What is a Real Substitute For Blood?: An Interview with Patty Yumi Cottrell
Patty Yumi Cottrell’s debut novel is Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, an “anti-memoir” about Helen Moran, a thirty-two year old adopted Korean woman who has to return to Milwaukee to investigate the sudden death of her fellow adopted Korean brother. It’s a weird little stall because the lurch of Helen’s brother’s death will get you to turn the page, but there are so many things that only Helen could say that will make you want to read and re-read them and cut them out and wear them into a suit of koan-like kernels to guide you through your each and every day. Helen drops gems like “the eye is a terrible organ” or “time itself is nothing but a construction to organize and measure flesh decay.” All the while cramming into this claustrophobic home that never really felt like a home with her adoptive white parents who are disappointed when she accidentally kills all the flowers meant for her brother’s funeral. There’s a vision of a balding European man. Books on drawings of trees in the Midwest. The abyss. Chad Lambo, the grief counselor. It’s a weird and dark and funny stroll. It nods to Sheila Heti, Thomas Bernhard, and Miranda July, but is completely of Patty Yumi Cottrell’s own making. After all, in the words of Helen, “everything in the world is a palimpsest, motherfuckers!”
Without saying too much, because you’re not here to read about or from me, Barry Hannah has been the biggest writing influence in my life. I don’t write about motorcycles or The South or try to foolishly parrot his sentences. The most important thing he taught me was bravery. Be honest. Be brave. Going into 2017, I will try to keep those reminders close.
At the turn of the year, I remembered this beautiful piece written by his son, Barry ‘Po’ Hannah, shortly after Barry Hannah passed in 2010. It was originally published in the cutting-edge literary journal, Unsaid Magazine. David McLendon (Unsaid‘s major architect) and Po allowed us to republish it here.
“I don’t write under the ghost of Faulkner. I live in the same town and find his life and work inspiring, but that’s it. I have a motorcycle and tool along the country lanes. I travel at my own speed.” – Barry Hannah