Immortal for Quite Some Time

has been in production for quite some time and the results are beautiful. Only a few weeks now!


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Intimate Fences

This morning Lyn and I sent our manuscript to the Texas A&M University Press. The editor of a series called “Connecting the Greater West” had seen parts of it and asked us to submit our work.


We’ve been working on the book for over five years. And today we’ll celebrate this step in the process.


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Peter Handke Documentary


Some stills from the film, and some interesting background.



Better (larger) images  and the whole series HERE

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Intimate Fences


Last night Lyn and I finished the latest draft of the entire book. We’re getting close. One more draft before the semester begins and we’ll be ready to send it out to potential publishers.

About 300 pages at this point. 95,000 words. Neither number reveals what a complex task this has been.

inimate fences

Table of Contents

General Introduction

Part I    

Constructing the Meaning of Barbed Wire in the Late Nineteenth Century

Chapter 1 

“Infernal Machines”: Newspapers and Magazines Debate the Meaning of Barbed-Wire Fences

Chapter 2 

“Secure and Safe Alike”: Legislative Challenges and Inventive Responses

Chapter 3  

“The Perfect Fence”: Selling Barbed Wire

Part II  

The Barbed-Wire Motif in Literature

Chapter 4

“Don’t Fence Me In”: Barbed Wire in the Western

Chapter 5 

“Intimate Fences”: Barbed Wire in the New West

Chapter 6

“The Thorny Fence”: Reifying the Religious Metaphor

Chapter 7 

“I Helped Him Build His Own Fences”: Native Americans Cut the Wire, Cut the Lies


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Locarno Film Festival: Premiere of a Film by Corinna Belz on Peter Handke


Peter Handke – Bin im Wald. Kann sein, dass ich mich verspäte… (Peter Handke – In the Woods, Might Be Late)
Germany · 2016 · DCP · Color · 89′ · o.v. German/French
The filmmaker explores the life and work of the Austrian novelist, playwright and political activist, Peter Handke. The titles of his books sound like the tunes in a jukebox: Offending the Audience and Other Spoken Plays, The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick or A Sorrow Beyond Dreams. In the 1960s, he was the definition of a “pop star” author. Yet as soon as he started making the bestseller lists, he turned his back on stardom and went travelling, taking his readers along with him, dragging them into the rhythm and precision of his language and into his own examination of reality. As a young man, and still now, in his daily life, Peter Handke never stopped asking: “Where are we now?” and “How should we live?”

This film by Corinna Belz will premiere next week at the Locarno Film Festival. See further information here:

English subtitles by yours truly. Thanks to Zarko Radakovic for the introduction to Corinna Belz. My second film credit, after The Sonosopher, the brilliant documentary by Travis Low, Torben Bernhard, and Alex Caldiero.

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New Website for Immortal for Quite Some Time

Some context, photos, and the first chapter.

Find them HERE


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Mormon Literature?

Julie Nichols recently posted her thoughts on the writing and reading of Mormon literature here:

I responded with these thoughts:

Julie, I love the questions you raise here, questions I’ve been thinking about myself as I read and reviewed your book and Mette Harrison’s books and Brian Evenson’s books and Alex Caldiero’s books and just these past couple of weeks as I read Judith Freeman’s books and Phylis Barber’s books.

After a recent reading by Alex, in response to these lines (“We recognize / each other as fellow makers, humans, & not / too anxious for immortality”), I wrote this:

Alex reads in short bursts, a single word, two words, the words that make up a line. His emphasis breaks up the meaning. I have to wait for memory to reassemble the thought. These poems are themselves fragments of meaning, often written before dawn, bordering on the subconscious. They remind me a bit of John Ashbery’s work in the way they make me agree to forego clear and sustained meaning in favor of accumulated meaning. But while Ashbery’s poems are assembled from fragments of overheard or (over)read speech, while they are arranged and rearranged, Alex’s poems have simply happened. There he is in the night. There is his notebook. There is his pen. He writes. He draws. And he turns to the next page. His is improvised poetry, fixed on the page the way a recording fixes an improvised jazz performance .

“You are too present / Or you don’t exist.”

Alex is too present. It is a difficult existence. It produces poetry. And he is my prophet.


Okay, that’s what I wrote.

I don’t believe in prophets. Alex is a mystic.

His work is metaphorical for me. It strives to grasp what can’t be grasped. German mystics like Meister Eckhart reached for the same unreachable truths and in doing so enriched the German language immeasurably. Every neologism is a metaphor. Every good metaphor brings new insight. “Truth is a mobile army of metaphors” Nietzsche wrote, and I love the idea, both as it brackets out any sense for absolute truth and as it welcomes that mobile army.

Alex claims he doesn’t believe in metaphors. We are dear friends despite and because of our respective disbeliefs.

I titled my blog post on your book “A Tight Sphinctered Response to a Novel in Seven Stories.” I loved your characters. I loved the book’s warm-hearted portrayals of them in all their difference. I loved the interwoven stories. But I had trouble with the healing, if you remember, with the supernatural. I figured it was my problem as opposed to the book’s problem and ended the little essay like this:

Nichols I thought, a sudden thought, maybe even an epiphany, loves nature like I love nature. These are my flowers. I know them. They help me make sense of the universe. Nichols’ characters love nature too. So what if they also love the super-natural? Give them a break. Loosen your rational sphincter a bit. You don’t have to believe them. Their believing is their business. Isn’t it interesting, after all, to find your way into minds like these — such varied minds and bodies all of whom the author so clearly loves. Come on man, you can straddle the air for a bit. Nobody’s asking you to walk on water.

I can sometimes suspend my proverbial disbelief.

You are working in this essay with the idea of “Mormon literature.” One version would include work by faithful Mormons and its products would be faith promoting. Or it could include work by faithful and not-so-faithful Mormons and ex-Mormons with its works ranging from faith promoting to antagonistic. I guess I prefer the latter.

You quote Brian Evenson, one of my favorite writers. I reviewed several of his works for Open Letters Monthly a couple of years ago.

Here’s a taste of the long piece:

In Evenson’s novel The Open Curtain, a young Rudd Theurer experiences a break between what he thought to be true and what he now perceives to be true. Letters to and from his dead father reveal, perhaps, an illegitimate half-brother. His mother tightens her lips and claims the opposite: “It’s simple truth. . . . We know the truth. There’s no reason to speak of this again.” Not surprisingly, given his mother’s Mormon preference for “truth” over reality, Rudd begins to “have an odd relation to words.” He reads an old story in the 1903 New York Times about William Hooper Young, a grandson of Brigham Young who was on trial for a ritual murder. The newspaper account, supplemented by symbolic signs and penalties Theurer experiences in the Mormon temple ritual, works in him corrosively, structures and de-structures his identity until he commits ritual murders of his own. When Theurer cuts Mormon/Masonic temple symbols into the bodies of his victims, he reifies violent metaphors with which his religion has made sense of the world.

If reifying metaphors is dangerous, so is the making of metaphors. In the story “Contagion” from the book of that name, characters fatefully construct metaphors from a barbed-wire fence. The fence is a given, simply there, and the men who ride it are just doing their jobs: “They were to travel due South, checking fenceline for $2/day to territory’s extreme, and then to cross over and observe conditions beyond.” Their written notes are a straightforward litany of the various types of barbed wire until they encounter a deadly contagion, when the notations begin to stray to more subjective considerations.

Past the fence’s end the riders find a town dominated by a religious sect whose leader locks one rider in a room to write oracular notes about the barbed wire that has become the sect’s object of worship. When he runs out of paper he writes on the walls, encircling himself with sentences that resemble a long, enclosing strand of barbed wire.

As a tool in the real world, barbed wire controls, separates, and imposes order. In light of that fact and in response to the incomprehensible and frightening contagion, the town’s panicked populace has transformed the wire until the fact of the wire becomes the coercive truth of the new religion: “You shall know the fence and the fence shall make you free.” This is precisely the process of truthmaking Nietzsche wrote about so devastatingly: “What is truth? a mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphisms . . . only insofar as man forgets himself as . . . an artistically creative subject does he live with some calm, security, and consistency.” Evenson’s work insists on this. We are the artistically creative authors of the truths we live by. We must then, if we are honest, live more tentatively in relation to the security and consistency we achieve through language. The effect of this conclusion, at least for me, at least most of the time, is bracing.


I’ll end this long response by saying thank you for your thoughts here and especially for your wonderful book.

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I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now



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One sign after the other — Summit Creek’s big signs offering land for sale along the road I climb almost daily to work up a sweat — was defaced by white spray paint.

The next three signs were sprayed with bright orange:


I get the impulse for graffiti. Years ago, Blake Donner tagged a brand new stone wall on Provo’s University Avenue, a wall that created a gated community for wealthy buyers, with beautiful calligraphy:


But there’s a big difference between calling conspicuous consumption into question and albino racist attacks.
I decided to read the signs downhill, from left to right rather than right to left:


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Death and Beauty and Time

I’ve been reading Norwegian novelist Tomas Espedal’s book Against Art. After a confrontation with a neighbor who brings a shotgun to the conversation, the narrator walks away with a sense that he has lost the day, that he can no longer see: “No trees, no road, no freedom, no future, nothing. And so it was a fragile thing, this day of mine.”

Yesterday Espedal posted this note on his Facebook page: “Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Illich, harrowing reading, about life’s end, it made me think of this song by Lucinda Williams, her prayer before death.”

It’s her song “Faith & Grace” from The Ghosts of Highway 20. All I need is a little faith and grace, she sings, gravelly voice and searching guitar, a slow song…over 12 minutes long.

Last night I sat on the deck as the sun set and listened to the song and thought about death.


And about beauty. And time. Time passed and the sky changed.


The minutes passed. I watched the sky change and listened to Lucinda Williams sing that she’ll stand on the Rock, stand on the Rock, stand on the Rock as she hopes for faith and grace.


Get right with God, she sang, get right with God, get right with God. And time passed. And the sky changed.


Darkness gathered and I thought about loss, about despair, about change, about longing while Williams’ steady percussion continued and the guitar searched and the song stretched out and the sky changed and I thought about beauty. I didn’t think about God or faith or grace. I don’t believe in them anymore than she does. And yet I did think about the grace of beauty and my faith in healing time.



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