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Josh Ritter and "Bright's Passage"

Pete Springer/OPB

Musician Josh Ritter has a way with words. The Idaho native, a celebrated songwriter and performer, had recently overcome his first serious bout of writer’s block, when he wrote a fascinating piece for Paste Magazine about his creative process:

The monster is the invisible force that decides what you write about. Some people call it “The Muse,” but I’ve never found that to be a particularly apt description for a creature so voracious. This is no gossamer-clad maiden. I don’t know much about it, but I know that it lives deep in the synaptic jungle, its tail twitching lazily, its slow-breathing bulk heaving sulfurous sighs as it waits. You have to feed the monster everything you come across, be it books, music or movies, your friends and enemies and any other shiny baubles you find strewn in your path. You shovel everything you’ve got—a long-handled snow shovel works best—into its big toothy mouth, and it chews everything up and sighs once again. It never says “thank you,” and you don’t expect any gratitude, but once in a while the monster will taste something it really enjoys. When it does, you’ll notice a slight lift of its scaly brow and a narrowing of its keyhole pupils. It doesn’t give away much, but if you know your monster, that’s all you need to see.

The monster seems well-fed right now, and the words are tumbling out. His sixth studio album, So Runs The World Away, arrived last year. And last month Ritter released Bright’s Passage, his first novel.

The book alternates between the terrifying trenches of World World I and a returned West Virginian soldier’s Appalachian wanderings. Like some of Ritter’s songs — I’m thinking of The Temptation of Adam, here — it’s part historical epic and part faith-based, poetry-laced fable.

Josh Ritter will join us for the hour to talk about music-making and book-writing, and what that monster seems to be interested in these days. He’s also bringing his guitar.

What questions do you have for him?

idaho music novel war

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