The Bat Segundo Show: Ross Raisin

Ross Raisin appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #229. Raisin is the author of God’s Own Country (UK title)/Out Backward (US title).

(Please note: This discussion deals at length with many of the Yorkshire terms that Mr. Raisin uses within his novel. Please consult this lexicon if you’d like to know more.)

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Abdicating to a helium-impaired fill-in host.

Author: Ross Raisin

Subjects Discussed: Schizophrenia, designing a particular voice and the relationship to environment, talking in a peculiar way, reference books, snickets, the relationship between topography, reference books, and reality, looking through books, cookbooks, foreshadowing, talking with animals, verbs transferred to nouns, subconscious immersion into language, the third-person origins of God’s Own Country, the rhythmic origins of the lexical voice, “gleg” vs. “gawp,” the frequency of words for specific meaning, the Yorkshire vernacular, working as a waiter vs. working as a writer, nouns from specific regions in England, trunklements, the etymology of “bogtrotter,” crammocky creel, jarp and Easter, Nobbut a Lad, ferntickles, “upskittled” and ninepins, nouns transferred to verbs, “normaltimes,” “gleg,” and “chuntering” — the most frequent words in the book, snitter, references to Dracula, the concern for backsides within the book, The Butcher Boy, literary attempts to understand the monster, being ransacked by Raisin, Iain Banks’s The Wasp Factory, separation between style and content, tankards and chalices, the historical cycle of gentrification within bars and restaurants, and stools vs. metal buffets.


Correspondent: There are a number of Yorkshire terms in which you take a verb meaning and you transfer it into a noun. And so everything is inverted. Even his communicative methods with the animals, as well as his particular idiosyncratic way of talking to the reader, which is presumably the only person he has to talk with aside from his parents and the like. And how this notion of inversion essentially announced itself. Was this more of a subconscious immersion in language on your part? Or a conscious decision to take a verb and transfer it to noun form and the like?

Raisin: The whole thing with the language being in that peculiar idiomatic language didn’t come about immediately. It came about as a result of thinking about character and wanting to think about a character who was very much inside their own strange little world. And one of the main ways you can achieve that is through language. And so I started experimenting with different ways of working with language. And that’s how it turned into a first-person book. Actually, it was initially third-person. Okay, some of the language in it. Most of it is a real Yorkshire language. Sort of a different melange of different parts of Yorkshire, to be honest. And a lot of it is invented. It actually came more out of rhythm — it began with rhythm — more than actual lexicon. And so I got a real feel for this rhythm of the landscape, and the way that transposed into the voice. And then through the second draft, I suppose, I started inserting all these words. And a lot of them are verbs actually. Like glegging and blathering and all these kind of blunt Yorkshire, quite masculinized words that he peppers his language with.

Correspondent: But “gleg” comes from the Scottish noun. Alert and quick to respond.

Raisin: Is that right?

Correspondent: That’s at least what I discovered. And I’m wondering where you transformed it into more of a verb. And also the difference between “gleg” and “gawp” as well. Because he gawps at some points and glegs at others.

Raisin: Well, a gleg is more of a brief look. It’s more of a glance, I suppose. And a gawp is a more of staring. But that’s quite an interesting point actually. Because when you’re writing the book, you become so observed with it. And I’m convinced that these words that I’ve researched, they’re Yorkshire words. And I hold them very preciously. They’re Yorkshire words. And then you tell them to somebody else, and they say, “Oh yeah. We use that word.”

BSS #229: Ross Raisin

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The Bat Segundo Show: Andre Dubus III

Andre Dubus III appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #218. Dubus is most recently the author of The Garden of Last Days.

Condition of the Show: Plagued by decaying verdure and intrusive catering managers.

Author: Andre Dubus III

Subjects Discussed: The propinquity of Roman numerals after surnames, Richard Flanagan’s The Unknown Terrorist, Heinrich Böll, books being categorized as post-9/11 novels, on letting a book go after publication, political novels, writing longhand in cars, Tobias Wolff, the car as shared confessional experience, Flannery O’Connor, writing as a dreamworld, verisimilitude, getting an approximation of an outsider’s character or experience, “White Trees, Hammer Moon,” prison, capitalism, serial description in a declarative sentence, considering the reader, realism vs. postmodernism, self-indulgence in writing, Blaise Pascal, the dangers of the author pleasing himself, taking twenty-five years to write a novel, Dubus’s beverage motif, whether or not specific details in a novel are symbolic, the advantages that come from confined and sustained narratives, sensuality, writing in short sustained bursts, vicarious moral outrage, poems and Books on Tape, T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, an interruption by a catering manager, Dubus’s early life bumping around, the responsibilities of a novelist, honesty, novelists who impose endings on books, fiction as a pack of lies vs. fiction as truth, Picasso, sincerity, characters who become truer than real people, and the absence of fathers and husbands in The Garden of Last Days.


Correspondent: I had to remark on the beverage motif throughout this book. We open this book with, of course, April having a plastic coffee cup with her legs. And then two hundred, three hundred pages in, we see the cop with the #1 GRANDDAD mug. And then we also have Virginia heating a cold cup of coffee in the microwave. So…

Dubus: Ho ho! This is brilliant, man. (laughs)

Correspondent: But the concern for coffee in this is rather extraordinary! Because coffee is almost this life force of good versus the drinking one sees from the antagonists in this book. All the antagonists tend to drink. Or they resist drink in order to be good. And so…

Dubus: Oh, this is fascinating.

Correspondent: So there’s a certain coffee-alcohol axis I had to ask you about.

Dubus: Well, God, it just sounds like a weekend in my life.

Correspondent: (laughs)

Dubus: Drink Friday night, drink coffee on Saturday morning. Fascinating. Wow. I hadn’t even known that. Listen, I do believe that we live in our bodies. Even those of us who live very ethereally from the chin up. And I truly believe that these central details shape us and guide us. You know, I had this experience a few years ago where my wife and I had a little spat over money the first thing in the morning. My coffee was cold, gone cold during the fight. I get in the car. It hardly starts up. And I’m worried about money and can I fix this clutch. I drive off. A guy cuts me off in his truck. And I’m telling you. If that car could go fast, I’d go down the road, rip him off the truck, and beat on him.

The next day, my wife and I were fine. We weren’t having a spat. My coffee was delicious. It was the perfect cup of dark French roast. Black. That I like. And it was just the right temperature. I had a little cup, driving cup. And it wasn’t spilling. The car started up. I pull out into the word and another guy cuts me off. And this time, Ed, I said, “Go in peace, my brother. You should be careful. You might hurt someone or yourself.” I had all this good will. And it had to do with my coffee being good. (laughs)

Correspondent: But I’m wondering how this…

Dubus: This stuff isn’t unimportant?

Correspondent: It’s important. But I’m curious. You have to be aware — since there is so much coffee in this book — that you’re repeating this symbol over and over again. So readers like me say, “Well, coffee. Might be a symbol.” Or as we’re suggesting here, it may not be a symbol at all. It may just be some aspect of the world you’re drawing from that just happens to repeat itself.

Dubus: But, Ed, man, I really believe that the reader tends to know more than the writer. At least, certainly in my case.