Back in January, TNBBC had the opportunity to host a week-long discussion with James Boice about his latest novel, The Shooting.
During that time, we discussed the book's relevance to the gun violence and media madness that was running rampant through the country, the use of certain vulgarities in literature and how readers respond to it, and the influence our parenting styles have in shaping who our children are.
This is the week-long, in its entirety:
TNBBC: First, welcome James! We're thrilled to have you here and really appreciate the time you're taking out of your schedule to hang with us all week long.
The Shooting could not have been released at a more relevant time. It has all the hot topics - Caucasian man vs African American youth, gun culture and the "media spin" on gun violence - it could have been ripped right from today's news.
But it also comes five years after your last novel The Good and the Ghastly: A Novel. Were you writing The Shooting throughout that entire time frame? Did our current crazytimes influence any rewrites or edits to more accurately reflect what's happening?
James Boice: Hi Lori and TNBBC, thanks for having me here and for reading The Shooting. I'm excited to talk to you all about it.
I started The Shooting in January 2013, which was a few weeks after Newtown. Before then, after the other horrible gun massacres over the previous 15 or 20 years I had thought about our guns vaguely but never really intensely. Newtown changed that immediately, and I could not think of anything else. That nightmare revealed, at last, what a pathology we live with in this culture. And I wanted to explore it. I had to, in order to be able to function in a society where sudden, spectacular death and violence were becoming the norm in the most unexpected places.
So between my previous novel, The Good and the Ghastly, which was published in 2011 and starting this book in January 2013, I was sketching out other projects. I even wrote a few novel-length manuscripts. None really came to life for me, though. I knew this one was different as soon as I started it. It felt serious and rich and meaningful.
And, most surprising, I was shocked to learn that no one had written a literary fiction novel against the landscape of our gun violence and gun culture before. That seemed inexplicable, as guns are such a huge chunk of how we Americans see ourselves and their effect on our lives is immense. And their existence in our culture is such a source of division. Guns force death on us. That's literature right there. So I wanted to be the first to write about this in a novel.
Diane: I live in Denver where we have had more than our share of horrific shootings with Columbine, Platt Canyon and Aurora. Going into this I was worried that this would be more than familiar. You Sir, had me at cunt and didn't let me go until after I turned the last page. This story resonated with me on many different levels. Thank you for starting off my 2017 with a bang.
One thing I am wondering is why you chose not to disclose the area where Lee grew up (the Mountain) or where the Doctor was originally from. All other locations seemed very specific.
JB: Little known Hollywood film fact: "You had me at cunt" was actually what was in the first draft of the script of Jerry Maguire. Test audience were a little confused, I guess, so they changed it to hello.
I think the locations had to be left unspecified (though they are hinted at indirectly). In the case of the Mountain, for Lee the Mountain is the past. Its exact real location being left unspecified makes it that much more blurry, that much more unreliable of a memory. And therefore, for Lee, the subject of reinterpretation, and misinterpretation. He bases his life and who he is on a past he misremembers -- a myth. So the vagueness helps with that.
In the Doctor's case, that "blurring" of his home country's location serves to show how tunnel-visioned and almost narcissistic our American perspective of the world can be. As far as we're concerned, there is us and then there is everyone else. There is us, and then there is the world. The Other. We don't like the Other much. They're not America, they're not worth knowing about, we probably don't even have to both knowing the names of their countries. Until we're forced to.
Deanna: Hi James, first off this is a great book and I am already letting an office mate borrow it, because it really moved me. first question, it seems like 'To kill a Mockingbird ' was an inspiration for you Was that as a writer in general? Or just an inspiration for this particular novel? Secondly, was there a reason the parents fate was left unfinished?
JB: That's very kind, thank you. I love To Kill a Mockingbird and think it probably was an inspiration in that it sets it story in the landscape of an ugly, deep seated facet of American culture. And its characters are all portrayed as complicated, fully formed human beings, rather than archetypes. It is a story about the human heart as much as the social issues it involves. Therefore it transcends its time, though it involves timely things. So that was certainly the very high bar I was trying to reach.
I'm not sure if I interpreted the parents' fate as being unfinished. I think we can project into the future a little bit and see how they have lived their lives might help them after we leave them.
Chris: Good morning James. I want to thank you for the opportunity to read The Shooting and discuss it with you.
Obviously it is not a feel good book. Also, there are no good "good"- or ""bad" characters. I find them all "displaced, traumatized " characters. I thought calling the chapters Steeple 1, 2 - was exactly correct. (I learned a new word which I will definitely use. )
I do sense you are not pro Second Amendemment. I was also the same, but I am waive ring. I was raised in California where having a gun was not mentioned and not approved. We moved to Arkansas- not because of any gun laws or restrictions. Gun safety is a very high concern here. More important than guns, however, is family. The family here is still more important than anything. That is what the characters all seemed to be missing. That is except for Clayton. I think that is the shame of our country - the lose of family love and support.
Lee wanted family and grasped whatever he could to create his family. Too bad it was a false value of a gun. Jenny wanted her family back and blamed it on guns rather than people. Clayton's parents still had each other. They could survive.
I think you did a very good job covering all three sides. I felt they all made mistakes and had to pay for them.
Did I understand it correctly?
JB: Thanks for a very insightful take. I wanted to write a story about people, about humans -- and I wanted to avoid writing an essay or diatribe disguised as a story. Writing an essay about guns was different from writing a story about people with guns, which is what this book is. People are very complicated, with complicated reasons for doing what they do and believing what they believe -- and for hurting one another. That's human nature. So, as far as fiction is concerned, the gun debate is a nice little stage for human nature to play out.
Rhonda: Good morning James ,I was drawn in from the first pages.Your descriptive writing the horror we are facing with the ease of gun acquisition.Reading your book was similar to reading newspaper headlines daily.
While writing on a really dark subject how do you get away from it.what type of books do you read while writing?
JB: This did take a lot out of me -- I think I'm still recovering. In the early stages of working on it, I was reading a lot about the history of the Second Amendment and of guns in America. Two especially useful ones were Gun Fight by Adam Winkler and Gunning of America by Pamela Haag. And then as for fiction I was reading a lot of American noir -- from Raymond Chandler up through Richard Price. The first book of My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard was influential with regard to Lee's relationship with his father. I reread some Stephen Dixon, who I admire and steal from always. I also remember reading Lolita and Crime and Punishment. I am sure those had their influence somehow. So, no, not a lot of light material to give me a break from the intensity of what I was working on. It's hard to get away from the material, especially when it is so prevalent in real life -- I guess I have gotten fairly good over the years at just turning it off when I'm not working and focusing on other pressing concerns, like family, day jobs, other practical matters.
Chris: The Shooting does a very good job in showing that not everyone handles situations, grief, or even joy the same. For every situation you can look back and say "well he could have or should have done it this way". But that is what makes us all different, because we see it differently. We all have different luggage we carry with us.
Is there any true events that influenced the story?
JB: Some true events that influenced the story are George Zimmerman's shooting of Travyon Martin and also another particular shooting: A friend of a friend lost his teenage son when the neighborhood mistook him for a home invader. The neighbor was white. The son was black. The son had snuck out of the house to go to a party, and when he came home he was drunk and confused and he snuck back into the wrong house -- the neighbor's. It was a neighborhood where the homes are similar. At the very sight of him, the neighbor, who was a big gun rights proponent, shot him several times, even in the back, until he was dead. He recognized the kid, but that didn't matter to him. And there was no fall out from it. He never even felt the need to apologize. The only consequence was a dead, good kid. The guy was within his rights, our society decided. Our society said what happened was okay. He was a good kid who made a mistake and it cost him and his family everything.
This was a uniquely American tragedy, an incongruent aspect to what we like to think of as the greatest country in the world. It's something we just don't like to talk about or think about, because it does not gibe with the myths we tell ourselves about who we are.
Chris: If you don't mind me getting a little off the book- I think it is not the gun that is the poison in our society - it is the lust for violence. Movies, commercials, television, commuters, games all intice the watchers to violence under the guise of entertainment. It becomes the cool way of life. What popular game is not blowing someone up or killing.? I had written a lot more but it really had nothing to do with the book.
Deanna: Thank you, I just felt up in the air with Clayton's parents as far as would they be able to stay or not, but I see your point, as long as they have each other, they will make it through. Another question for you, did you start out with Jenny feeling the need to "martyr" herself? Also, Jenny was all for the ammo tax as a solution, is this an idea that has been brought up in the fight for gun control, or is it fiction? The whole book felt so real, I kept forgetting it was a work of fiction and not reality.
JB: I did not know what would happen to Jenny when I started out -- in fact it took a few drafts before I realized the right end to her story. That was the missing piece to the novel for some time. I don't typically know where I'm going when I'm working on something. I might have a vague notion but I don't outline or anything like that. I feel my way along, allowing for revelations and happy accidents.
As far as I know there has not been a serious effort to instill an ammo tax. Maybe in some localities like New York City there have been. Would it work? Conventional wisdom says no, that the only thing more politically treacherous in this country than trying to introduce gun control legislation is trying to introduce a new tax. Trying to enact gun control via taxation would be like Lena Dunham trying to become governor of Mississippi. But we live in mindblowing, inexplicable times, so who can say for sure where popular support will do, especially as the mass shootings not only continue but worsen, with the no one else interested or capable of doing anything about it?
Book Concierge: Hi, James .. thanks for the opportunity to read and discuss your book with you.
I notice in the author blurb that you've previously published three novel with Scribner. What made you decide to go with an independent press this time around?
JB: Unnamed Press was really passionate about the book and really got it and I really connect with my editor there, Chris. That was what I wanted and needed for The Shooting -- passion and attention from someone capable of helping me make the book as good as it could be. That's all you can ask for from a publisher. It's hard to find that. So when you do find it, you hold on to it and don't let go.
TNBBC: Great conversation going on here! What a cool thing to come home to!
James, I enjoyed hearing the story behind the events that influenced your novel, though it's such a shame to hear it was someone close enough to you to have had such an impact. And also upsetting to know that you are correct in how our culture perceives right and wrong and where the "right" falls in the eyes of the gun wielder as well.
I think one of the things I liked the most about The Shooting is how you give us the wider, ripple-effect perspective of that particular act of gun violence. It's the stuff we never hear about in the media, the painful part of what events led us up to the shooting and how that shooting's aftermath moves through the families and communities.
It was devastating at times, and incredibly eye opening.
JB: The ripple-effect thing was something that really broke the book open for me when I finally stumbled upon it. I was thinking a lot about how we misunderstand each other, or ourselves. And the difference between how we see ourselves and how others see us. We live in our own versions of realities. Something happens and one person's version of what happened is completely different from the next person's. That feels more and more true today.
Also, I was interested in the bigger scheme of things -- the cosmic mechanism of the universe, to get all hippie about it. We might think we understand cause and effect, but we often do not, because we cannot see beyond our limited perspective. So it's interesting we think we have enough information to make fatal decisions about who's a bad guy and who's a good guy. I was interested in what "bad guy" truly means. And what "good guy" truly means. They are not as simple as some would like it to be.
Rhonda: Clayton his parents stay with me.Everytime an innocent child is killed especially the slaughter in Chicago the sadness of parents hysterical in front of the cameras.also the fact that Claytons father was a physician but do to our bureaucratic laws could not practice.This family seems to have jumped off the front pages.
The good guy bad guy concept the label is something I do think about.My husband has been a prosecutor &Then a criminal defense attorney.When you see both sides when you meet victims ,defendants things are not quite as easy to judge.My husband is often faced with the question how can you defend criminals which shows how society judges anyone charged with a crime.
Chris: I am maybe going out on a ledge here, but I did not find a definitive bad guy. The closest I could come to bad guy was Lee's father. I saw how each other character could have done something different to change the outcome. Lee was processing thoughts as he was taught. Clayton's family should have made sure every tenant knew about his sleepwalking. Lee should have realized he was in need of help and if not there were people he dealt with that knew.
I think Jenny went to far telling her workers to check Clayton's family papers. That was blackmail.
As I said before everyone has a flaw. That was the beauty of this story. I don't think you could really hate anyone - except for those that raped Clayton's mom. It was a well balanced story.
Thank you James for an almost unbiased novel on a very important issue. I say almost unbiased because we all have biases and they are not necessarily bad.
Book Concierge: She more than had them check ... she forced them to state they were illegal when the attorneys told her - TWICE - that the papers were in good order. She just out and out wanted revenge.
Chris: I think she wanted to have her way and did not really care about the hurt the family was feeling. She used them for her own devices - which she justified to herself that was best for them
Tiffany: Hi James! I enjoyed the story you presented. To delve so deep into such a current controversial topic right now takes a lot of guts. I did find one issue (that I obviously got over it). Do you not like quotation marks? In the beginning of the story I struggled to figure out what was being said and what was being thought. If forced me to read with much more thought.
In the first section of the book, the use of the "c word" surprised me. I am not at all offended by that word. It is just so taboo. Did you plan on using this word from the beginning and if so, did you ever get negative reactions about this word?
Other than the aforementioned To Kill A Mockingbird, do you have any other influences in your writing? In your off time who do you like to read?
JB: I started doing that with the m-dash instead of quotation marks way early on when I first started writing. I found quotes really messed me up, they threw me off my rhythm or took me out of what I was doing. Whatever the reason, I found m-dashes to be the solution. So I've always done that. I forget it's unusual. Some others do it. A lot of Irish writers, I think. And I think Marlon James does it too sometimes. And Rick Moody.
The use of the c-word was intentional -- it's so insulting and nasty and hideous and offensive and denigrating that it was exactly what Jenny's misogynistic male enemies would use against her to try and shut her up. I did not enjoy typing it over and over, of course. It still makes me wince to see it on the page. No one's yet to give me guff about it, probably because they understand how I'm using it and what it serves.
TNBBC: James, earlier in the conversation, Book Concierge poised the question about the switch from a larger publisher to a smaller one.
As a huge fan of the small press community, and of NYC, I have to ask... what are some of your favorite readings or events to hit up in the city? Do you do the 'literary scene' thing very often?
JB: Franklin Park Reading Series out in Crown Heights, Brooklyn is great -- as is its sister series called Manhattanville Reading Series. That's my old neighborhood, where I wrote The Shooting. Penina Roth runs both and she's impressive, she literally walks up and down the main drag there handing out flyers and talking up authors and books to anyone who will listen. From almost literally nothing she has created very fun events with A-list writers. She's a soldier of literature.
I don't really do the literary scene -- I'll do readings and store events when I have a book out, but otherwise I lay low and try to focus on the work at hand because it can all be very distracting.
TNBBC: I keep meaning to get out to one of Penina's events. She does have some very impressive line ups for her series. I'm also a fan of the KGB bar as a lit space. I've gone to a few of their fiction readings.
Where do you find you do most of your writing? Is it at home in a particular space? Do you write on the go? Do the 'environmentals' matter much to you (quiet, white noise, music)?
JB: Mostly at home. In Brooklyn I had a little space in our apartment to work. I'd write in the morning then head off to a day job in an office. That's how I wrote The Shooting. But now we're in Jersey City which lets me have an entire room with a door, which is luxurious.
Though the challenge these days is finding the time -- we have a 14 month old, and I've been home full time with her for the past year. She just started walking, which means I'm doing much more chasing after her than writing lately.
Book Concierge: I have to tell you, James, if it were not for my having made a commitment to read and comment in this discussion, I would have stopped reading. Using it in the opening for effect was fine ... jarring and disturbing, yes, but understandable. Using it so often in the first few pages was really off-putting. I participate in six (yes, 6) F2F book discussion groups and I would not be able to recommend your book to any of them. Sorry ...
Diane: I personally, have recommended this book to several people already. Yes, the use of the word cunt was excessive in the first chapter but I got it. It took a lot of grit as an author to do that because there are a lot of people that will stop reading and miss out on the point of the whole book. I do not particularly like the word but it wouldn't keep me from reading. I think the excessivness was like a slap in the face but I think that was the point and people like Jenny would grab on to something like that and use it like a mask. I am glad in subsequent chapters to was toned down so the reader could dive into the story.
Chris: I don't like obscenity as a rule. However, when it is necessary for the development of character and not done out of context with the story I don't mind it. We all hear it in daily lives and to not use it in literature would be lessening the impact it the story. I do not think it was excessive , just descriptive.
Rhonda: As shocking as the word is it was used not only to shock but also to establish character to get you right into the story.No denying that it is an extremely ugly word.Literature is not for the meek& if anyone finds something makes them uncomfortable it can lead to interesting discussions like we are having or you can choose to move on to another book.
Diane: This is the quote that most resonated with me. I really love how beautifully put this is and feel it is how I try to live my life.
"...you see a thousand faces a day yet know nothing about the people they belong to; there is an entire universe behind each one and so you must have faith in all people, you are forced to, the only other choice is to build walls around yourself and live afraid - what a fool is one who decides what is in another man's heart, what a vulgarian is one who ever presumes anything about anyone."
JB: Diane, I'm glad to hear that resonated with you. That's Clayton's father, whose worldview I found myself really admiring. What I had in mind when I was working on the book was that he and Lee have two polar opposite worldviews. His is faith. Lee's is fear. I think the novel lives in the tension between the two.
Book Concierge: I absolutely DO understand what James was going for in using the c-word. It was a brave choice and definitely fit the context and the theme of the book. We SHOULD be uncomfortable with violence in our society. But ...
It IS off-putting ... and I think there are many readers who will stop reading because of its use. That's too bad, because what James is saying in the book needs to be said and people need to read about and understand what is going on in the world.
TNBBC: Wow, so much conversation around the word "cunt". I love it! I love it for its shock value and because any book that contains multiple vulgar, crass language instantly pulls me in. (Ian McGuire's The North Water had a ridiculous amount of f-bombs in the first few pages and it was awesome!)
I do agree, James' novel says the things that needs to be said, and does so in a way that is meant to make you gasp, and then immediately reflect. It's a wake up call. He's holding a mirror to America's face and saying "we have an issue. this is an issue. it can't be allowed to continue".
Book Concierge: One thing that sort of caught me off guard was Lee's response to becoming a father. He was such a recluse and my impression was that he was mentally ill; certainly his version of reality was very different from other people's, and it seemed he had audio and visual hallucinations. Yet, he appeared to be taking care of his son adequately. We never hear any allegations that the child was not fed, or kept clean and warm. (Of course, I worry that the cycle Lee endured in his own childhood will be repeated...)
Anyway ... for me, this served to "humanize" Lee ... to make him less of a monster ... less of a "crazy man."
Bravo, James, for adding this level of complexity to your character.
JB: Thanks! I think of Lee as being motivated by the same things most of us are. One of those is keeping his child safe. Being a good father is very important to him. He wants to try and correct what he missed out on in the relationship with his own father. But also, being a good father gibes with how he sees himself, the kind of man he thinks he is. He protects his child -- that's the kind of man he is. He protects himself and his community. He takes on that burden, in his view. He's noble and heroic, in his mind. Which is what leads to the tragedy at the center of the story. So that tension between how he sees himself and how his life actually is and the effects on others is interesting and meaningful to me.
Diane: I agree, it was like he wanted to be everything for his son that his father was not for him.
Chris: I heard one time that children are a reflection of the values of their parents. Lee would give that saying some validity. His only connection to the world was a mentally sick man. He did not understand compassion, or any value that his father did not have the capability to teach. I least understood Lee's fathers character. He seemed to be drugged up and drunk. I couldn't get where he was coming from. I did not now what the mountain of trash was. Was that actually where they lived or was that what he was? If it was where they lived then it doesn't fit with the money they had. If it was a state of mind, I understand it more
JB: I hadn't heard of that book, it definitely looks interesting.
I like narratives in which we get more than one version of the same event, and I also like when we follow unexpected side characters to see the fallout of what we've seen, or the surprising reasons for what we've just seen. I think that serves empathy, which is a good thing to strive for in fiction and which we all could use larger reserves of.
Diane: Well you were successful in that matter. I enjoyed that aspect of your story. I felt it made your writing style different from the things I usually read. O have not read anything else you have written, is this technique something you incorporate in your other books?
JB: Hi Diane, I have incorporated that technique into previous books and stories, though not all of them. It is certainly something I keep returning to, form-wise. My first novel MVP is one example that comes to mind.
Diane: I will check it out soon. Thanks, it has been interesting participating in the discussion this week. I appreciate you candor and insight.
Danita L: Hello James -
I apologize for being, what may seem, late to the party. I've had one of those mind- and body-leveling colds which threatens sanity and has you hoping for another existence on a separate plane of reality.
Although I have been absent in the comments, I have been at the party, just hiding in the wings watching and reading.
Congratulations on the book! It rattled my comfortable reading pattern and except for sleep, I carried it everywhere and was not prepared for the feeling that I could not put it down when finished but actually had to return to various points and chapters. Not because I was confused on any issue but just to soak in a few of the passages and make notes.
A few of my questions were answered along the way here in our discussions but I still have a couple of items to chime in on and hope that it isn't 'too late in the day'.
I'll phrase them separately for convenience in discussion for yourself and for the other members of the group. Thanks so much for joining us. :)
Danita L: I feel that I must return to your frequent and BOLD use of the word CUNT! in the beginning pages. I realize your intent in using the word. I am not much offended by profanity as I completed a 2-year dissertation studying profanity and slang language and can sound as bad as ‘a sailor’. Nonetheless, I find this word the most offensive word in the English language. And as Book Concierge pointed out previously, I would not have persevered in reading had I not made a commitment to do so. I simply perceive those pages as being written for shock-value as neither the language nor the opponents’ extreme perception of her in this way are repeated in other places in the book except for one brief mention towards the end.
I did work through those pages, however, and was glad that I did so. Nonetheless, I need to make a few observations. As authors, we are inherently driven to write, you might say. Prior to publication, there is a need to express ourselves and thus, the act of writing can be cathartic. But then, the bottom-line is that there are two results expected by the writer upon publication. One is the hope and expectation of sales. An author lays bare their talents and emotions to the public much as a visual artist. Rejection is not wanted; positive reviews and successful sales are a prime motive.
Secondly, in writing on such a passionate subject as you have, you obviously wish to expose to the audience your views and reveal the madness beneath our gun culture. As a former bookstore owner, I know that many readers will peruse the first few pages of a book prior to purchase, whether it is a printed book or e-book. By opening in the way that you have, I feel that a very large proportion of the reading public will discard the book and not purchase or read it - thus halting not only reviews and sales but also the intent to get readers involved.
The Shooting was originally published in March, 2016 and yet from Amazon and Goodreads the number of reviews are extremely low with few ratings as well. Do you ever feel that The Shooting would have more success in all those areas, had the pages of Jenny Sander’s reflections on her opponents’ view of her come just a bit later in the book, giving the readers momentum to continue?
And should you have another printing, WOULD you consider making that change as the author's license to do so?
JB: No, I would not change what I have written to increase sales. I stand by my work.
Danita L: I had hoped you would answer my question with a 'no' regarding a change in the opening of The Shooting. The question was a 'slider' which is why I capitalized the word 'WOULD' in the wording. Although I do feel the opening will put off many individuals, it is important for authors to believe in their work with integrity. Thank you for confirming that.
I saw the title of The Shooting as not just encompassing Lee and Clayton but also that of the shooting of Michelle and the shooting of Jenny. It was ordained from the beginning that Jenny would die.
There is nothing Jenny Sanders would not do to save us. Nothing at all.
It seems that Jenny may also suffer from guilt the way many people do when they lose a loved one - as if their being at the scene might have saved the deceased - even though it is an irrational guilt. Is her enfolding of the term 'cunt' a part of her own view of herself in that irrational guilt?
And was Jenny's death at the end also a sign of that - in order to return to the arms of Michelle as a 'good mother'?
JB: Yeah, I think those are good assessments. I can agree with those.
Danita L: I live in Montana and except for a 10-15 year time frame when I lived in the Seattle area, I was born and raised here and have lived here all my life.
Montana was the final home of the 'UNaBOMber', Ted Kaczynski and also the setting for the kidnapping of Kari Swenson by the survivalists, Don and Dan Nichols. My father was a 30-year policeman during those years. And Ryan Zinke, our in-coming new Interior Secretary, campaigned for Senator on his 20 + year career as a Navy Seal Commander and won with an overwhelming victory. (As though that is a necessary trait to understanding and representation in government.)
I was raised in the presence of guns, used to shoot with such a high precision that I was considered for the US Olympic shooting team. But that was not my direction. My father was embarrassed to realize that I was a hippy loving, make peace not war, tree-hugging environmentalist, lol
Montana is definitely a gun culture state. And I grew up here. I am not a proponent of repealing the second amendment. That amendment was based on a similar British law at the time and at this time, is part of our legacy. The resistance to a direct repeal would be overwhelming. But I am however, a strong advocate of gun control, licensing, regulations and strict background checks.
The second amendment did not allow for AK-47s and 50-round 9mm Glocks. Those guns' sole purpose is to kill fellow beings. At the time the constitution was written, we were using single shot muzzle-loading musket-ball rifles. (Well, I’m off on a gun-control tear now.)
My point is that your book is an excellent portrayal of how ingrained violence is to the American people. How accepting we are of weekly “mass shootings, accidental shootings, gang shootings, police shootings” and how common they are becoming. A new book is coming out in May titled Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth by Holger Hoock. It looks directly at our revolution for independence, not the sanitized version that we are taught, the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere on his horse racing through the night ‘the British are coming’, nor the glorious stance and pristine uniform of George Washington crossing a river untouched by the brutal violence of war; but instead facing the realities of our revolution, acts that would be considered war crimes today, of torture and starvation of the British.
I know you read much history of guns and violence in America. Did you find other books that looked so far back in our beginnings as the revolution and if so, was our heritage part of the development of The Shooting?
JB: Yes, I did read a lot about the Revolution. One interesting revelation is that back then we not the gun culture we like to believe we were. When it came time to take up arms against the British, not enough people owned guns or knew how to use them. So they had to import them from France and hire Swedes to come show them how to use them. (I don't know why Swedes -- I guess back then they were the most proficient.)
Rhonda: James,thanks for this terrific open discussion.
Chris: As I mentioned before the profanity did not bother me. I was bothered by the characterization of Lee's father. I thought it too stereotypical of what people call red necks. I cannot imagine anyone not taking their child to the doctor or acting that it would toughen him up. I also can't imagine the school not dealing with it. Was that all in Lee' mind?
Danita L: When Lee confronts his father at the end of the book, he sees several photos of himself in which he did not have the eye problem. There was no swelling or oozing. Additionally, there is information showing that other remembrances of Lee's may have been false including any conceptions that we may have of the father due to Lee's false memories i.e. having pigs at their place when according to the father, they never owned any pigs.
~ Pigs are too much trouble. They root around, dig their way out, eat anything and anybody. We didn't have them. We had a dairy cow. Some chickens. No pigs.
As Lee tries to argue about this, his father chuckles and points to another picture, one of Lee poking his head out the door of the barn and grinning from ear to ear. ~ I love this one. Lee peers close at it. His face is not swollen, there is nothing oozing. His eye is completely white and healthy. Lee feels dizzy.
I even view the photograph of Lee looking out the barn door into the sunlight as being the same incident he 'remembers' as being trapped by his father in the barn and then stepping into the light thus suggesting that much of what he recalls of his father may be wrong, including the history of 'the' gun.
TNBBC: James, I want to thank you so much for hanging with us all week. It was really cool to get behind the book and uncover the influences for the novel! You were an amazing guest!!
JB: It's been a pleasure!