The Bard of Stay More
An Interview with Donald Harington
Robert L. Hall
Donald Harington was strongly influenced by the summers he spent as a boy with his maternal grandparents in the Ozark Mountains in the small village of Drakes Creek. Here, he heard the old folk tales and the language of the Ozarks, before he lost his hearing at the age of twelve to meningitis.
Some years later, he wrote of a place similar to that place where he spent his childhood summers. Drakes Creek became Stay More, where the border between fantasy and reality was blurred. In his own way, he immortalized his childhood experiences, beginning with his book, Lightning Bug, the first of his Stay More novels. He has been dubbed the ‘Bard of Stay More,’ by one writer.
To say that he is an author who is deaf and has hermetically sealed himself inside his own imaginary world would be to marginalize him. I know. I have read his work. His writing does not simply describe what is, but what may be, or what might be. Take this short extract from the beginning of Chapter 1 of his latest novel, With, for example:
“She tried to run away. You’re not supposed to do that, it’s a blow to the whole idea of devotion, and she ran away not because she lost even a smidgen of the true blue faith that bound her to him forever but simply because she began to believe that he might do her greater harm than he already had, he might even do away with her.”
I admire Harington’s use of description. Here is one from a later chapter in With. It reminds me of one of Shakespeare’s poems about Winter.
It is this ethereal, floating quality about his stories that attracts Harington’s adherents and has made them fierce consumers of his work over the years.
Also, he is learned and well traveled. Although he began to write his first novel at the age of six, he decided to follow a career in art and art history because it would afford him the time to pursue his writing career as well. He taught art history in New York, New England, South Dakota and then at his alma mater, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he has been for the last seventeen years. He lives in Fayetteville with his wife, Kim.
Although his first novel, The Cherry Pit, was about Little Rock, he published many other novels—most of them set in the Ozark hamlet of his creation, Stay More, based loosely upon Drakes Creek. He also has written books about artists.
He won the Porter Prize in 1987, the Heasley Prize at Lyon College in 1998, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 1999, the Arkansas Fiction Award of Arkansas Library Association-1999, and was featured in the Winter 2002 Southern Quarterly in a 'Donald Harington Special Issue’ with tributes from fellow novelists, scholarly essays, interviews, and a selection of his forty-year correspondence with William Styron.
Can you tell us about your upcoming novel?
My latest book will be published in April by The Toby Press. It is called simply With, and advance reaction seems to indicate that it will be the best of the whole lot. It can be ordered in advance by your bookseller or at the publisher's link: www.tobypress.com.
Besides being set in Arkansas, how are your novels alike and different?
Most of them are set in modern times. No two of them resemble each other; all are distinctly different in terms of story line, plot and characterization (although some of the characters reappear). All that they have in common is their setting: Stay More, Arkansas, a mythical village now almost a ghost town, in the deepest mountains of Newton County in the Ozarks of northwest Arkansas.
most recent published novel, Thirteen Albatrosses (or Falling Off
the Mountain) (Holt, 2002), bears no resemblance at all (except part of
the setting in Stay More) to With. It is about Vernon Ingledew, first
met in The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks, and his quest for the
been writing novels since the age of six, but the first one wasn't published
until 1965, when I used my influence with my friend William Styron to get my
first (published) novel accepted. I have had seven
What is your daily writing routine like?
only advice I have for writers is to write. If you are destined to become a
writer, you can't help it. If you can help it, you aren't destined to become
a writer. The frustrations and disappointments, not
you're so good, why aint you rich?
What are your future plans for your writing?
Three Harington Classics Return this Spring....
The Cockroaches of Stay More, The Toby Press, paperback, April, 2004
The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks: A Novel, The Toby Press, paperback, April, 2004
Some Other Place. The Right Place. The Toby Press, paperback, April, 2004
© 2004, Robert L. Hall, All Rights Reserved