Christian Livermore is speaking…
“The curtains pulled back and there they all were. Behind the glass they looked to me like some get-together I couldn’t be part of, you know like when you see a bunch of guys playing basketball on the courts at sunset and you want to join in but you know you ain’t welcome.”
from ‘Gimcrack Princes’ by Christian Livermore
1. What was the first thing that you wrote that you really liked?
I’ll let you know when I’ve written it.
As we grow as artists we see how we could improve our work… Hopefully.
All that said, I’m relatively happy at the moment with the current rewrite of my novel, ‘Gimcrack Princes’.
2. Does your writing construct or deconstruct?
My writing doesn’t seek to do anything except tell a true thing.
I don’t usually know what that thing is until I’ve written about it, and I suppose the notions it depicts vary depending on what world I’m writing about. As to whether the final piece builds up such notions or tears them down, since I’m a flawed human being it probably does a little bit of both.
3. If the world was less violent, would your writing be different from what it is today?
Undoubtedly, just as everything would be – relationships, work, leisure.
Every human interaction is tainted by the violence in the world today and my writing is no different.
My writing tends to be about the emotional violence we do to each other, so if there were less of that, I reckon I’d be writing about something else. Or maybe I wouldn’t write at all. Maybe I wouldn’t be driven to.
Maybe I’d just go around smiling at everybody all day.
4. What do you refuse to ignore?
It’s more a matter of what elements refuse to let me ignore Them.
As I said before, I don’t choose themes, they choose me,
except I never know what those themes are until I’m finished, or nearly finished, with the piece. Then I say, ‘Oh yes, I meant that’…
I have noticed that everything I write turns about to be about freaks. Not in the literal sense, in the sense of the offensive word used to describe people with certain physical abnormalities who work in carnival sideshows, etc.,
but people who are outcasts, misfits, people who don’t feel they belong. I suppose that’s because that’s the way I feel.
But then maybe everybody feels that way, I don’t know. Maybe we’re all just really good at covering it up.
5. Why do you think you are a writer?
Because I can’t not be.
Whether I’m a good one or not I have no idea…
but I am a writer.
Tell us about the excerpt you’ve contributed.
It’s the opening to my novel ‘Gimcrack Princes’. It sets up the story, so hopefully it’s pretty self-explanatory.
Excerpt: Gimcrack Princes
The curtains pulled back and there they all were. Behind the glass they looked to me like some get-together I couldn’t be part of, you know like when you see a bunch of guys playing basketball on the courts at sunset and you want to join in but you know you ain’t welcome. Don’t know how I looked to them. Prolly not too good, strapped into the electric chair and sweaty and ain’t had a shower in a week.
There’s some in Godspeed would prolly say it was bound to happen. Cause the Lafontainess had always been unlucky, long as most people in Godspeed could remember, anyways. Going back years they whispered about us, and us holed up in our big old house like rabbits hiding from a hawk.
Time was, though, things was different. Real different. Older folks, folks like Fletcher’s daddy and Livvy Ann’s grandmother, remembered when Will Lafontaine, that’s my father, and his wife Emily had a big future ahead. Will’d been goin around singing in the clubs in Atlanta and Memphis, and people liked him a lot – girls, especially – and mother was young and pretty, and ‘married well’, which is what they say if you’re poor and married up and they like you. If they don’t like you, well, they say somethin else. They was about to have a baby, and everything looked to be perfect. And then there was all that money. Oh, yeah, we was rich. Rich as Croesus, granddaddy used to say.
Then things changed. Overnight. Nobody knew why. All they knew was, one day, Will walked into this dive bar on the river and started drinkin, drank till nightfall. He stayed drunk pretty much permanent then, and far as anybody knew never sang another note.
I tried to hold onto the money but I couldn’t. Only thing I did manage to keep was the big house. Us, too, for awhile. It wasn’t easy. Ain’t much work for a retard, but I found enough to keep us goin.
Stories about us went from house to house, flicked between neighbor kids like marbles: that us idiot Lafontaine kids were the way we were cause Will and Emily were really brother and sister, or that we was messed up cause of that drug they give to pregnant women in them days.
The truth was worse. There was three honest-to-God terrible things happened to my family. The last was about me, Nob Lafontaine, and it was the cause of the most famous trial in the history of Godspeed. The first two was much worse, but for a long time, only a coupla people in the world knew about em. And they weren’t tellin.
I smelled leather. I looked up. The executioner was strappin the cracked leather belt round my middle, bucklin me in. He yanked it tight and went for the ankle straps. Right leg, buckle. Left leg, buckle. I couldn’t stop looking at the top of his head. He had this blond fuzzy crew cut and a inch-long scar on the soft spot, and his head bobbin like a chicken’s while he messed with the straps. Reminded me of Lucius, my father’s old rooster. A Rhode Island Red. Used to strut around the yard and go for the ankles of neighbors when they went past. He kept cows and goats, too, penned in the side yard, long after the street stopped bein farmland and yard animals didn’t belong no more. Long as we was rich and respectable the neighbors shrugged it off, but later it was just one more thing they talked about when they talked about us. Once he started drinkin, stopped feedin the animals and they broke free and ate up all the crocuses, and shit on the neighbors’ lawns. I penned them when he died, after grandmother took Badness’s brain away. But it didn’t change nothin. Not as far as the neighbors was concerned. Didn’t really change nothin for us neither. Only Winnie changed things. This was better after she came. But then that was why I was here, wasn’t it? Things got better, and that wasn’t allowed. I knew it at the time. Should never have let it happen. Then the rest wouldn’t of happened neither. Winnie would still be alive.
And now here she was again in my head. I always fight it, but she comes anyway. First the way she was, them shiny blue eyes sparklin in her freckly face, her peachy hair, the way she laughed, throwin her head back like she meant it; then the way I found her, that night. I tried hard to think of something else, even just to concentrate on the guy strappin me in, but my eyes started burnin and then the tears come.
It’s just as well the animals are all dead. Cause who would feed em now? It’s just as well, too, that Badness is this thing now, only kinda half alive. Cause she wouldn’t notice when I was gone. Who’d walk her round the garden path? Not Lanny. Even now she’s gotta go to meetings three or four nights a week or she slips. She got no time for Badness or anything else. Not that I blame her. She got it worse than I did even. It’d have to be Teddy. He’d walk her, and wash her hair, and mash her peas and carrots together so she could eat em. But it’d tell on him. I watched him out there on the other side of the glass, but he wasn’t looking up. Good, I thought. Don’t look. Don’t have this in your head.
The executioner put them sticky white things on my head and leg. That’s how they’ll tell when I’m dead, I thought. I tried not to, but I got angry. And I said to god: Are you happy now? Bastard? Will this answer? Not for Winnie. That wasn’t me. No. Only the ugliness of finding her, I got that part.
It was for all the rest of it that I thought this might even things out for my family. I didn’t do none of it, but somebody’s got to pay, eventually. Don’t they?
The warden asked me if I had any last words. I thought for a minute, somethin was there in the back of my mind, from my old lessons. Finally I remembered, and I said it: ‘Thy will be done.’
The priest he made the sign of the cross at me, then a guard crossed hisself. I seen Livvy Ann clutching on her chair seat and lookin at the floor. I didn’t see nothin after that.
This is what happened before they killed me and after. Some of it I got from my grandfather before he died, and some of it I got from my father when he was drunk and babbling, and some of it I got from teachers and other folks when they didn’t know I was listenin. The reason I listened so much is, I was trying to figure out just why is my family like we are? Maybe you read about us in the papers when the trial happened, it was in practically every paper in Georgia, and maybe you wondered too. So if you want to know, you got to read this. Some of it I’m havin Livvy Ann tell, cause there’s parts she can tell better than me. She’s a reporter, too, down the local paper, so she knows about this stuff.
And if you think a retard is too stupid to have got it right or make any sense out of it, you’re prolly right, but all I can tell you is, if you want any chance of knowing, you got to read this, cause I’m the only one cared enough to write it down.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Place on the Globe: St Andrews, Scotland at the moment, though I was born and raised in Connecticut in the States
Where you can find Christian’s writing: My journalism has been published in places like the Savannah Morning News, but as a fiction writer I am unpublished