April 25, 1952 |
Gainesville, Florida, United States
|Occupation||novelist, short story writer|
|Notable works||Edisto (1984)|
Military brats have this toughness: they're almost like orphans or foster children; they develop little mechanisms. It sets you up to look at things a little differently.
I was a commercial roofer before this, until about age thirty. I will not work others under me and do not want to work under others.
I think William Trevor is as good as it gets. Whenever I want a book to do exactly what it says it will, I read him.
Writing books is a nice retreat. There's nothing quite like diving into a book for a few hours. That is a big time vacation.
I was always the new kid, and I got to know the language and the politics of being on the outside, looking in. Never being in the clique – always being a student of the clique, a subversive, and I could look around and identify the other guys who were excluded.
All this is rather pretentious and fey to even talk about, but Flannery O'Connor sat down to write stories. The rest of us, some of us, don't have that kind of wit and genius. We don't do that. We sit down and have some accidents.
As a boy, I was a member of a club run by the famous reptile showman Ross Allen, and the club sent its members pseudoscientific papers mimeographed on construction paper with a three-hole punch.
Travel writing is harrowing. You are in paradise, more or less, having to prove it is paradise. It is hard to have a good time trying to figure out a way to say you are having a good time, whether you are having it or not, even in paradise.
Many parks in Florida have information kiosks with colorful enamel signs showing the special flora and fauna in the park. The gopher tortoise, the scrub jay, the indigo snake. At no park with an indigo snake on its kiosk signs could I find an indigo.
I've sat down and written with a more or less supportable or insupportable idea or thing to say, and it ends. When it's not 200 pages, people want to call it a story. I guess they're entitled to do that. In my view, if it were a supportable idea, it would have gone 200 pages, and it didn't.
I don't write anything if I'm not agreeable and liking it. I'm not one of these slavers who wads up paper. It comes or it doesn't.
I've had an addiction for a long time to the whole business of maximizing one's potential, what I call human activation. The vehicle for actualizing oneself is choice, options, seeking out the proper choices.
I associate the truest spirit of Christmas with certain years when I had to spend it at my parents' house as an adult who had, presumably, escaped.
Christmas is the season I use to clock failure in life. It stops time, as it were, on the year – where you are in it, where you are in your travail unto the grave.
I don't write with a scheme or a plan. I write word to word, so whatever that first sentence is, having said that, one more or less had to say what comes next and next and next. Guilty of no cogitation or forethought.
Every other year, I was the new boy. I found that the only way to survive was to embrace it, make a little fortress on the outside and to pretend to blend in but not to invest too much because you'll be somewhere else next year.
It's hard to say conversation has become a minimal thing, because look at the rise of mobile communications in the last 10 years. It used to be only the president had a mobile phone. Now everyone on earth, even if they have nothing else, they have a cell phone.
I am writing a book more improbable than 'The Interrogative Mood' that I call 'Manifesto'. It's two guys talking who speak artificially conveniently.
Bermuda is not even tropical. The charm of the tropics – the heat, the chaos – is not there.
I know about the sweet home. I went to school with 'em boys, what became Lynyrd Skynyrd; I knew Allen Collins, the skinny girl-beautiful guitarist. I put Allen Collins in every travel piece I do. Travel writing is harrowing, going to Bermuda with a banjo on my knee.
At every Christmas, I fail to remember the daughters' shoe sizes, and they are not growing, but grown. After ostensible hard thought about who needs what, I have failed to give good gifts; I have failed to receive good gifts.
I met Donald Barthelme when I was 30, and it's fair to say that before that moment, I was pre-modern, and after I met him, I was nudged rather forcefully towards this other end of the spectrum.
If you're going to write a book that might, in its very best accidental career, sell 30,000 copies, you've got to have a day job.
If I slip up and receive a good gift, I will not have given a good gift. This is probably a natural law that affects us all and needs a name. The Gift Reciprocal Law.
I sat down and wrote, 'Are your emotions pure? Are they the stuff of heroes or the alloyed mess of the beaten? How do you stand in relation to the potato?' And it was a lot of fun, and I kept going and woke up at some point in some horror that I had about 142 pages of this.
I stuff animals I find; I do roadkill. They're strangely fun to have. They're like easy-to-control pets.
They got into fact checking at the 'Paris Review,' and it was mortifying. There was a wrangle about Hemingway's lost stories that nearly killed me. It turns out he didn't lose those stories. They weren't stolen from the platform.