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98 Dorothy Allison Renée Klorman/1998 From Off Our Backs 28.6 (1998): 1. Reprinted by permission of Renée S. Klorman, M.A. Dorothy Allison read from her new book Cavedweller on March 31 at Lammas bookstore in Washington, DC. The intimate audience, predominately women, were instantly charmed by Allison’s Southern accent. What follows is a combination of the reading at Lammas, and her interview with OOB afterwards. “Cavedweller is a novel about Delia Byrd,” began Ms. Allison, “a woman who runs off and leaves Cayro, Georgia, about 1971. She climbs on the bus of a rock band passing through. Slightly less than wonderful band. Finds adventure, hard life, drank a little too much, and goes home.” Taking with her Cissy, the daughter, the love child of a minor league imitation Jim Morrison . Delia goes back to Cayro to get her girls, Amanda and Dede. She seeks forgiveness and redemption. Clint Windsor, her husband from Cayro, has been hanging on to the hope that she would come back to him. He too is searching for redemption. He’s dying of cancer, and he promises Delia that if she will keep him safe and bury him, he’ll give her the girls. And that’s the only way she can get them, because she’s the runaway woman. So she does it. The title of the book comes—in part—from the exploration of local caves by Cissy, the daughter of the rock singer. The inspiration for the title and the symbolic metaphor of the Cavedweller is from Allison’s personal experience with caving. “I used to belong to a lesbian collective in Tallahassee, Florida.” She told the audience at Lammas. “We were profoundly butch. Actually we behaved more so than I felt. A friend of mine who was a pathology student . . . talked us into going caving in South Georgia. It was the most terrifying thing I ever did, and I loved it. Something about being that scared and completely reliant on your own body, and the women I was with.” RENÉE KLORMAN / 1998 99 Each character in the book is a little like Allison. “That’s how it works,” she stated in an interview with NPR. “You take pieces of yourself. Some pieces you hope people don’t know are like you, but that’s how it works. Sometimes it’s a little startling. The oldest daughter Amanda is kind of a driven, Baptist, fundamentalist type, and I have had those tendencies. I just did them in the feminist venue, but I was that driven and that opinionated, and that difficult.” Now that Allison has a five-and-a-half-year-old boy, a girlfriend of ten years, and a queer extended family in San Francisco, her picture of the world is different. OOB spoke with Ms. Allison after the reading to talk about these changes and her inspirations. OOB: What is your definition of radical? Allison: I don’t know if I think about it anymore. I don’t care about small categories or small words and make the distinction between what is radical and what is not. It just isn’t what I’m thinking about a lot. I’d have to shift my gears completely to start thinking in that way. I don’t think the times are radical enough (laughs) if that’s what you’re talking about. I keep being told that what I do is radical, but it doesn’t seem that way. It seems very matter of fact, going about doing what I’m doing. I keep being told I’m bourgeois. God knows I’m trying real hard but I don’t know if that works either. OOB: Do you tell your son about your characters? Allison: I make up characters for him. He’s five. I tend to make up grown women. He sees me, he doesn’t necessarily need to know some of the stories I’m doing. I made up a series of stories about the adventures of an amazing little boy named Wolf. We did that for several years until he decided that me making up stories was cheating. I was supposed to be reading things. Books were real, and mama’s stories were made up. OOB: You’re very good at showing the adult in the child. Showing a child’s mind. Allison: It’s tricky. I don’t think I was ever a child. I’m pretty clear about...


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