Exploring the art of prose


Author: Michael McGriff

Author’s Note

I’m in the middle of revamping (resuscitating?) a book of fiction. This book and its making have unfolded by way of the usual adjectives: messy and bewildering, to name a few. This book has been, most recently, a novel. But I never really called it that with much confidence (novel=air-quotes). In a prior failed form, it mirrored the exact time shifts in Per Peterson’s Out Stealing Horses. Currently, it’s what most resembles a book of vignettes, individually titled, linked by tone and place and speaker, but not necessarily by plot or linear thread. Through all this drudgery, one thing has remained a through-line, and it’s the piece here, “Be God.” It’s the first story in the book, and it establishes, I hope, a deep engagement with place and a mood of shiftiness and permeability. It feels, finally and importantly, like I wrote it. And now the rest of the book wants to feel that way, too. “Be God” is a purposeful echo of Ken Kesey’s opening imperative in Sometimes a Great Notion: “Look…” Look at this landscape until it becomes a character. I use the imperative as a way to hold up the self before a set of memories and histories, and to the perception and misperception of both. I have a lot of gods. Italo Calvino keeps finding his way to my nightstand, lurking about with Tove Jansson and Antonio Di Benedetto and Richard Brautigan. I listen to them listening to the world. “Be God” is some part of me listening to the place where I grew up, and answering back to those murky waters.

MICHAEL MCGRIFF’s recent books include the linked story collection Our Secret Life in the Movies (A Strange Object, 2014), which is co-authored with J.M. Tyree, and the poetry collections Early Hour (Copper Canyon Press, 2017) and Black Postcards (Willow Springs Books, 2017). His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Believer, Narrative, Poetry London, and elsewhere. He serves on the creative writing faculty at the University of Idaho.