Here is Part 2 of my interview with Garth Stein. If you missed Part 1, read that first.
4. In How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets, you go into great detail about epilepsy, and your sister had epilepsy, which you address in your documentary, “When Your Head’s Not a Head, It’s a Nut”. How many of the details from the book mirror what your family and your sister went through? How is she doing now?
GS: “First of all, a lot of the specifics about Evan’s epilepsy for pretty straightforward in coming from my sister and my family’s background growing up. He (Evan) had Status Epilepticus which is very serious form of epilepsy where you can die from a seizure because it never stops. The medication issues that Evan experienced were the same issues the she went through as well. She’s an artist, a sculptor, and Evan is an artist as well. He was faced with the possibility of having surgery and he was very concerned about ‘What happens if I lose my creativity?’. This was an issue for her. She opted to do the surgery, whereas Evan did not. She went through it successfully. It was very difficult having the adjustment period afterwards. She has been seizure free for a long time now. She’s in good health, lives in California and still doing her art. So for all intents and purposes it was a rousing success. She was 28 when she had the surgery. Up until then she had been living at home with our parents. She couldn’t drive so she had my mother take her around, which was, at 28 years old, kind of an annoying and somewhat humiliating experience. Then suddenly she had successful brain surgery and they said ‘Here’s you drivers license, you can go’. So there was a lot of adjustment that she had to go through. But I think 20 years down the road she must have gotten over it by now,” he laughs.
5. The book itself doesn’t mark the chapters. There’s no numbers, no names, nothing. Does this signify a desire to show Evan’s journey for what it is, or am I just looking too far into it?
GS: “I gotta be honest with you…I hate numbers. I hate chapter numbers. I hate them. They make you do it. When Raven (Raven Stole the Moon) was first published they were like, ‘You have to number the chapters’ and I said ‘I’m not numbering the chapters’ they said ‘We’re paying you. You’re numbering the chapters.’” Laughs “So I numbered the chapters. Then with Evan it was published with SoHo press which is a smaller independent press. I said ‘I don’t want to number the chapters because I don’t believe in that’ and they said OK. So then with Racing (The Art of Racing in the Rain) I didn’t number the chapters, and my agents like ‘You gotta number the chapters’ I say ‘I don’t wanna number the chapters’ he says ‘Either you number the chapters or someone else is going to number the chapters’ I said ‘Ok ok ok I’ll number the chapters’. It’s this game that people play. So, no, I wouldn’t see anything as specific as ‘Oh does this reflect on Evan’s condition’. Although I kind of like that idea. I mean, who needs a number? People want numbers. And order. A serial code. Everything you get nowadays has a serial number somewhere on it. So, my new book has numbers…whatever. You know, that’s probably the first time I’ve ever been asked that question.”
Me: Really? It was one of the first things I noticed.
GS: Laughs, “Did you think that it was good?”
Me: I did. I didn’t think so much about ‘This happens in chapter 4’ as I did ‘This is what happens in this part of Evan’s life.’
GS: “It’s episodic in the sense that the book has a certain feel of ‘days go by’. We don’t number our chapters, we don’t chapter our days…but I guess we do though, don’t we? It’s all about dates. What date is this? We’re very caught up in that and I guess out of the chaos we must try to bring order.”
You can find Garth Stein’s books at any of Tulsa’s local book stores: Barnes and Noble, Borders and Gardners.
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