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Interviews | April 8, 2014 2 comments
The American Booksellers Association collects nominations from bookstores all over the country for favorite forthcoming titles. The Storied Life of... Continue »
Scott HulerDescribe your latest project.
In June 2001 I read an essay on the radio show All Things Considered in which I made the simple claim that I would forever give up trying to read James Joyce's Ulysses. But the universe is a trickster, so my public claim landed me exactly where I had promised never to be in a reading group slogging through Joyce's impenetrable modern masterpiece. But that reading group resurrected an old obsession with the book's inspiration: the ancient Greek epic The Odyssey, and with the lonely homebound journey of its Everyman hero, Odysseus.
At the time of The Odyssey, its hero is in his mid-40s; so was I. Negotiating the complex shoals of midlife, I turned to The Odyssey and found much more than I had expected: in its well-known adventures with monsters and goddesses, The Odyssey became something of a guidebook for a person facing the challenges we all face in adulthood. Before long I wanted to do more than just read about my hero. So I took a page from the playbook of Ulysses fanatics. Every year they go to Dublin on Bloomsday to celebrate the book and even retrace the steps of its characters. I thought, why not do the same, only for The Odyssey? Odysseus made a long journey, and for millennia people have speculated on the Mediterranean sites where those adventures occurred. Seeking heroic adventure before I was completely too old for it, I stuffed a backpack with clothes, guidebooks, and The Odyssey. And I headed for the wine-dark sea.
No-Man's Lands is the result.
Am I Missing Something?
Or, All That Effort, for This?
Writers are better liars than other people: true or false? Why, or not?
Describe the best breakfast of your life.
The first photo was taken about 10 years ago at my favorite diner, which has since closed: the photo is a bird's-eye shot of a waffle with margarine and syrup, two pieces of crispy bacon, a mug of coffee, and a glass of icewater. Others include a bowl of Kix with one of my oldest friends' preteen daughter; a variety of combinations of donuts, orange juice, coffee, and newspapers; a cup of coffee and a pan of birthday cake. The last one, snapped on the trip I took for this book, is another bird's-eye view: a fabulous croissant, ripe fruit, cappuccino, jam, a variety of other pastries, a book (Thackeray's Vanity Fair) and the pleasure of my own company on a breezy portico on the island of Vulcano, just north of Sicily. You can actually see this picture on my website.
Gallery owners wishing to display "The Breakfast Series" may contact me through the website.
Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
Receiving things like this, I think, is why people write books. It's perverse and ridiculous and lovely and thrilling, but it means you've taken something you love enough to have spent years wrestling it into a book, and you think you're the only one crazy enough to care so much about it, but then someone else actually responds. I think this is how it will feel when we receive the first message from some other civilization out in space we'll suddenly have that sense of gratitude, relief that, after all this, finally, we're not alone.
Fahrenheit, Celsius, or Kelvin?
Name the best television series of all time, and explain why it's the best.
In the For-All-Eternity category, what will be your final thought?
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Five Books You Might Like to Own if You Wished to Indulge in or Develop a Deep but Sporadic and Ultimately Pointless Fascination with Samuel Johnson:
Life of Johnson by James Boswell. Obviously the place to start, but the abridged Literary Guild volume is just fine; you don't need to go crazy.
Defining the World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr. Johnson's Dictionary by Henry Hitchings. The story all idiot Johnsonians really want to hear, and here it's extremely well told.
Samuel Johnson's Dictionary. Of course you want the whole thing, given that it's probably the greatest thing ever produced in English. Just the same, if you can't afford the skillion dollars or so that would set you back, you can console yourself with distillations by Jack Lynch or E. L. McAdam and George Milne.
Dr. Johnson and Mr. Savage by Richard Holmes. A thorough creation of the friendship that to Johnson scholars defines Johnson with the crazy young scribbler Savage, who committed a murder.
Samuel Johnson and the Life of Writing by Paul Fussell. Most Johnsonians are writers, and this book discusses Johnson as a writer rather than as the larger-than-life personality with which we're all familiar.
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Scott Huler is the author of three books, including the acclaimed Defining the Wind. He is a frequent NPR contributor and lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with his wife, the writer June Spence, and their son.