Goatsong: A Novel

Goatsong: A Novel

My new novel Goatsong, to be released by Fisher King Press in November 2012, began 25 years ago when, during my daily walks, I found piles of garbage near my home. At first I searched through the piles for identifying information, took recovered addresses to the sheriff’s office, and fumed when nothing appeared to happen and the dumping continued. Then one day I began to really look at what was in the piles, what people chose to throw away, and what it reflected about their lives. I started taking a notebook on my walks, “logging” the piles. One of the defining moments came when I found the following:

4 shot gun shells.
2 lotto tickets, scratched.
6 packets mustard, unopened.
2 packets mustard, squeezed and empty.
1 empty matchbook cover, “Landon White Bail Bonds.”
1 Black ball point pen with blue cap.
1 sheet Christmas card stickers, “Happy Holidays and a Heartfelt thanks from your friends at Paralyzed Veterans of America.”

Two characters were born in that moment of unexpected compassion: Dee, who raged in finding what people dumped, often cleaning the piles up, and Ester, an elderly woman who “logged” the garbage, holding the non-heroic stance that the importance of her logging was to witness.

“Cleaning it up isn’t going to help.” Ester said.
“It would damn well make the place look better!” Dee sputtered.
“Only for a while,” Ester said. “Do you think people are going to quit dumping?”
“But what will help?” I [Sophia] asked.
“Seeing what is thrown away,” Ester said.
“Umph!” Dee snorted. “We live here, this is our land. Our job is to keep it cleaned up.”
“That’ll do no good,” Ester said quietly. “It’s little different from throwing something out. Either way, it is not seen. That’s my job. Seeing it.” (Goatsong)

The community in which I lived at the time had many homeless people, and I began to take note of them too. One day I emerged from my house to catch a homeless woman (much like Dee!) picking a bouquet of flowers from my planter box by the street. She presented me with the bouquet— perhaps her gift to the inception of Goatsong!

Over time two more characters appeared, a ten year old girl Sophia and a hermit, Nelda. Finally, a couple of pygmy goats captured my heart, inspiriting Goatsong with a herd of goats that brought mischief, humor, and tragedy. As adult Sophia tells the “reader”, for this is a tale told about her tragically transformative childhood to her foster daughter Stace,

The Greeks understood “tragedy,” a word coined from tragos, “goat,” and oida, “song.” Even implied in this word is its transcendence. It is said that to know this song of tragedy is to be reborn. I was 10 years old when I first heard the Goatsong; my life has never been the same.

Goatsong is a story of transcendence and the power of love, a story about our environment and about beginning to see what we would rather not! You can pre-order Goatsong at Fisher King Press.