Interview with author Clifton Barnhart

writer Clifton
is here today to share a bit about his novella, Jesse and responsibility.

Clifton Barnhart is an American writer
with two books out on Kindle. One is a novella (Jesse and responsibility) and the other is a selection of short
stories. They are written using the French “Oulipo” style in English
and some Mandarin. He is a China expert having lived in the Mainland for five
years as a student, translator, project manager and layabout. In 2010 he
received a degree in Chinese Culture and Society (Honors) and completed a
thesis comparing George Washington at Valley Forge and Mao Zedong on the Long
March. The posts on his blog are experimental fiction, essays,
thesis, an anthology of short plays, and poetry.

Welcome, Clifton. Please
tell us about your current release.
July 7th, 2012 Jesse Burke passed away. He was my dearest friend. Jesse and responsibility is the
fictionalization of our time. In 2011, I quit drinking, which made me very
sick. I knew Jesse in China as a roommate, bar buddy and Franc-o-fied-American
away from home. He married in 2011 and the month I spent in China celebrating
with him, his new wife, and our friends was the highlight of that year. His
passing was a terrible loss. We were different and depended on each other. When
I wasn’t in China we kept in touch with email and occasional phone calls. My
last words to him were, “It was meant to be.”

Excerpt from Jesse and responsibility:

Chapter Three

“Being French is a state of mind,”
the American said, night school is for winners. What?

The embassy district of Beijing is lined with
trees. Reputable people work there. Any comment I might make about this makes
me sound like a raving paranoid: yes they are xenophobic, so I really don’t
know embassy people.

“Sea shells a long ways away from the
ocean or in a desert are youth’s first vision of change. Your little leaguers
trading sand dollars for canal oysters is youth’s first trade. There has always
been barter. And there has always been Charlemagne.”
“Yes Ms. Kim…I mean, oi.”

“A frown. A legend. This is what France
is built on. Now, numbers recitation.”


“Alright. What do you want to know about

“What do women think of gamblers?”

“Ehhhhhh, your not German are you?”

“Well, no”

“Your too young.. next time numbers

When I got home Jesse was reading a British

“You know what this magazine needs?”


“Some whores.”


“Also the English seem inarticulate. When
is your mom sending another one?”

“I love you Jesse. Goodnight.”

Work was talking to Chinese people. Yelling.
But the yelling was because drills are always going.


For someone used to the sound of screws sunk
into soft drywall, a Chinese construction site is an experience.

By this time public health posters warning
against AIDS no longer had cartoon fat white men with red noses standing next
to a cartoon blonde woman in a red dress. What latent racism there was against
whites was turning capitalist. The Beijing foreigner was becoming an immigrant.
“Be a foreigner’s landlord,” read the luxury tower billboard in
Chinese script.

(End Excerpt)

What exciting story are you
working on next?
September 11th, 2014 I started writing Neidermeir’s
. It has become a series of plays in the style of Oulipo. The play’s pattern has eleven
parts with parts three and eight left out (skipped.) This pattern for
individual plays is then magnified to the series of plays with Neidermeir’s
, Neidermeir’s Revenge the Sequel, and Neidermeir’s
Revenge Number Four
making up the anthology. Neidermeir’s Revenge Number
is complete. I’m in the middle of Neidermeir’s Revenge Number Six.

next novel is called Not often with Roger.
It’s like Tuesdays with Morrie but
with more death and funnier. It will be finished and published somewhere in the
2020s. Turning my
into a book is not a priority.
When did you first consider
yourself a writer?
two years of studying Chinese I did some written translations while living in
Beijing. Translation is an art. The goal is “naturalness,” and it is
difficult. Then I had a tongue-in-cheek construction advice column for a
city-based magazine and wrote articles here and there. Afterwards I took
Critical Analysis as a philosophy class at Bakersfield’s local junior college.
That class had a profound effect on my understanding of premises and
conclusions. It was invaluable for self-editing; as a logical discipline of
cutting out what isn’t supportive. What is not cleavage should be taken out.
Good writing makes supportive statements conspicuous because it is only common
knowledge after you have said it.

got a bachelor degree in my late 20s and there were these freshman, or
freshman-types, calling themselves writers. Despite the translating, magazine
articles and a slew of written project reports I still didn’t consider myself a
writer. When the freshman-types declared themselves writers I thought,
hatefully, ‘no you aren’t.’

thesis was part of my undergraduate work and I cut it from 40 pages to 4-5
pages in the summer of 2010. Satisfied with the result, I started to consider
myself a writer. Jesse and responsibility
took five months of writing everyday. Now it is selling in England, that is a
singular thrill.
Do you write full-time? If
so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how
do you find time to write?
live in Bakersfield in my family’s old place. Writing isn’t enough to support
myself. I cook. Today it was the most delicious chili con-carne, curry
carnitas, sour cream, and salsa nachos. Yay food stamps. Shout out to the person
that Christmas gifted me a deep fryer. There is nothing like finding out if you
take corn tortillas, cut them down the middle one way, then cut them down the
middle the other way and put them in a deep fryer, tortilla chips happen.
What would you say is your
interesting writing quirk?
spell “heart,” “hart.”

As a child, what did you
want to be when you grew up?
insurance salesman, like everyone at that age.

Anything additional you
want to share with the readers?
published a selection of short stories at the same time as Jesse and responsibility. The first story, George and the White Dragon, was written 2013 in modern prose. The
following three stories were written after Jesse
and responsibility
and also in the style of Oulipo. They are fantasy and
more of a pleasure read than the novella.

Thanks for
being here today, Clifton. Happy writing!

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