Marshall Klimasewiski is most recently the author of Tyrants. This conversation was conducted in front of an audience at McNally Robinson on February 28, 2008. Many thanks to Jessica Stockton Bagnulo for arranging this!
Subjects Discussed: Ballooning as a “fight or flight” impulse, focusing upon characters who live rudderless existences, Klimasewski’s hair motif, writing a first-person perspective from a woman, writing stories without knowing what you’re talking about, being a literary prevaricator, landscape and Brutalist architecture, the emergence of technology, fascism, Stalinism and other ideologies, tree and wood metaphors, women who have muscular forearms rowing for crew teams and fond of wearing sleeveless jerseys, the recurring character of Henry, the pragmatic nature of marriage, pursuing taboos of how you express your affection, writing more in rural areas, and literary references.
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: But all of your characters — in many of these stories, they live rudderless existences. In fact, there’s one thing I wanted to ask you about, as a balding man myself, they tend to have thinning hair.
Correspondent: And so I have to ask you. In fact, there’s a lot of hair motifs throughout this. You describe the rustles of Stalin’s moustache. You at one point have a piano player whose grey-bearded head pops out of nowhere. So there’s this sense of hair as a motif of wisdom and possibly folly. And in fact, there’s a character who seems vaguely reminiscent of you who has red hair, who I must ask you about, who forms the basis of two stories. So what’s with the hair? How’s your hair doing these days?
Klimasewiski: I must admit this is news to me. I hadn’t realized I was writing so much about hair. Although recently, the last story in the collection, “Aeronauts,” is also about a polar expedition a little bit earlier. It’s set in the 1890s. And if I could have published that story in any way possible, I would have published it with some photos from the expedition. And recently, last week, I did a reading in St. Louis, where I live. It’s a story with multiple voices. It’s kind of a collage narrative. And with the help of a couple of friends reading different parts, we put it together. But we also used a slideshow of some of these photos. And that was the first time that I was realizing that absolutely everybody in the slideshow had a great deal of hair on their faces and very little on their head.
Correspondent: Aha! The truth comes out.
(To listen to our previous conversation with Marshall Klimasewiski, go here.)
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