Landscape with Traveler: The Pillow Book of Francis Reeves is Barry Gifford’s first full-length novel. In print for the first time in fifteen years, Landscape with Traveler is written as the protagonist's diary—inspired by the first century Japanese writer Sei Shōnagon’s pillow book—and structured as three acclaimed short novels bound into one volume. The book recounts the deep friendship between a middle-aged gay man and a young straight man through vignette-like entries, all the while tracing a history of the US from the 1930s through 1970s.
Laying bare the themes that have marked his lifelong career: a winsome, beat-inspired frenzy of love, a generation-defining crossroads in American history—the novel tells an honest story of a male homosexual life.
Happy belated birthday (it was the 18th) to Barry Gifford, one of America's most enduring and inspiring storytellers—in novels from Landscape with Traveler to Wild at Heart to The Up-Down, in pioneering oral history biographies like Jack's Book, and collections of stories and poems, constantly renewing the heart and the dark side of the American dream and the American reality.
Here's a new poem by BG, printed here by permission of the author.
Blood Moon in February
Here I am wasting time again
writing poems to keep myself company—
The Chinese masters of the T'ang dynasty
thought the same, but mostly
they were rural government functionaries
or already collecting a pension,
out of favor with the emperor—
So they drank rice wine
and kept their opinions to themselves,
sneaking hidden meanings into poems
they knew only a very few people
would read during their lifetime—
Who cares about a barking dog
nobody sees, or what kind of bird
sings just before light—
Only in darkness do my thoughts
cohere, vagrant ghosts
passing in dreams, difficult
if not impossible to find again—
Perhaps there never was anything
to worry about, and now know
when the dog barks or the bird sings
there aren't any thoughts