Before he died, my father moved from Las Vegas back to Michigan. My sister found him a one-bedroom apartment he could pay for on his Social Security. He bought a new bed, a new couch, and a new television with some of the money he had left, and my sister gave him back the things she had stored for him in her basement while he was in Las Vegas. She helped him with the new apartment—unpacking everything, setting up the telephone and utilities, etc. Our father couldn’t do a lot of these things for himself anymore, and my sister took on most of this burden.
Toward the end of his life, my father had difficulty walking. This was partly because of his weight and partly because he had developed bone spurs on his feet (which were partly caused by his weight). The bone spurs were his feet’s response to being asked to carry so much weight. His feet started making extra bone to support the extra pounds. They were the only things trying to do something about my father’s weight.
My father had different canes and walkers to help him get around, but his difficulty walking meant there were times when my father didn’t leave his apartment for days or for weeks. During these times, my father made a list of things he needed—mostly groceries—and my sister bought them, brought them back to his apartment, and put them away for him.
Right after my father moved back to Michigan, he started calling me every day, and for a while, I talked with him every day. Without the casino, he didn’t have much else to do inside his apartment besides eat and watch television.
Back in Michigan, something changed inside my father and he became really mean again. Usually, the meanness took the form of simple insults and cuts, trying to correct or undercut nearly anything I said, the kind of thing I heard and felt when I was growing up. This time around, though, my father seemed pathetic in a way that allowed me to ignore the fact that the things he said were directed at me. He mostly seemed lonely, and answering the telephone was an easy enough way to keep him company.
During these telephone calls, my father would sometimes fall asleep. It didn’t matter who was talking. Sometimes, my father would just trail off into a mutter and then I would hear him start snoring. Other times, it would seem like he was interrupting me, but then I would hear him start snoring. The funniest times were when I just heard the receiver hit the floor and then nothing but background noise.
The first few times this happened, I yelled my father’s name until he woke up. After a while, I just started hanging up on him. He usually didn’t call me back until the next day.
The voice of this book is really distinct, and surprising in that it sounds like something Michael Kimball could have written, while managing to be quite different from your previous work. I think I remember you mentioning you started into the voice almost incidentally, in the middle of a totally different project where the way of speaking that became the novel just started happening. Do you have any idea where it came from or what made that happen?
I thought Big Ray was going to be a chapter in a different novel. I had written the first three chapters of this other novel, over 100 pages, and I had a list of themed chapters I was going to write. Something compelled me to skip ahead to what was supposed to be Chapter 13, which I was just calling “Fathers.” It was one of those times as a writer where you just follow the energy, that buzz in your head. The father chapter started coming out in pieces, discrete chunks of dad, one thought leading to another thought. I felt possessed by the voice: I was just writing everything down as fast as I could and trying to stay out of its way. I could feel that voice just ripping through me, but I also felt that voice was taking me someplace new, so I just kept following it. Sometime after the chapter passed 100 pages, it became clear Big Ray was its own separate thing.
[αντίστοιχο θέμα με το Big Ray έχει και το Big Brother της Λάιονελ Σράιβερ (του Πρέπει να μιλήσουμε για τον Κέβιν) που θα κυκλοφορήσει το καλοκαίρι | πρίβιουσλι: How I Danced with the Floor Lamp ή πώς ο Κίμπολ θα σε σκοτώσει μόνο με τις απολύτως απαραίτητες λέξεις]