Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Dedman College Research English Faculty News

Strange at home: an interview with Greg Brownderville

Vol. 1 Brooklyn

Originally Posted: Feb. 19, 2021

A Lebanese-American ferry pilot. A Chinese-American grocer. A Midwestern-born misfit with a gift for gab. A self-styled provocateur and his salon of associates.

They are among the many small-town eccentrics you meet in Fire Bones, a new multimedia series from the mind of poet Greg Brownderville. He describes the format of the series as “the world’s first-ever go-show.” Part film, part podcast, part musical performance, it’s a daring, genre-defying work of fiction designed specifically for your smartphone. If all this sounds overly conceptual, the story itself is anything but. Imagine a formally inventive take on Twin Peaks or True Detective, and you start to get the picture.

Fire Bones sends poet Greg Brownderville and filmmaker Bart Weiss—or their fictional doubles, rather—on a quest through the Arkansas Delta, hoping to taste the region’s famous homemade ice cream. Along the way they get caught up in the mystery surrounding a snake-handling preacher who pilots crop dusters across the Atlantic. Amra Boustani’s disappearance sets up a series of interviews with local residents, each with a different theory about what happened to her. Gradually, things become more surreal and less concerned with the mystery the two heroes are supposedly trying to solve. The result is a many-sided narrative with a range of tones—comic, absurd, nightmarish—and a glorious mix of high and low pleasures.

Full disclosure: Greg and I met in grad school at the University of Mississippi, and we’ve been friends ever since. Already a published poet and folklorist, he would go on to write two notable books of poetry, Gust and A Horse with Holes in It. But for all his creative energy, I had my doubts about whether he was capable of pulling off something this audacious. Boy, was I wrong. Fire Bones delivers on so many levels. The production value is sky high; the soundscapes are lusciously arranged; the interface is stylish and straightforward. All of which makes for a thoroughly bingeable experience. Now that Fire Bones is out in the world, I asked him to talk more about how it all came together. READ MORE