Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ruth Galm

Ruth Galm’s writing has appeared in the Kenyon Review Online, Indiana Review, and on Joyland: a hub for short fiction. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and has been a resident of the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming. She was born and raised in San Jose, California, spent time in New York City and Boston, and now lives in San Francisco. Into the Valley is her first novel.

Recently I asked Galm about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished Colin Winnette’s Haints Stay, which staggered me. It’s often a brutally violent book, but that was fine with me because I loved how this rash physicality and the shifting identities and protagonists unsettled me. This jarred and unsafe feeling also twines with a way the novel, for all its use of genre, lifts us out of any known world into a kind of dreamscape, or “voidscape” maybe; I deeply admired this effect. (I read an interview with Winnette after I finished and learned the term “acid Western” for the first time; now I realize I’m a sub-genre fan.) And also Winnette’s stark, recursive sentences sometimes floored me: “Things changed in town. They changed often. There was no use fighting it. What they did was, they found a way and worked it until they worked a new one.” I will seek out Winnette’s other books.

I’m now reading Rudolph Wurlizter’s The Drop Edge of Yonder and can already see I’ll want to read more of him as well. (Clearly I’m on a revisionist Western—and a Two Dollar Radio—kick.) The sentence style and tone are very different from Haints Stay, more playful and ornate in their way, but there is already the promise of the trippy and outré at play in the genre, the click of a good pace, and I’m hooked.

I’m also dipping in and out of “The Changing Light at Sandover,” a 560-page epic poem by James Merrill that I don’t even know how to describe. I had no idea who Merrill was until I read Dan Chiasson’s review of a new biography on him in The New Yorker (being woefully ignorant of and yet hungry to learn about poetry, I relish all Chiasson’s news of this world) and learned that the poet wrote this opus from decades of Ouija board sessions with his partner. That just seemed wild and lawless and endlessly artistically fascinating, and I would highly recommend the book without even being sure what exactly to say about it or whether I’m “getting” it all. I can only say that I keep tagging lines and when I finished the first volume “The Book of Ephraim,” I felt great love for Ephraim, this character-spirit who warms us and makes us wiser, and then the second volume started into heady discussions with the beyond on science and the building of souls, and it all does feel epic, provocative and frightening and emotional in altering ways.
Visit Ruth Galm's website.

--Marshal Zeringue