How Josh Ritter, Musician and Novelist, Spends His Sundays
Josh Ritter is a prolific songwriter. And he’s no slouch as a novelist, either. His second book, “The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All,” told …
Josh Ritter is a prolific songwriter. And he’s no slouch as a novelist, either. His second book, “The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All,” told from the perspective of a 99-year-old man who is among the last of the lumberjacks in an Idaho timber town, comes out Sept. 7. His book tour will kick off the same day with a reading at Word Bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and on Oct. 8, he is scheduled to perform his music at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights.
Unlike many artists and writers who resorted to binge-watching Netflix and staring at walls during the pandemic, Mr. Ritter managed to be productive. By the time the city had locked down in early 2020, he had finished writing “The Great Glorious,” so he started a third novel, which he is still finishing.
Mr. Ritter, 44, lives in Greenpoint with his partner, Haley Tanner, 38, a novelist; their daughters, Beatrix, 8, and Moxie, 3; and Ruthie, the family’s Tennessee hound.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE Sunday is like any other day when you have two wild children. Both the girls are wild. They’re big dreamers. I get up at 5:30 or so, so I can write while they’re asleep. I write prose in the morning because it’s quieter, even though I’m a loud typer. I love to have several cups of coffee while I’m writing.
BRIEF INTERLUDE It used to be more of a bummer, having to stop writing when someone wakes up. Now I don’t mind the interruption. When things are really happening on the page, those are such sweet moments that they can’t go on forever. It’s fulfilling to have short interludes of writing. I read that Thomas Merton wrote only two hours a day, or two pages. That always made me feel like, OK, I can do that.
POP A JAY-Z When Bea gets up she’ll want to watch a sitcom. She’s really into “The Golden Girls.” I’ll walk the dog. That’s my time to listen to music, usually to mixes of whatever recording of mine I might have just gotten back. Occasionally I don’t listen to mixes. I’ve always sort of felt that songs are like medicine, or a pill, and you don’t always know what you need. Some mornings you wake up and you realize you just want to hear Jay-Z.
OR BEYONCÉ FOR THE WIN Back at the house we’re getting ready to go to the farmers’ market or doing these things we call power cleans. Everybody cleans up a space, based on their ability, while we play a single song. Moxie right now is really into “Single Ladies,” so we’ve been listening to that a lot. Before that it was Randy Travis’s “Jingle Bell Rock.” We listened to that most of June. If Moxie’s not involved in the song-choosing process we’re less effective in the cleaning.
POPSICLES AT THE PLAYGROUND We walk across the street to the farmers’ market. It’s this little area in the middle of McGolrick Park. The girls’ whole week revolves around going. You give Bea $10 and she helps buy stuff for lunch. She’s interested in the exchange. They both get gourmet Popsicles. And the playground is nearby. Moxie loves the swing but she’s not too good at doing it herself so I’ll push her, then we’ll go home for her nap.
TREASURE HUNT Unless we’re going to Dead Horse Bay. It’s an old bay Haley discovered. Way back, they used to dump horses there. It was a landfill. Now you go, and it’s a beach littered with treasures. You can find old perfume bottles from the 1920s. It’s not a relaxing place because there’s a lot of glass around, but it’s an exciting place to go treasure hunting.
A TRIPPIER PLACE Dinner is pretty early, because it’s nice to have Moxie in bed by 7:30. Bea stays up a little while longer, and that’s the time when Haley likes to read or work on whatever she’s working on. I like to write songs. I’m kind of too tired to work on prose. Songs are weirder. They require a different kind of energy. I can’t remember the exact Mark Twain quote, but it’s something like, we’re “never quite sane in the night.” In terms of going to some trippier places in your mind, night is better.
NIGHTCAP I love to go to bed early, by 10:30 if I can. It just feels like, you know, you stop being effective after a day of running around with the kids, doing stuff. Haley and I like to have a Manhattan, which I remember my grandparents used to drink. I’m the bartender. It’s a fantastic time for us to connect.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Josh Ritter on Twitter or Instagram at @JoshRitter.