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Posts: 19
Registered: ‎07-25-2008
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Welcome from the Author

It's a delight for me to be able to talk to readers and writers in an online forum-something, I should probably add, that I've never done before.

But I've always loved talking with people in person about books and writing, either at bookstores when I'm on tour, or as a teacher, or just with friends around the table. I particularly like to talk with readers who are interested in the actual process of writing a novel-a task, as it has been said, that is like walking from Vladivostock to Gibraltar on your knees.

America America was a six-year effort for me, a long novel that started as a short story, then grew and changed. It started in my mind as a story about a boy who moves from a working class boyhood to an adulthood of education and privilege-a boy, in this case, who by dint of a gift jumps classes and then, for the rest of his life, is both grateful for and suspicious of what's happened.

I started this novel in 2001, and originally it was built entirely from this story-the story of this boy and an upper class girl and her family. Then September 11th occurred, and I stopped writing for almost two years. When I finally returned to the book, I was even more deeply interested in politics and history than I'd been before-just as most other Americans found they were; and this interest for me translated into a new character in the book-Senator Henry Bonwiller, who eventually grew to dominate the plot.

And as the book grew, I began to realize that it was two stories; the personal one, the story of a man's contemplation of class and ambition and loyalty and morality and innocence, and the political one, which in this case became his contemplation of his own complicity in a nefarious deed that was nonetheless committed at least partly in the service of right. There have been plenty of comparisons made in the press to Senator Ted Kennedy as a model for Senator Bonwiller, but in my own mind there are other political figures who mattered as much or even more: Lyndon Johnson, whose force of personality was probably the memory that triggered the invention of Henry Bonwiller; the two Roosevelt presidents, Franklin and Teddy, both of whom were large-minded progressive thinkers yet came from what is undeniably the American aristocracy; Bill Clinton, for whom a relentless and mutual magnetism for crowds became the cornerstone of a political rise; and even Huey Long, who, like many politicians, was large-minded, generous  and corrupt.

I always prefer dinner parties where there's a single conversation for everybody at the table, and that's how I'd like to think of this forum. We've just eaten the last of the dessert, the coffee cups are out, and now we're sitting back to talk about all the great things: politics, love, art, ambition, the unpredictable tragic and heroic course of life.


Learn more about America America.

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