Interview with Clifton Barnhart
Tell us about your latest book.
On July 7th, 2012 Jesse Burke passed away. He was my dearest friend. Jesse and responsibility is the fictionalization of our time. In 2011 I quit drinking, which made me very sick. I knew Jesse in China as a roommate, bar buddy and Franc-o-fied-American away from home. He married in 2011 and the month I spent in China celebrating with him, his new wife and our friends was the highlight of that year. His passing was a terrible loss. We were different and depended on each other. When I wasn't in China we kept in touch with email and occasional phone calls. My last words to him were, "It was meant to be."
What genre do you write and why?
This is where it is important to deferentiate style from genre. Jesse and responsibility is written in English with some non-tonal pinyin Mandarin. The style is Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle, or "Oulipo" ( https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/9371098-the-oulipo ). It is a French experimental form that imposes constraints, resulting in hyper-structuralized, hyper-compressed story-telling. At 96 pages Jesse and responsibility is a squeakier of a novella. Oulipo's constraints bring prose to poetry and poetry to paragraph. I completed a selection of poetry before beginning Jesse and responsibility and ultimately found Oulipo's constraints to be liberating. Jesse and responsibility was written sequentially; word, paragraph, chapter, without thought for genre. On the day of publication I picked "Adventure" as the best fit.
I published a selection of short stories at the same time. The first story, George and the White Dragon, was written 2013 in modern prose. The following three stories were written after Jesse and responsibility and also in the style of Oulipo. They are Fantasy and more of a pressure read than the novella.
What marketing methods are you using to promote your book?
Taking it slow.
What's the best thing about being a writer?
The abstinence. And to hell with you for calling it the best thing.
Who is you favorite character in your book and why?
I like Mr. Snudgeberry very much. I see a lot of fire in him.
Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?
I enjoy challenging reads. I always wanted to tackle the big books at young ages and was fortunate to have teachers that encouraged this desire and understanding of the books by explicating literary techniques, devices and reference analysis. Jesse and responsibility is a challenging book and a book that I would enjoy reading.
How long did it take you to write your book?
10 years of living in China and the United States. Two years of mourning. And five months of writing everyday.
Who designed the cover?
I did. Shout out to Kindle Direct Publishing cover design software. I had thought about the cover of Jesse and responsibility for more than a year and their software was able to create it exactly the way I wanted. The cover for Short Stories Selection #1 was also from KDP cover software and I'm fine with it. It has gotten a, repeat "a," compliment.
Where can a reader purchase your book?
Short Stories Selection #1 is available on Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Ebooks for $1.99. Jesse and responsibility is available on Kindle for $9.99.
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
On September 11th, 2014 I started writing Neidermeir's Revenge. It has become a series of plays, also in the style of Oulipo. ( https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/9484258-neidermeir-s-revenge-the-anthology ) The play's pattern has eleven parts with parts three and eight left out (skipped.) This pattern for individual plays is then magnified to the series of plays with Neidermeir's Revenge, Neidermeir's Revenge the Sequel, and Neidermeir's Revenge Number Four making up the anthology. Neidermeir's Revenge Number Five is complete. I'm in the middle of Neidermeir's Revenge Number Six.
The next novel is called Not often with Roger. Its like Tuesdays with Morrie but with more death and funnier. It will be finished and published somewhere in the 2020s. Turning my thesis ( https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/9366919-george-washington-at-valley-forge-and-mao-zedong-on-the-long-march-thes ) into a book is not a priority.
Does your family support you in your writing career? How?
Family is such a facile term these days. How indeed.
What are you currently reading?
I have unreturned copies of Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and The Portable Roman Reader courtesy of the Phoenix Public Library. They are being kept out of the bathroom and so will take years to read.
What books or authors have most influenced your life?
Steinbeck is everything. East of Eden is the greatest book of the 20th Century. Cannery Row is my favorite read, favorite story. I had an Ayn Rand phase. The Fountainhead does survive and will continue to survive as literature. It should be re-read every ten years as a Confucian exercise. Atlas Shrugged is the Big Boy fantasy of a big office with a big desk and a framed ten foot poster of the Atlas Shrugged cover on the wall behind the desk that tells all who enter; 'you are successful and not to be trifled with.' To an artist it is juvenile.
Gore Vidal was my favorite living author for the longest time. His death was less than a month after the death of Jesse and it hurt me the way only a boy can be hurt. During a long stretch in China without returning home he scheduled talks at book stores in Shanghai and Beijing. He kept the Shanghai date but cancelled Beijing. I was mad. Julian is a hell of a read and must have been hell to write. Burr gave America a Puck with young and aged Aaron Burr; as well as a portrait of Washington, the incompetent vainglorious uncle to throw pebbles at and mock, from a distance. Lincoln is a masterpiece. Creation should be read.
You don't know anything about religion outside of America, not to mention Islam, if you haven't read The Satanic Verses.
Chuck Palahniuk writes for the TV generation that I am a vegetable in. Fight Club is one of the few movies that is better than the book and I'm glad the story went from meditation to life via film. Choke is the opposite and should have been left on the page. Its characters are brightly human while inhabiting Choke's atypical psychological exploration.