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On the Same Page with Tony Early

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Tony Earley talks with Kane Webb about his latest book, The Blue Star. Webb interviewed Earley on location at the Butler Center in the Central Arkansas Library Systems downtown library during the Arkansas Literary Festival.

Following the interview, Mary Ruth Marrotte, assistant professor of English at the University of Central Arkansas, and Kevin Brockmeier, author of The View from the Seventh Layer and The Brief History of the Dead, discuss the book.

Transcript

AUTHOR TONY EARLEY FIRST INTRODUCED US TO. 

JIM GLASS:  THE PRO KOSHIOUS TEN YEAR OLD FROM -- PRECOCIOUS TEN YEAR OLD FROM NORTH CAROLINA IN JIM THE BOY AND NOW HE'S BACK ON THE SECOND BOOK ON JIM IN ALICEVILLE. I CAUGHT UP WITH HIM AT THE ARKANSAS LITERARY FESTIVAL WE HAD THAT INTERVIEW AND A PANEL DISCUSSION ON THIS EPISODE OF "ON THE SAME PAGE".  [MUSIC]   . 

WE'RE ARKANSAS LITERARY FESTIVAL IN LITTLE ROCK AND WE ARE INTERVIEWING TONY EARLEY, THE AUTHOR OF JIM THE BOY. AND THE BLUE STAR AS WELL AS A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES CALLED HERE WE ARE IN PARADISE AND A NON-FICTION COLLECTION CALLED SOMEHOW FORM A FAMILY. STORIES THAT ARE MOSTLY STRU WHICH IS A GREAT TITLE. BUT MOSTLY WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE BLUE STAR WHICH IS HIS LATEST SEQUEL TO JIM THE BOY. TONY, THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY. I APPRECIATE IT. 

TONY EARLEY:  I'M GLAD TO BE HERE. 

KANE WEBB:  BEFORE WE GET STARTED WITH THE PWOOSHTION, I WANT YOU -- BOOKS I WANT YOU IF YOU COULD TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND, YOURSELF WHERE YOU'RE FROM AND HOW YOU STARTED AS A WRITER. 

TONY EARLEY:  I'M FROM A SMALL TOWN IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA I WANTED TO A WRITER SINCE I WAS IN THE SECOND GRAD GRADE. THE ONLY AMBITION I EVER HAD I'M GLAD IT WORKED OUT. 

KANE WEBB:  WHERE ARE YOU LIVING NOW AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING. 

TONY EARLEY:  I LIVE IN NASHVILLE AND TEACH CREATIVE WRITING IN VANDERBILT. 

KANE WEBB:  IN YOUR SPARE TIME YOU WRITE NOVELS. 

TONY EARLEY:  YES. 

KANE WEBB:  WE PICK UP WITH THE CHARACTER JIM THE BOY. HE WAS TEN IN THE FIRST BOOK. HE'S NOW 17. 

TONY EARLEY:  RIGHT. 

KANE WEBB:  SET IN WORLD WAR II. AT THE -- THE EMERGENCE OF WORLD WAR II. IN A SMALL TOWN IN NORTH CAROLINA CALLED ALICEVILLE. WHY DID YOU GO BACK TO JIM. AND HOW WAS THAT TO PICK UP ON HIM AGAIN AFTER A FEW YEARS? 

TONY EARLEY:  WELL, AFTER JIM THE BOY CAME OUT, I REALLY DIDN'T WANT TO GO BACK TO ALIC ALICEVILLE AND I DIDN'T WANT TO WRITE ANY MORE ABOUT JIM. SO I STARTED SOMETHING THAT WAS I HOPED WAS GOING TO BE VERY POST MODERN AND VERY SMART. AND HIP. BUT DIDN'T WORK OUT. AND SO EVENTUALLY I DECIDED, WELL, I'LL GO BACK TO ALICEVILLE AND SEE WHAT HAPPEN HAPPENS. I SABOTAGED MY CAREER LONG ENOUGH. 

KANE WEBB:  WAS IT EASY ENOUGH TO GET BACK TO THE CHARACTER? 

TONY EARLEY:  IT WAS LIKE I HAD NEVER LEFT REALLY. ONCE I DECIDED THAT IT WAS OKAY TO GO BACK TO ALICEVILLE. AND IT BECAME -- IT CAME MUCH MORE EASILY THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD. 

KANE WEBB:  JIM THE BOY CAME OUT IN 2000. SO WE HAVE AN EIGHT YEAR GAP. EXACTLY THE GAP IN THE AGE OF YOUNG MAN. 

TONY EARLEY:  EASILY IS A RELEVANT TERM BECAUSE I APPARENTLY DO WRITE EXTREMELY SLOWLY AND WHEN I STARTED THE BLUE STAR, I DIDN'T KNOW I WOULD BE WRITING IT IN REAL TIME. SO HE'S TEN IN THE FIRST BOOK. 17 IN THE SECOND. IT TOOK ME ABOUT SEVEN YEARS TO WRITE IT. 

KANE WEBB:  WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY WRITE IN REAL TIME. 

TONY EARLEY:  I WROTE IT PARENTALLY THE EXACT SAME PACE HE WAS LIVING IT. 

KANE WEBB:  I DID IT BACKWARDS I READ THE BLUE STAR AND WENT BACK AND READ JIM THE BOY. AND FOUND THAT'S FINE FOR A READER. YOU WROTE THESE AS STAND ALONE BOOKS EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE THE SAME CHARACTER IS THAT CORRECT. 

TONY EARLEY:  RIGHT. I THINK IDEALLY IT WOULD BE READ IN ORDER BUT EACH DOES STAND ON ITS OWN. AT LEAST I HOPE IT DOES. 

KANE WEBB:  I CALLED THIS A SEQUEL. BUT YOU'RE PROBABLY GOING TO WRITE -- REVISIT THESE CHARACTERS DOWN THE LINE IS THAT RIGHT? IF WE ASK FOR MORE. 

TONY EARLEY:  I'M STARTING THE THIRD ONE ANY DAY NOW. 

KANE WEBB:  BUT NOT YET. 

TONY EARLEY:  WELL, I'VE GOT TO WAY UNTIL SCHOOL IS OUT. 

KANE WEBB:  WHERE DID YOU SEE JIM GLASS COME FROM? IS HE PARTLY YOU? IS HE SOMEONE YOU KNEW? IS HE SOMEONE YOU WISHED YOU WERE? 

TONY EARLEY:  WELL, THERE'S -- I HONESTLY DON'T THINK THERE'S SUCH THING AS PURE IMAGINATION. EVERY FICTIONAL CHARACTER COMES FROM WHAT A WRITER KNOWS ABOUT THE WORLD AND KNOWS ABOUT PEOPLE. SO THERE ARE ELEMENTS OF MY PERSONALITY IN JIM. PROBABLY MANY I'M NOT EVEN AWARE OF. BUT CERTAINLY VERY LITTLE THAT HAPPENS TO HIM HAS HAPPENED TO ME. 

KANE WEBB:  JIM THE BOY WAS SET IN THE DEPRESSION. 

TONY EARLEY:  RIGHT. 

KANE WEBB:  THIS ONE WE'RE ON THE CUSP OF WORLD WAR II JUST BEFORE PEARL HARBOR WHEN I READ THE BOOKS IT FELT LIKE IT WAS A BOOK WRITTEN IN THAT ERA, NOT JUST ABOUT THAT ERA. IT JUST HAD A FEEL TO IT, A SOUND TO IT, A TENOR TO IT. HOW DO YOU GO BACK AND GET THA THAT? DID IT COME NATURALLY OR DID YOU, YOU KNOW -- 

TONY EARLEY:  WELL, I DON'T KNOW ABOUT NATURAL. BUT IT IS CERTAINLY INTENTIONAL. I'M TRYING TO TAKE SOME OF THE CONVENTIONS OF LITERATURE FROM THAT AREA -- ERA AND CHILDREN'S LITERATURE FROM THAT AREA AND WRITE A BOOK THAT'S OBVIOUSLY COMING OUT IN CONTEMPORARY TIMES. FOR THAT REASON I THINK THEY ARE A LITTLE ODD IN THAT THE SORT OF ODDNESS IS WHAT I WAS TRYING TO GO FOR. 

KANE WEBB:  YOU'VE CALLED THIS IN ANOTHER INTERVIEW A CHILDREN'S BOOK WRITTEN FOR ADULTS. 

TONY EARLEY:  RIGHT. 

KANE WEBB:  WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT? 

TONY EARLEY:  WELL, I TOOK SORT OF THE CLASSIC CHILDREN'S LITERATURE TOOLBOX. AND TRIED TO USE THOSE TOOLS. AND NOT USE ANY FROM SORT OF THE MORE CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN FICTION TOOLBOX. I MEAN IT'S COMPLETELY UNIRONI UNIRONIC. AND VERY SIMPLE LANGUAGE. VERY SIMPLE SENTENCES. I TRIED TO USE THOSE TOOLS TO TELL A COMPLICATED STORY. 

KANE WEBB:  I'VE HEARD THAT YOU SAID WHEN YOU WRITE IT SIMPLY LIKE THAT OR IT WAS SIMPLE, A STORY LINE, THAT THE MACHINERY OF ADVANCING A STORY IS TOUGH TO DO BECAUSE YOU HAVE NOWHERE TO HIDE IT. I THINK THAT'S HOW YOU PUT IT. 

TONY EARLEY:  WELL, THERE'S A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF BUSINESS THAT HAS TO BE DONE IN EVERY PIECE OF FICTION AS FAR AS ADVANCING A PLOT, MOVING A NARRATIVE ALONG, CONSTRUCTING SCENES. AND WITH NO ORNATE LANGUAGE IT'S EASIER TO HIDE THE MACHINERY THERE'S A LOT OF WORDS TO HIDE IT BEHIND. BUT WITHOUT THAT MORE ORNATE LANGUAGE, IT GETS A LITTLE TRICKY TECHNICALLY. 

KANE WEBB:  THE BOOKS ARE SET IN ALICEVILLE NORTH CAROLINA. 

TONY EARLEY:  RIGHT. 

KANE WEBB:  IS THERE SUCH A PLACE OR IS THAT YOUR IN THE COUNTY. 

TONY EARLEY:  ALICEVILLE IS A FICTIONAL PLACE BUT DOES BEAR A STRIKING EXISTENCE TO A SMALL TOWN IN MY COMMUNITY CALLED ELLENBORO NORTH CAROLINA. 

KANE WEBB:  WHEN YOU GO BACK TO ALICEVILLE AS YOU DID AFTER EIGHT YEARS, HOW HARD IS IT TO RECAPTURE THE PLACE? I KNOW YOU HAD TO RECAPTURE JI JIM. BUT HOW HARD IS IT TO KIND OF GO BACK TO ALICEVILLE AND 1940 1940S? DOES THAT COME BACK NATURALLY TO YOU. 

TONY EARLEY:  THE PLACE IS PROBABLY THE EASIEST PART AND THIS SOUNDS REALLY I MEAN WEIRD TO SAY. BUT I -- I HAVE MEMORIES IN MY HEAD OF -- VISUAL MEMORIES OF A FICTIONAL PLACE THAT AS I WRITE IT, I CAN SEE IT. AND I KIND OF CONVINCE -- COMMIT WHAT I SEE TO MEMORY. 

KANE WEBB:  THE BLUE STAR IS THE SECOND IN A SERIES OF HOW MANY -- HOW OFTEN DO YOU THINK YOU'VE GONE BACK. 

TONY EARLEY:  RIGHT NOW I'M LOOKING AT FIVE. 

KANE WEBB:  THESE CHARACTERS CAME FROM SHORT STORIES ORIGINALLY, CORRECT. 

TONY EARLEY:  CORRECT. 

KANE WEBB:  WHEN YOU WROTE THOSE SHORT STORIES, DID YOU THINK THAT YOU WOULD REVISIT THEM LATER AT BOOK LENGTH OR DID YOU JUST COVER EACH OF CHARACTERS. 

TONY EARLEY:  I DIDN'T EVEN REALLY THINK I WOULD REVISIT THEM IN A SHORT STORY. I WROTE ONE 13 PAGE SHORT STORY IN THE 13 PAGES I DID A LOT OF BAD THINGS TO THESE PEOPLE I'M STUCK WITH 20 YEARS LATER UNFORTUNATELY IN THE SHORT STORY I SAID SOME OF THESE PEOPLE NEVER MARRIED AND NEVER WERE ABLE TO BECOME HAPPY. 

KANE WEBB:  JIM'S UNCLE. 

TONY EARLEY:  GOSH I WISH I WOULDN'T HAVE DONE THAT. WHY COULDN'T I HAVE. BUT I'M STUCK. 

KANE WEBB:  YOU CAN'T DEVIATE FROM IT TOO MUCH. 

TONY EARLEY:  WHEN IT'S ALL OVER I WOULD LIKE EVERYBODY TO BE -- FOR THERE NOT TO BE MAJOR PLOT CONTRADICTIONS STUFF LIKE THAT. 

KANE WEBB:  ARE YOU GOING TO PURSUE JIM AND HIS CHARACTERS OR DO YOU SEE YOURSELF WRITING SOME OTHER WORKS IN BETWEEN, SOME MORE SHORT STORIES? OR SOME NON-FICTION. 

TONY EARLEY:  TYPICALLY WHAT HAPPENS IS I START A BOOK. A NOVEL. I WRITE THE FIRST SECTION. GET SORT OF LOST. AND WRITE SOME SHORT STORIES WHILE I'M LOST AND THEN GO BACK TO THE NOVEL. I NEED ABOUT THREE MORE SHORT STORIES FOR ANOTHER COLLECTION. 

KANE WEBB:  HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE THE BLUE STA STAR? 

TONY EARLEY:  WELL, AFTER I GAVE UP ON THE OTHER THINGS, PROBABLY FIVE YEARS. 

KANE WEBB:  TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE WRITING PROCESS FOR YOU. AND I KNOW YOU TEACH. SO YOU DON'T HAVE TIME EVERY DAY TO GO TO THE COMPUTER. I IMAGINE. BUT WHAT IS IT LIKE FOR TONY EARLEY TO WRITE A BOOK OR A SHORT STORY? 

TONY EARLEY:  JUST SORT OF LONG PERIODS OF SELF LOATHING. [LAUGHTER.] 

TONY EARLEY:  FOLLOWED BY INTERMITTENTLY BY SHORT PERIODS OF TYPING. 

KANE WEBB:  KEVIN BROCKMEIER WHO WE INTERVIEWED HERE LAST YEAR AND I KNOW YOU KNOW HE SAID WHEN HE WRITES, HE WRITES ONE SENTENCE. AND WILL NOT GO TO THE NEXT SENTENCE UNTIL THE FIRST ONE IS PERFECT IN HIS MIND. NOW, OTHERS -- OTHER WRITERS JUST GET DOWN A FIRST DRAFT AND THEN GO BACK AND POLISH AND POLISH AND POLISH. WHERE ARE YOU IN THAT REALM. 

TONY EARLEY:  I'M MORE IN THE BROCKMEIER SCHOOL. 

KANE WEBB:  ONE AT A TIME ONE PAINFUL SENTENCE AT A TIME. 

TONY EARLEY:  I WRITE A SENTENCE AND THEN I REVISE IT. AND THEN I WRITE THE SECOND SENTENCE AND THEN I GO ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE FIRST SENTENCE AND REVISE THE SECOND SENTENCE THEN WRITE THE THIRD SENTENCE THEN GO TO THE TOP AND COME BACK AGAIN. 

KANE WEBB:  WHAT'S A GOOD DAY OF WRITING FOR YOU, HOW MANY WORDS? 

TONY EARLEY:  THREE PAGES WOULD BE PRETTY EXTRAORDINARY. 

KANE WEBB:  YOU ALSO CONTRIBUTED TO THE OXFORD AMERICAN BEFORE YOU GOT STARTED WITH JIM THE BOY, JIM GLASS BACK IN THE '90S. 

TONY EARLEY:  YEAH THE OXFORD AMERICAN WE KIND OF STARTED OUT TOGETHER. WE HAD A LOT IN COMMON. I DIDN'T HAVE ANY MONEY. THEY DIDN'T, EITHER. 

KANE WEBB:  TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHEN YOU WERE NAMED ONE OF GRANDPA'S BEST YOUNG NOVELIST IN THE UNITED STATES. AND HOW DID THAT KIND OF CHANGE YOUR CAREER A LITTLE BIT. 

TONY EARLEY:  WELL IT DID ULTIMATELY CHANGE MY CAREER IN THE LONG TERM. IT SORT OF OPENED A LOT OF DOORS FOR ME. BUT INITIALLY IT MADE IT MUCH HARDER TO WRITE. BECAUSE THEY SAID THAT I WAS ONE OF THE BEST YOUNG AMERICAN NOVELISTS AND I HAD NEVER FINISHED A NOVEL. 

KANE WEBB:  HOW DID THAT HAPPEN. 

TONY EARLEY:  YOU WOULD HAVE TO ASK HIM. IT REALLY DOESN'T MAKE IT MUCH -- MUCH SENSE. 

KANE WEBB:  THIS IS BEFORE JIM THE BOY CAME OUT. 

TONY EARLEY:  EVERY NEWSPAPER ABOUT THE LIST I GOT MY OWN LITTLE PARAGRAPH THAT I HAD IN FACT NEVER WRITTEN A NOVEL. BUT JUST TAKING THAT INTO MY OFFICE, I'M SUPPOSED TO BE ONE OF THE 20 BEST YOUNG AMERICAN WRITERS. AND I WOULD TYPE A SENTENCE AND LOOK AT IT AND THINK WELL THAT'S NOT ONE OF THE 20 BEST SENTENCES IN AMERICA. IT WAS SOFT CRYPTING FOR A WHILE. 

KANE WEBB:  BUT IT -- DID IT NOT LEAD TO THE JOB AT VANDERBILT. 

TONY EARLEY:  IT DID. IT LED ONLY TO GOOD THINGS. 

KANE WEBB:  YEAH. THERE WAS A JUST AN ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL REVIEW OF YOUR BOOK IN THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, SCOTT TUROW, THE AUTHOR WROTE THAT. AND IN IT HE POSITS THAT POST 9-11 THAT AMERICAN READERS ARE INTERESTED -- HE PUTS IT WE ARE INTERESTED IN SIMPLE TALES WITH GOOD PEOPLE AND YOUR BOOK QUALIFIES. DO YOU THINK HE'S ONTO SOMETHING THERE. DO YOU THINK THAT'S ACCURATE. 

TONY EARLEY:  YOU KNOW, I REALLY DON'T HAVE ANY SENSE OF THAT KIND OF BIG PICTURE ABOUT WHAT IS IT THAT THE AMERICAN PUBLIC WANTS FROM A BOOK. BUT YOU KNOW, I KNOW WHAT I WANT FROM A BOOK. AND INCREASINGLY I COME TO THINK THAT OUR FICTION DOESN'T ACCURATELY EXPRESS OUR WORLD'S WAY THAT IT IS. I THINK THAT IN OUR FICTION, I MEAN, GOD KNOWS TERRIBLE THINGS IN THE WORLD. BUT I THINK A MUCH HIGHER PERCENTAGE OF TERRIBLE THINGS HAPPEN IN OUR FICTION THAN ACTUALLY HAPPEN. I HAVE TO THINK THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE TRY TO DO THE RIGHT THING MOST OF THE TIME. THEY GET UP IN THE MORNING. AND THEY GO TO WORK. AND THEY DO THE BEST THEY CAN GIVEN WHATEVER HUMAN FRAILITYS THAT YOU HAVE. SO I'M INTERESTED IN WRITING ABOUT THOSE PEOPLE. I MEAN, TO WATCH TELEVISION, YOU WOULD THINK THAT ALL OF US ARE IN MORAL DANGER OF SOME SERIAL KILLERS. AND IN A BAD YEAR HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU THINK DIE IN AMERICA FROM SERIAL KILLERS? SAY 15,000 AMERICANS A YEAR DIE FROM FLU AND MORE THAN THAT FROM CAR ACCIDENTS. WE'RE NOT OBSESSED BY THAT. 

KANE WEBB:  IN TALKING WITH -- WE'RE TALKING WITH TONY EARLEY WHO IS THE AUTHOR OF THE BLUE STAR AND JIM THE BOY. AND TONY, YOU SAID NEXT IS A BOOK OF SHORT STORIES, A COLLECTION OF THAT. AND THEN POSSIBLY THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF THE JIM GLASS SAGA. 

TONY EARLEY:  I'M STARTING THE NEXT. .

JIM GLASS: 

JIM GLASS:  BOOK. THEN -- JIM GLASS BOOK. I WOULD WRITE SHORT STORIES. I IMAGINE THE SHORT STORIES WILL FINISH BEFORE THE BOOK. 

KANE WEBB:  WE LOOK FORWARD TO THAT BEFORE WE GO WE'RE GOING TO READ A SECTION OF THE BLUE STAR FOR US. I THINK I'VE MARKED SOMETHING HERE. 

TONY EARLEY:  IN THIS PASSAGE A MINOR CHARACTER HAS COME HOME IN AN UNEXPECTED WAY FROM PEARL HARBOR AND JIM AND HIS UNCLE HAVE BEEN ASKED TO UNLOAD THIS BOY'S COFFIN OFF OF THE TRAIN.   BUT THE HEAD OF BELL BEGAN TO RACE GREATLY IN THE DARKNESS. JIM HAD DETERMINED STEAM AND ANOTHER AND THE WHEELS OF THE ENGINE BEGAN TO FLOW AGAINST THE RAILS. AS EACH CAR BEGAN TO MOVE, IT HAD A HEAVY CLANK WITH THE STATIONARY CAR BEHIND IT GROA GROANING INTO RELUCTANT MOTION. THE SOUND OF THE INDIVIDUAL CUFFLINKS GALLOPING TOGETHER WITH THE ENGINE CAR TO CAR TO CAR TO CAR GROWING LOUDER AS IT APPROACHED THE POSITION ON THE PLATFORM AND SOFTER AS IT RUN AWAY. IN A SECOND OR TWO IT RAN INTO THE DARKNESS OF THE TRAIN. THEN THE BOX CARS WERE MOVING SMOOTHLY GAINING SPEED BRACKE BRACKETED BY THIN SLASHES OF DARKNESS. THE BRIGHTLY LIT CAN A BOOS LEFT THEM -- IN AN EXPOSED UNEXPECTED QUIET. AS IT DREW ABREAST THE MAN WITH THE LARN TERN HE NODDED TOWARD THEM AND TIPPED HIS CAP AND STEPPED BRIMLY ON THE STEPS OF THE CAR. HE WALKED IN THE DOOR AND CLOSED IT BEHIND HIM. JIM WATCHED THE DOORWAY UNTIL IT PASSED OUT OF SIGHT AROUND THE BEND AND THEN THE TRAIN WAS GONE. HE STOOD WITH HIS UNCLE IN THE STARLIT ON THE PLATFORM. WHEN THE WHISTLE SOUNDED IT ALREADY SOUNDED FAR AWAY. 

KANE WEBB:  THAT'S FROM THE BLUE STAR BY TONY EARLEY. TONY, THANKS FOR JOINING US, WE REALLY APPRECIATE IT. 

TONY EARLEY:  THANK YOU.  [MUSIC]   . 

KANE WEBB:  OKAY WE'RE BACK WITH THE SECOND PART OF THE SHOW "ON THE SAME PAGE" THE READERS PANEL DISCUSSION. FOR THE BOOK THE BLUE STAR BY TONY EARLEY. WE JUST SAW THE INTERVIEW WITH TONY. AND NOW WE'RE GOING TO TALK BTD ABOUT THE BOOK. -- TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE BOOK. OUR GUESTS TODAY ARE MARY RUTH MAROTTE WHO IS AN ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL ARKANSAS. THANK YOU, MARY RUTH. AND KEVIN BROCKMEIER OF LITTLE ROCK NOVELIST, SHORT STORY WRITER. AND IN FACT KEVIN HAS A NEW BOOK OF SHORT STORIES OUT THAT I'M GOING TO PLUG RIGHT NOW, THE VIEW FROM THE SEVENTH LAYE LAYER. IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THAT, READ IT. IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEAD DO THAT IT'S ONE OF THE BEST I'VE READ IN A LONG TIME. BUT LET'S GET TO BLUE STAR WHICH IS THE SECOND IN I THINK IT'S GOING TO BE A SERIES OF STORIES ABOUT JIM GLASS SET IN THE FIRST WAS JIM THE BOY THE SECOND WAS GREAT DEPRESSION THE -- THIS ONE IS AT THE CUSP OF WORLD WAR II I READ A REVIEW IN THE NEW YORK TIMES BY SCOTT SCOTT TUROWS ALSO A NOVELIST WHO DESCRIBED THIS AS A CHILDREN'S BOOK FOR ADULTS. I WANT TO START THERE. KEVIN, DO YOU THINK THAT'S A FAIR DESCRIPTION WHAT DO YOU THINK HE'S GETTING AT WHEN HE SAYS THAT? 

WELL,  THE LANGUAGE IS VERY SIMPLE AND VERY PRECISE. I THINK IT IS A FAIR DESCRIPTION. IF YOU LOOK AT THE EPI GRAPHS ON BOTH OF THE BOOKS I THINK THEY ARE BOTH TAKEN OF KLAVX OF CHILDREN'S LITERATURE THE FIRST ONE IS FROM CHARLOTTE'S WEBB BY E. B. WHITE AND I FORGET WHAT THE EPI GRAPH IN JIM THE BOY AND BLUE STAR WAS BUT THAT'S THE IMPRESSION I GOT. I WOULD SAY THAT IT MIGHT BE MORE ACCURATE TO SAY THAT THEY ARE YOUNG ADULT NOVELS FOR ADULTS RATHER THAN CHILDREN'S NOVELS FOR ADULTS. SIMPLY BECAUSE THE SUBJECT MATTER IS SORT OF A LITTLE MORE MATURE THAN WHAT YOU MIGHT ANTICIPATE FINDING IN A TYPICAL CHILDREN'S NOVEL. 

KANE WEBB:  WHEN I WAS READING IT STRUCK ME AS A BOOK THAT I WOULD HAVE SOUGHT OUT WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL AND ENJOYED. BUT READING IT AS A 44 YEAR OLD, I ALSO ENJOYED IT. BUT I ALSO WONDERED IF IT WAS MORE OF A BOOK FOR -- MAINLY FOR BOYS OR BOYS AT HEART. MARY RUTH, WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON THAT? 

YEAH,  I MEAN, I THINK THAT -- I ENJOYED IT. I THINK THAT IT IS DEFINITELY -- IT WOULD APPEAL TO YOUNGER MEN OR JUST MEN IN GENERAL PROBABLY WHICH I THINK IS FINE. BUT I THINK THAT SOME OF THE TOUCHES THAT HE ADDED COULD ENGAGE AUDIENCES AS WELL. THE CHARACTER NORMA WHO COULD HAVE JUST BEEN A FLAT KIND OF USELESS CHARACTER. THE EX GIRLFRIEND NORMA COULD HAVE JUST BEEN SOMEONE WHO IS TOSSED OFF BUT INSTEAD SHE PLAYS A PIVOTAL ROLE. SHE'S A MATHEMATICIAN WHICH IS KIND OF A FASCINATING TOUCH. SOMEONE WHO JIM DESCRIBES IN THE BOOK AS HIS BEST FRIEND AT THE END WHEN HE ACTUALLY HAS, YOU KNOW, A LOVE FOR SOMEONE ELSE. AND HE DESCRIBES HER AS HIS BEST FRIEND. SHE HAS AMBITIONS, SHE'S VERY KIND OF AN INTERESTING CHARACTER WHO I WONDER IF HE DOES DO ANOTHER WILL KIND OF PURSUE THAT CHARACTER AGAIN. 

ACTUALLY I GUESS I SHOULD BRIEFLY RECAP,  JIM GLASS IS A 17 YEAR OLD -- 17 OR 18 NOW. 17. 

I THINK HE TURNS 18 TOWARD THE VERY END OF THE BOOK. 

A HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR. JUST BEFORE PEARL HARBOR AND THE START OF WORLD WAR II. HE HAS A CRUSH ON THIS GIRL CHRISSY STEPP, WHO IS SORT OF ENGAGED TO A YOUNG MAN NAMED BUCKY BUCKLAW WHICH IS A GREAT NAME WHO IS -- WHO AS JOINED THE NAVY AND NOW STATIONED IN PEARL HARBOR AND YOU CAN KIND OF SEE WHERE THAT'S GOING. TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT JIM GLASS, THE MAIN CHARACTER WHO IS OBVIOUSLY THE FOCUS OF JIM THE BOY. HE WAS RAISED BY HIS THREE UNCLES. HIS FATHER DIED I THINK JUST BEFORE HE WAS BORN. 

YEAH, TWO WEEKS. 

GIVE ME YOUR IDEA ABOUT WHAT MAKES JIM GLASS TICK. KEVIN, WHAT DO YOU THINK? 

WELL,  I MEAN, I THINK HE'S A RICH AND VERY -- HE'S A RICH CHARACTER. AND TONY PICKS HIM VERY HUMAN HUMANELY IS THE MAIN THING. I THINK WHAT YOU GET IN THE FIRST BOOK JIM THE BOY IS WHAT SEEMS TO BE A VERY AUTHENTIC TEN YEAR OLD CONSCIOUSNESS. AND HE FOLLOWS THAT UP IN THE BLUE STAR WITH A VERY AUTHENTIC SEEMINGLY 17 YEAR OLD CONSCIOU CONSCIOUSNESS. IF YOU GO BACK TO -- I DON'T KNOW WHETHER YOU AND TONY DISCUSSED THIS IN THE INTERVIE INTERVIEW. BUT THERE WERE THREE SHORT STORIES THAT KIND OF KICKED OFF THIS SET OF NARRATIVES. IN HIS FIRST COLLECTION HERE WE ARE IN PARADISE, ONE OF THEM MY FATHER'S HEART IS FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF A MUCH OLDER JIM GLASS. AND IT SEEMS TO ME AGAIN TO BE A VERY AUTHENTIC RICH HUMANE DEPICTION OF THIS CHARACTER. 

I'M SORRY; GO AHEAD. 

I WAS GOING TO SAY I THINK IT IS KIND OF AUTHENTIC OF A 17 YEAR OLD BOY BECAUSE WE DON'T GET EVERY KIND OF NUANCE OF HIS THOUGHT PROCESSES WHICH I DON'T THINK -- HE IS KIND OF GUIDED BY IMPULSE. HE IS. I MEAN AND I THINK THAT IS -- LOOKING THROUGH UNCLE ZINO FOR MODELING HOW TO ACT. HE'S TALKING TO I GUESS IT'S CHRISSY'S MOTHER NANCY STEPP. AND HE'S TRYING TO DECIDE IF HE'S GOING TO HAVE A COUPLE OF COFFEE WHAT WOULD UNCLE ZINO DO IN THIS MOMENT. HE IS TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW HE IS. HE DOESN'T KNOW YET. SO I THINK IT IS AUTHENTIC THAT WE DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING THAT HE'S THINKING AND HE DOESN'T EXACTLY KNOW WHAT HE'S THINKING. 

IS IT STRICTLY A COMING OF AGE NOVEL PERIOD OR ARE THERE LAYERS HERE I'M MISSING BECAUSE I THOUGHT IT WAS A VERY GOOD COMING OF AGE NOVEL. BUT BEYOND THAT I DIDN'T SEE A MESSAGE, KEVIN? 

WELL,  I SUPPOSE THAT WOULD BE A HARD -- IT'S A HARD QUESTION FOR ME TO ADDRESS. YOU KNOW, IT'S CERTAINLY -- IT CERTAINLY FOLLOWS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF AS THE RUB RUB. RUBRIC OF A COMING OF AGE NOVEL AND THAT'S NOT HOW I WANTED TO TREAT IT AS I WAS READING IT. I FOUND MYSELF TREATING IT AS A NOVEL OF A HUMAN BEING FACING THE CONFLICTS OF HIS OWN LIFE. YOU KNOW, AS ALMOST EVERY GOOD NOVEL IS. 

IT CERTAINLY ENGAGES IN YOU KNOW RACE AND CLASS AND ALL OF THESE. AND OF COURSE I'M KIND OF DRAWN TO HOW HE'S TREATING THESE WOMEN AND HOW CHRISSY IS. SHE'S EXCHANGE -- SHE BASICALLY IS HELD CAPTIVE BY THE BUCKLAWS BECAUSE ECONOMICALLY HER FAMILY IS TIED TO THEM OR THEY HAVE NOWHERE TO GO. SO SHE'S SORT OF TRADED IN A LOT OF WAYS. AND OF COURSE HER FATHER IS THE CHEROKEE WHO NEVER ACTUALLY APPEARS, ENGINE JOE. THAT'S WHAT SADLY JIM CALLS HIM AT ONE POINT. AND OWE DEPENDS HER OBVIOUSLY. BUT THERE'S A LOT OF LAYERS I THINK. 

AND IT'S AN UNUSUAL QUESTION TO ADDRESS FOR SOMEBODY WHO BEGAN LEADING HIS BOOKS WITH THE SHORT STORIES BECAUSE I HAD THE WHOLE PICTURE OF JIM'S LIFE IN MIND BEFORE I SAT DOWN TO READ JIM THE BOY. 

THOSE STORIES TAKE IT ALL THE WAY. HE EVEN ADMITTED HE HAS A TEMPLATE THAT HE'S WORRIED ABOUT DEVIATING FROM AS HE REACHES FUTURE BOOKS ABOUT JIM GLASS. BUT NOW THE STORIES WERE FIRST PERSON.  THESE ARE THIRD PERSON WHICH I THINK IS INTERESTING. I WANT TO TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE PROSE. TONY ALWAYS SEEMS TO BE COMPLIMENTED FOR HIS CLEAR SIMPLE PROSE. AND IT'S A COMPLIMENT ALMOST A BACK HANDED WAY. WELL AS A CLEAR SIMPLE PROSE FOR A CHILDREN'S BOOK. BUT I THOUGHT YES IT WAS VERY EASY TO READ. BUT I THOUGHT HE HAD WONDERFUL DESCRIPTIONS IN HERE. THERE'S ONE SECTION WHERE HE IS DESCRIBING THE DAY BEFORE HE DE-- BEFORE IT DECIDES WHAT HE WANTS TO BE. THAT'S GORGEOUS. AND SO HERE IS TO CLEAR SIMPLE PROSE. WHAT WAS YOUR TAKE ON THE WRITING? 

I THINK HE'S A BEAUTIFUL WRITER. AND YOU CAN TELL THAT YOU KNOW HE HAS STRUGGLED TO ENSURE THAT EVERY SENTENCE HAS BEEN LOCKED INTO ITS PERFECT FORM. AND YOU KNOW IN THE CASE OF THESE BOOKS BECAUSE THEY ARE NARRATED LARGELY FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF A SMALL CHILD THERE ARE DIGRESSIONS OCCASIONALLY INTO LETTERS WRITTEN BY SOME OF THE OLDER CHARACTERS IN THE BOOK. THE PROSE HAS TO BE FAIRLY RESTRAINED. AND WHAT -- IN WHAT IT CAN ACCOMPLISH. BUT I THINK HE TACKLES THAT BEAUTIFULLY. AND NOT JUST IN KIND OF THE SYNTAX OF THE PROSE BUT WITHIN THE RHYTHM TO THE SENTENCES AND THE WAY THEY FALL ON THE PAGE. BOTH THE BLUE STAR AND JIM THE BOY KIND OF RISE AT THE END TO THIS SORT OF KIND OF ROLLING FEVER OF EMOTION THAT I FOUND VERY, VERY MOVING. 

IS THIS A BOOK IS THAT STANDS ON ITS OWN WITHOUT HAVING READ JIM THE BOY. 

IT DOES. I HAVE NO TROUBLE SORT OF PICKING UP. BUT DEFINITELY FELT THAT THERE WERE TIES TO OTHER STORIES. I MEAN FOR SURE WITH UNCLE ZINO AND, YOU KNOW, THE LOVE AFFAIR WITH CHRISSY'S MOTHER AND KIND OF THE POSSIBILITY FOR THAT LATER ON. AND SO YEAH. I MEAN I THINK IT DEFINITELY CAN BE READ -- 

REFERENCING THE SCOTT TUROW REVIEW, AGAIN, HE MENTIONED THAT HE THOUGHT THAT POST 9-11 THAT READERS ARE HUNGRY FOR SIN SIRTS. AND SIN -- SINCERITY. AND SINCERITY IS IN. SIMPLE TALES TOLD DIRECTLY THAT MIGHT HELP THIS BOOK BE SUCCESSFUL. THIS WAS WRITTEN OBVIOUSLY RECENTLY JIM THE BOY WAS IN 2000. BEFORE 9-11. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT IDEA? DO YOU THINK POST 9-11 WILL WANT SIMPLE TALES ABOUT GOOD PEOPLE, MARY RUTH? 

PERHAPS. I THINK THE WAY IT SORT OF STRUCK ME KIND OF INDIRECTLY TIED TO THAT IS WHEN THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT DECEMBER 7TH. YOU KNOW, IT CHANGED EVERYTHING, PEARL HARBOR. AND HOW WE KIND OF THINK IN TERMS OF THAT. SEPTEMBER 11TH. CHANGING EVERYTHING. 

YOU KNOW,  THERE'S A MOMENT IN THE BOOK WHERE JIM IS TALKING WITH UNCLE ZINO AND UNCLE ZINO TELLS HIM, YOU KNOW, JIM ISN'T SURE HE'S A GOOD BOY. A GOOD HUMAN BEING. BUT UNCLE ZINO TELLS HIM IT'S A MATTER OF DECIDING IT EVERY MOMENT TO BE A GOOD HUMAN BEING. AND YOU KNOW THE SECOND YOU FAIL TO MAKE THAT RIGHT DECISION, YOU'RE LOST. SO I DON'T THINK IT'S -- YOU KNOW, IT'S NOT -- IT'S NOT PLAIN TO ME THAT THESE CHARACTERS ARE SIMPLY GOOD. THEY ARE TRYING TO BE. 

IT'S A COMPLIMENT TO THE BOOK THAT WE'VE ALREADY RUN OUT OF TIME. WE'LL HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THE BLUE STAR BY TONY EARLEY. I WANT TO THANK MARY RUTH MAROTTE, FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL ARKANSAS AND KEVIN BROCKMEIER, NOVELIST FROM LITTLE ROCK FOR JOINING US ON "ON THE SAME PAGE". THANK YOU FOR JOINING US, TOO.  [MUSIC]

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