The conversation last night, between two Pulitzer prize winners—Adam Johnson
kept me scribbling notes while I tended bar. Yes, I volunteered to work the event.
Johnson recounted how his journalism professor would identify all of the false quotes he had created while reporting on community meetings, quotes that Johnson thought told the truth about what wasn’t being said. His professor wisely steered him toward fiction, clearly the best fit since Johnson believes that the facts don’t always get you to the truth, whereas in fiction, the narrative becomes the “meaning-making machine.”
Stiles explained how writing biographies about individuals allows him the scope to talk about the world, something that his biographies are known for—societal perspective. He has a new book about General George Armstrong Custer, Custer’s Trials, coming out Oct. 27, and it’s already generating buzz. Look for it!
But what I really, really, really, really want to talk about is this: Both Pulitzer winners explained how they seek to find the humanity in those who may be considered tyrants, murderers, or even monsters.
Finding the humanity in their subjects allows them to construct believable characters, whether it is Cornelius Vanderbilt or Kim Jong Il.
This attitude is sorely lacking in our current public discourse where we end up demonizing politicians, people who are pro or anti abortion, pro gun or anti gun, etc…..I could go on ad nauseam. I’m thinking that listening and recognizing an individual’s humanity might take some of the wind out of HATE’s sails. And that would benefit us all.
I’m scarce this week and the next month or so for two reasons:
1) We just bought a house! EEk! Double EEEK! in San Francisco!! Triple EEEEk! I think it was the 7th? house we put an offer on since May. And as I’ve said: Buying a house in San Francisco is like winning the lottery in a parallel universe. When you finally win the bidding war, you are no longer certain that you have won. In any case, we are swamped with moving “to dos.”
2) LITQUAKE!!!! Hundreds of authors, a packed schedule of events, culminating in Litcrawl on Oct. 17.
Soooo, please be patient with me…..
Oh, and here’s a link to the New York Review of Books Interview between President Obama and Marilyn Robinson. It speaks to this topic quite nicely.