Godsave showcases new publication
Books and Banter is where Assistant Professor of English and Foreign Languages Dr. Bayard Godsave read from his new book “Torture Tree” on Sept. 11.
Used books filled the shelves that encompassed the walls and isles in the cramped space – the aroma of worn out pages and fresh coffee filled the room. A small table sat at the front with copies of Godsave’s book stacked upon it.
Friends, family and colleagues chatted and wandered amongst the store waiting for Godsave. Everyone gathered in the small rows of chairs that faced the direction of where he would read his words from his latest published creation.
“The book is a collection – a novella and a long short story,” Godsave said. “It’s probably, in a weird way, the most autobiographical book I’ve ever written – most autobiographical pages.”
The novella, “Torture Tree”, is about the narrator, Roman Mencoweicz, and his dissertation along with his story of his family and his sister, Merritt, who presumably disappeared in the desert outside Baghdad.
“It isn’t that Roman is anything like me,” Godsave said. “I mean, in some ways he’s a caricature of me. He has some opinions and ideas that I don’t agree with, but I can understand, I guess…but there’s a lot in Roman that I sort of see in myself.”
Godsave grew up in New York and has lived in Oklahoma for five years, but the town where he grew up, Geneseo, was an inspiration for “Torture Tree.” The ambush at the Torture Tree happened during the Revolutionary War. Two men were captured by Iroquois warriors and were forced to walk around a tree with their intestines attached until they fell dead.
“So there’s that historical thing in the middle that happened at the Torture Tree in the park – the Torture Tree Park – that’s a place that I’ve been to many times,” Godsave said. “I remember going there on a field trip basically running around in it like it was a park and not actually thinking about what happened.”
In 2000, Godsave began working on this novella for his dissertation for his PhD. He started with one scene thinking it would be a short story but soon realized it was longer than a short story. The novella was originally a part of novel that was a series of four novellas.
“One was from the perspective of each member of the family… but the other ones just weren’t working,” Godsave said. “I struggled with them and struggled with them, but I always really liked this one.”
The other portion of the book is the long short story “White Man in Hammersmith,” which is about a record producer in the island Trinidad.
Although Godsave has never produced records, his family moved to Trinidad when he was 10.
“A lot of those experiences found their way into this story [that are] autobiographical, but in the sense that it’s not telling the story of like a kid there,” Godsave said. “It’s still a lot of things I was sensing and experiencing when I was there that comes out in the stories; and, in that sense, it’s autobiographical.”
Even though the novella and the long form short story are different stories, both portions of the book refer to 9/11.
“It was interesting because the books are very much about, in part at least, Iraq and the Iraq War post Sept. 11,” Godsave said. “So I wrote that before Sept. 11 ever happened. So obviously I wasn’t thinking of the book going in that direction but, as I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, that sort of became part of it.”
Godsave said that it wasn’t intentional to have his reading at Books and Banter on Sept. 11. It just happened.
“I remember when I was asking them about what dates they had available and they said Sept. 11 and when they said it they were like, ‘That’s a date you probably don’t want,’ but I said ‘No, that kind of weirdly works, it fits,’” Godsave said.
Godsave has done three readings so far for “Torture Tree” and will read at Oklahoma Baptist University in a couple of weeks, but Godsave doesn’t have any illusions for the future of his book.
“You can just only hope that the people who do read it get something from it,” Godsave said.
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