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Powell's Q&A

Eric Hansen

Describe your latest project.
The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer is a collection of off-beat non-fiction stories gleaned from the last thirty years of travelling to the far ends of the earth. Part memoir, part travel lit, but mostly about random meetings with strangers and unexpected experiences that have helped to give my life shape...and meaning. The book has been described as an assortment of memories polished by time. I like the sound of that. The book is the result of digging into my past in an archeological sort of way. Sifting through rubble, and sediment to uncover my past and its meaning (one of the great luxuries of being a writer). In a way these nine stories are what I think of as some of the significant building blocks which have made me the person and the writer that I am today.

  1. The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer: Close Encounters with Strangers
    $10.95 Used Hardcover add to wishlist

  2. Tracks (Vintage Departures)
    $12.95 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist

  3. Waiting for the Barbarians
    $6.50 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist

Writers are better liars than other people: true or false?
I think this all depends on a writer's skill at self deception. On the wall of my office I have a favorite quote by John Steinbeck. It reads: "The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty." I agree with this, but there are times when "truth of fact" and "truth of feeling" come into conflict. Good writing often favors truth of feeling. This defines the line between the craft of journalism and the fine art of writing and story telling.

What is your favorite sentence from another writer?
"Life is too short for dress rehersals."
— Robyn Davidson in Tracks

How did the last good book end up in your hands?
Waiting for the Barbarians, by J. M. Coetzee. Recommended by Leyla, the English Lit major/stripper/lap dancer/student of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas/devoted mother/new friend that I write about in Bird Man and the Lap Dancer.

What was the best breakfast of your life?
Well, the worst breakfast, or at least the most challenging one of my life, was a bowl of steaming bee larvae soup, served by a family of nomadic hunters and gatherers deep in the Borneo rainforest. At least the larvae was dead before I put them in my mouth. The taste was similar to scrambled eggs, but I had a problem with the presentation.

One of the best breakfasts was served at Les Deux Magots on Blvd. St Germain in Paris: Early Spring morning... slanting sunlight shining through a sprinkling of rain. Wet cobble stones reflecting the sun light. Fresh orange juice, cafe au lait... and two perfectly toasted and buttered oblong slices of pain Poilane topped with grilled and melted rounds of aged goat cheese. I can still taste it. A perfect way to start the day.

Why do you write?
Writing forces me to go deep within myself, to search for layers of meaning on a daily basis. To create beginnings, middles and ends from chaos. I am probably best known for my travel writing about journeys to far off places, but what I have finally come to realize is that one of the most interesting places on earth is my mind and where it takes me when I let it wander. spacer

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