The Nash family saga - a landslide of war, infidelity, murder, infanticide and acid that has, itself, taken acid.
- Page Length:
- 250 - 500 Pages
- Book Status:
- Completed Manuscript
"You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me..." Exodus 20:5 Digging Up The Bones follows the curses of a father, visited upon the Nash family over the course of three generations, spanning the 1960's to the present day. In rich, moving episodes, the text immerses readers in the lives of stunned-straight racists, scarred veterans, doomed lovers, would-be assassins, gun-toting grandmothers, nascent female crime-bosses, ambivalent mourners, big-time drug-running, and the bewildered survivors trying to make sense of it all. This is not a family - it's a world; this is not a book - it's an indictment; these words are not written - they're howled.
Interview with Dale MarloweRead Interview
You're a lawyer and college professor from Ohio. What can you know about Appalachia?
My childhood was that of an immigrant's son; we lived in Ohio, but everything about our lives - accents, religion, music, customs, social mores, all of it - was from the hills. We went "down home" every summer.
The culture, while common in Southern Ohio, is still distinct. One of the characters in the book tells another Appalachia's not where he's from, it's where he's coming from. That's me.
I don't buy into the "..write what you know..." crap anyhow. Write what you know to be true, instead.
These are not pleasant tales.
Neither are people's lives, usually, if told in truth.
How did the book come about?
You know the old saw about it "takes a village to raise a child?" I wrote a piece about a man whose mistakes, as a very young man, landed him on death row. Seemed to me that saying could lay blame just as well as urge folks to care for one another. So I took it a bit further and explored the environment that produced a man society thought dangrous enough to execute.
Is it tough, writing about race as a white man?
There are two episodes in the book dealing with race, racism and racists pretty explicitly - one, an older fellow delighted that his prejudices seem to have carried on to his grandchild, and another where a young skinhead has second thoughts about his allegiances. Those folks drop N-bombs. They do, in fact, hate. Even if they don't know why, or if the reasons turn out, as is the case with the older fellow, to be more complex and somewhat sympathetic.
White people deal with race lots of times by not dealing with race, or excusing ourselves from the subject by pretending we don't harbor racist notions. That's bull$3!t. As a human, and a parent, it's obvious to me original sin - or, original sins, rather - are real.
Racism is one of those original sins. All humans suffer it, inflict it, abide it. White folks in America are quite insane about it - we hold horror for things we never did, guilt for things we did do, are ambivalent, or hypocritical, regarding benefits we receive as a result, and hate the parts of ourselves that repeat those crimes, when and if.
When writing, my job is to get out of the characters' ways and, when at my best, transcribe them. Yeah, it's uncomfortable for me in their world, but I'll be damned if I sugarcoat it. Yes, it's tough to write about race . It should be tough for anyone in America to write about these things.
As an aside, I think people have to eat and drink together more. Food and booze gets people talking honestly, and if people of different races and ethnicities could overhear one anothers' dinner-table conversations, things would get sorted out, tut suite. Or at least things would be out in the open. The problem is we say one thing in private and another in public space.
There's a thread in the book where a young man has an unexpected encounter with another man whose failure to abide taboo on the subjects of sex and race forces the younger man to regard himself, finally, and in truth. Without euphemism or hiding places. A Come-To-Jesus thing, if you will. The world - America, at least - needs that sort of experience.
Writing about race as a white man lets me box myself around the ears in a way. Test my own comfort and boundaries on the topics at hand. And you know what? If spending measured time in the worst neighborhoods of the white psyche is the heaviest load I lift in my life, in terms of race and racism, I'm lucky.
You wrote much of the book early in your career. Did things have to be updated - e.g., the Internet, etc., when you placed the manuscript?
I toyed with the idea of changing Yahoo! to Google in one of the passages, but decided to leave it be. Short answer, then, is no - but it was a nice surprise to realize that with all the changes in the world in the past fifteen years, the work still stands. I think that's a good sign.
Is the Nash family story true?
There's no Nash family. I mean, there's one somewhere, or a hundred of them, probably, but I don't know them, and they're not these Nashes. This is fiction. Remember, though, that everything a writer pens is through the filter of his consciousness; that means everything - and I mean everything; journalism, history books, The Bible, the Chinese takeout menu in your desk drawer, whatever - it's all fiction. All true, all false. All the world's a stage, right?
What does the book's title mean?
It refers to an event in one of the stories. It also refers to the...really? I mean, isn't that obvious? Okay, okay. It's about unearthing the buried, digging into the past, all that. It sounds damned pretentious when you explain it. But there it is.