Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dr. Kathleen Hudson Interviews Kirpal Gordon

Round Earth, Open Sky:
Starman meets Angel Heart in a Walkabout setting

KATHLEEN HUDSON: The press kit says, “Round Earth, Open Sky is a psychological suspense thriller and Native American sci-fi road novel. That’s a whole lot of genres. Which do you think most accurately describes the book?

KIRPAL GORDON: All of them. There’s Native American healing practice, and the sci-fi hitch is that the main character, Sky Man, an immortal, tricked by human sorcery, falls out of the sky and into a dead human out in the Sonoran desert. The road novel begins when Moses, a Brooklyn photographer heading home, picks him up. Every stop they make reveals another clue to the dead man’s identity, the psychological suspense thriller being not a who-done-it but a who-be-it amidst a contradicting body of evidence which Sky Man coheres in order to make his ascent to his sky people. In other words, “E.T., phone home.”

KATHLEEN HUDSON: Reading Round Earth, Open Sky feels cinematic, but it’s more like Starman meets Angel Heart in a Walkabout setting than E.T. I recall you working on a draft of this book when I first met you on Goat Creek Road in Kerrville, Texas, in 1994.

KIRPAL GORDON: I started to write notes for the tale as far back as 1988 after an adventure on Manitoulin Island, and there were still things I had to discover while in Texas. While hiking around the Edwards Plateau along the Guadalupe River, I found traces of ancestral human settlements which intrigued me, to say the least, and got under my skin.

KATHLEEN HIDSON: Stephen-Paul Martin called it, Part mystical vision, part cosmic joke . . . moving past the vanishing point where Jack Kerouac meets Carlos Castaneda . . . leading us to laugh at what we think we know, and to humble ourselves to a world that will always be much larger than we can imagine.” Vernon Frazer wrote, “. . . a highly entertaining journey that will keep your eyes glued to the page and your fingers eager to turn it.” Eric Basso described it as “. . . a surprising, and sometimes sinister, journey . . . through the perils of obscure Native American tribal rites to the portals of metempsychosis and the magical reality behind ‘reality’ which erases past and present and, at the same time, recreates them.” Which makes the most sense to you?

KIRPAL GORDON: I’d like to think readers would find it funny and serious, surprising and sinister, entertaining and complex. As for metempsychosis, Basso said it better than I could; it’s exactly what I hope to portray. Ditto for Frazer and Martin.

KATHLEEN HUDSON: This novel is a departure for you as you’ve been writing a lot of fiction in celebration of music. I saw you last summer in Bandera, Texas, performing Ghost & Ganga: A Jazz Odyssey with boom box accompaniment.

KIRPAL GORDON: Ghost & Ganga was great fun working with blues forms a la Pops, Lady Day, Miles, Duke and Strayhorn. But the more shamanistic Round Earth, Open Sky required a cinematic eye to detail and way more patience and sitting still, then woodshedding my ass off writing draft after draft until finally all of the 10,000 story strands came together in a multiple orgasm climax. It always felt bigger than my ability to tell it, but thanks to what Sky Man would call spirit guides, I learned to get out of the way and let the tale come through. I know, as you pointed out, it resists classification by genre. My hope is that readers won’t care about any of that except a good story.

Kathleen Hudson, Ph. D., teaches in the English Department at Schreiner University in Kerrvile, Texas. Founder and executive director of the, she is also the author of Writing Songs, Telling Stories: An Album of Texas Songwriters.

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