At his recent A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books appearance, Tom Spanbauer wore a purple shirt and beltless jeans. He has big feet (shod in black). His hair was a mess, surrounding a bald spot.
I’m not sure whether it was his reading or whether the prologue to In the City of Shy Hunters is very jerky and incoherent. It would have been hard not to like him in the Q&A, as he tried very hard to answer questions (there were no really peculiar ones) and exchange love with the audience. He said, “I write, I don’t talk,” but he talks earnestly and engagingly.
He said that he started City before he wrote The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon, but that it was too preachy/polemical. He tested positive before writing Man. Then, after its success, he got AIDS in the middle of writing City, which delayed completion. Finally, he had a 1,300 page manuscript that no one wanted to look at. He cut it down to 850 manuscript pages. He mentions that the editor took out a lot of the wisdom brothers from Moon, and he regrets the loss, but that this time he made the cuts himself and doesn’t yet know about the final product.
He grew up on a farm near Pocatello, Idaho (where he was born in 1946), adjacent to an Indian reservation. The book he just pitched is about growing up with Indian and Latino workers and the racism in which he was indoctrinated. He spent two years in Kenya for the Peace Corp and then began to realize how badly Native Americans were treated.
“Father is always an issue for me.”
Spanbauer has lived in Portland since 1988. Someone asked if he was going to write something set there. He says he likes Portland, it rains a lot, so it’s a city of readers and coffee drinkers, but not that interesting, or at least nothing sufficiently interesting to write about happens to him there.
He quipped that Mormons don’t read, so he doesn’t need to fear Mormon reaction.
24 July 2001
©2001, 2016, Stephen O. Murray