Smoking With Barry Graham

Read the Story December 15, 2008
story art

The unforgettable vision in the first sentence is of a brother whipping a little sister. A person couldn’t read this and not wonder where the inspiration came from. Can you share?

No I can’t.

This story is a first-rate example of how every word is chosen purposefully: the resurrection of the cigarettes, the weaving of a small scourge, the coagulation of the blood. How do you choose these images – the weeping willows, cigarette butts, a cedar pew, the big white bus? And in the end, Karly draws pine trees. Why pine trees?

I chose words that held some sort of religious connotation; blood, pew, weeping, church, white, resurrect, and of course the small scourge, which for me invokes Jesus’ overly violent reaction against the Jewish tradesmen in the synagogue. I grew up in Sunday school, as did many of the children in my neighborhood. And I guess as an adult I am interested in the idea of so much violence and abuse happening to children who devoted so much faith and hope to memorizing Bible verses and singing Jesus Loves Me, and I wanted to bring that conflict into a collection of small fictions.

I chose pine trees because trees belong in this story, as another example of victims of senseless violence against the natural world. I chose pine trees because of the alliteration; pictures, pine, program. I choose adjectives based on the way words sound, the way they feel pressed up against each other.

You have a book coming out with Another Sky Press. What can you tell us about it?

Yeah, The National Virginity Pledge. It’s a collection of short stories that indirectly involve virginity, well, actually, the lack thereof. These stories showcase a reoccurring cast of confused, helpless, hopeless, beautiful, dirty, optimistic, loveable down-and-outs, all involved in dysfunctional relationships containing sex in some way. They take place in small towns and big cities all across America. Plenty of gambling, blended with a warped sense of passion and love and desire, and small bits of harmless violence.

Karly does not appear in The National Virginity Pledge so don’t worry about her. She belongs in a small collection of flash fictions loosely set in my hometown of Paradise, right smack dab in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. She is not based on anyone in particular, when it comes to character development I share Mark Twain’s sentiment when asked if Tom Sawyer was a real kid in Hannibal, he said no, Tom is an accumulation of all the kids of Hannibal (bad paraphrase, sorry).

You are the editor of Dogzplot: An Erratic Literary Montage, a writer and a teacher. What else is Barry Graham?

Barry Graham is large, he contains multitudes.

About the Author:

Barry Graham is the author of the National Virginity Pledge (Another Sky Press). Look for him in Storyglossia, Hobart, Elimae, Pboz, Wigleaf, Cella's round trip, and others.