Author Interview - Clifford Garstang
Author I draw inspiration from: William Shakespeare. I live in a town with a great Shakespeare theater (American Shakespeare Center), so I am exposed constantly to the amazing language of the greatest English-language writer of all time. But not only is the language astonishing, the characters and plots are, for the most part, deeply affecting and memorable.
Favorite place to read a book: My reading chair, which is at the edge of my Great Room with a view overlooking the creek that runs through my property. But I’ll read almost anywhere: in a lounge chair in my bedroom, the loveseat in my office, the rocking chair on my porch, in a noisy coffee shop. It’s all good.
Book character I’d like to be stuck in an elevator with: I’d prefer not to be stuck in an elevator, thanks, but if it has to happen, let my companion be Leopold Bloom from James Joyce’s Ulysses. I’d love to hear him talk about his heroic day. And if Bloom isn’t available, how about Yossarian from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, a man who seems to have an answer for everything?
The moment I knew I wanted to become an author: When I read Demian by Herman Hesse in high school, I was disturbed and enchanted by both the characters and the story, and it was then I think I realized the power a writer has—the ability to have an impact on readers.
Hardback, paperback, eBook, or audiobook: At least one of each, simultaneously—Hardbacks for many new releases that I can read at home; eBooks for travel and paperbacks for battery conservation on long flights; audiobooks in the car and at the gym. The medium doesn’t matter much for me—it’s all about the words.
The last book I read: The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, a wonderful story about love, friendship, and a very large dog, with lots of important literary references. Right now I’m reading Weather Woman by Cai Emmons.
Pen & paper or computer: Computer. I learned to type in high school and I’m just faster at the keyboard than I am with pen and paper. Having said that, I love to sit in a coffee shop or a bar with my notebook and scribble thoughts and observations without the filter of the keyboard.
Book character I think I’d be best friends with: Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Nick and I have a lot in common, I think, in temperament and our tendency to live at the periphery. We might not have a lot to say to each other, but we’d probably get along in silence.
If I wasn’t an author, I’d be a: Lawyer. I mean, I was a lawyer before I started writing fiction and keep my license current, so I’d probably still be doing that. But if I were to go in a completely new direction, I’d like to be an architect. (But, come to think of it, building a house is similar in many ways to writing a novel, so in a sense I already am.)
Favorite decade in fashion history: I can’t say I’ve ever given fashion much thought except when dressing fictional characters, but men’s fashions in the Edwardian era were sharp, so let’s say the first decade of the 20th Century. (Possibly I’m being influenced here by the time period of the novel I’m currently working on.)
Place I’d most like to travel: India. I’ve visited most of the countries of Asia and have long been a student of Asian religions and philosophy, but somehow have not yet managed to get to India. On the other hand, I haven’t been anywhere in Africa, so that’s a serious gap in my experience that I’d like to begin to remedy. I scarcely know where to start.
My signature drink: I’m a red wine drinker, so no cocktails for me, but a sturdy Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec would do nicely.
Favorite artist: Impossible to say. I find that visual art inspires and informs my own work, so that my favorite artist is often whoever’s work I’ve seen most recently. There’s a print of a Mark Rothko painting on my desk as I write this, so he’s one favorite. I recently saw an exhibit of Japanese woodblock prints and was reminded how much I love the work of Hokusai. The Impressionist gallery is often my first stop in a museum because I so admire those painters (Monet, Cassatt, Degas). I’m also drawn to many of the post-Impressionists (Cezanne, Rousseau, van Gogh) and their heirs (Picasso, Matisse, Seurat). Then there are the greats who don’t fit these traditions (such as Kahlo and Rivera, and modern artists like O’Keefe) all of whom I admire. But if I have to pick one favorite above all, I’ll say . . . Andrew Wyeth, whose quiet strength speaks to me.
Number one on my bucket list: Write a novel. Oh, wait.
Anything else you’d like to add: Only that it’s been a pleasure and challenge to respond to these thought-provoking questions! Thank you.
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