On this spring morning, the western sun pours over a cracked window sill and a medley of unruly house plants, illuminating a series of fantastically strange gothic paintings of vaguely identifiable Midwestern icons like grain elevators and farm machinery, done by Schneider's sister Kate. Aren't they bleak?" Schneider says with a huge smile.
Schneider, diminutive and ebullient as a dance-hall pianist, eschews a venerable chair and sits on her dark wood floor and lovingly recites by heart a poem by Ted Kooser. It goes like this: