gifford anyway.]

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