Since I Laid My Burden Down by Brontez Purnell comes out today! It’s a debut novel about how one man’s early sexual and artistic escapades grow into a life, and it’s one of the most unflinching and bone-true things you’ll read all year . We asked the author one question.
Fiction Advocate: Brontez! How are you celebrating the publication of Since I Laid My Burden Down?
Brontez Purnell: Since I Laid My Burden Down is a book about loss, reconciliation, and pondering the question of “Who deserves love?”
I was dealing with a fair amount of loss in my own life when I wrote the book, and I was struggling with how to move forward, and I saw some of these themes distilled into the protagonist/antihero of the book, DeShawn. I also wanted to touch on themes of what virtue can look like filtered through what may not be a classically virtuous character. I have always maintained the DeShawn character may look illegible on paper, but if you give him the chance to explain himself, you can understand his reasoning. Synchronizing oneself with one’s own desire and intention, I think, is the forever daunting task of the artist and the human being.
I see in this book the effort to try to marry these two tasks: It’s certainly a burden and nothing to take lightly. But when you do the work, it moves the conversation of what it truly means to be a human facing extremely trying times from a task of emotional labor to a broader question of “How do these tasks return me back to myself?”
I am super nervous about the date of the release. To be honest I’m ALWAYS nervous about the date of release because with all my art I get this weird postpartum depression feeling, or maybe more accurately that feeling of a mom dropping off the kid at kindergarten for the first time and being in tears ’cause your baby has to grow up now. You release a piece of art into the world and how in a way it isn’t your baby anymore. It becomes an entity unto itself and you can no longer labor over the question of “How is this child of mine going to be seen in the world?” It will certainly be judged—good and bad, it will grow into itself, it will perhaps be misunderstood by some, and hopefully (and this is the want of all parents) one day, if conditions are right—it might actually grow wings and fly.
I hope this book will be of some importance to anyone who sees love, tragedy, failure, and emotional rebirth as all cycles in a never-ending process (not the PROBLEM, mind you, but the PROCESS) of finding out who the fuck we are.
Brontez Purnell has been publishing, performing, and curating in the Bay Area for over ten years. He is author of the cult zine Fag School, frontman for his band The Younger Lovers, and founder and choreographer of the Brontez Purnell Dance Company. His previous books include one graphic novel (with illustrator Janelle Hessig) The Cruising Diaries (Gimme Action), and a novella (Johnny Would You Love Me If My Dick Were Bigger) (Rudos and Rubes).