“One to One” Featuring Author Téa Obreht | One to One

“One to One” Featuring Author Téa Obreht | One to One


♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪>>HELLO, I’M SHERYL MCCARTHY. WELCOME TO “ONE TO ONE.” THIS SEASON I’M HAVING CONVERSATIONS WITH CUNY NEWSMAKERS — THE TEACHERS, RESEARCHERS, WRITERS, ARTISTS AND ACTIVISTS WHO ARE SHAPING STUDENTS AND THE WORLD. MY GUEST TODAY IS TÉA OBREHT, DISTINGUISHED LECTURER AT HUNTER’S CREATIVE WRITING MFA PROGRAM, AND THE AUTHOR OF “INLAND,” ONE OF THE MOST TALKED ABOUT NOVELS OF THE SEASON. THE CHARACTERS IN “INLAND” INCLUDE A BALKAN IMMIGRANT AND FUGITIVE FROM THE LAW WHO RIDES A CAMEL ALL OVER THE WEST, A FEMALE HOMESTEADER WHO IS FIGHTING TO MAINTAIN HOME AND FAMILY IN THE DESOLATE ARIZONA TERRITORY OF 1893, AND AN ORPHANED GIRL WHO COMMUNES WITH THE DEAD. PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, “INLAND” IS LIKE NO OTHER WESTERN YOU HAVE EVER READ, AND IN OUR INTERVIEW TODAY, TÉA WILL EXPLAIN WHAT MOTIVATED HER TO WRITE IT. WELCOME.>>THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.>>I’VE READ OTHER BOOKS ABOUT THE WEST, BUT YOURS IS TRULY UNUSUAL, ABOUT SOME OF THE THINGS WE ALREADY KNOW ABOUT. THE LIFE OF THOSE WHO LIVED IN THE WEST OF THE 1890s, ABOUT THEIR ENDLESS QUEST FOR WATER, WHICH YOU REALLY DRAMATIZE HERE, ABOUT HOMESTEADERS WHO ARE HOPING THE RAILROAD WILL COME TO THEIR TOWN, ABOUT THE WHITE SETTLERS’ TOUCHY RELATIONSHIP WITH THE INDIANS, ABOUT GREEDY AND SCRUPULOUS LAND GRABBERS, BUT YOU ADD TO THAT, AS I SAID, AN IMMIGRANT OUTLAW WHO RIDES ON A CAMEL, A FRONTIER WOMAN WAITING FOR HER HUSBAND TO RETURN HOME WITH THE DESPERATELY NEEDED WATER AND WHOSE OLDEST SONS HAVE DISAPPEARED, AND THE GHOST WHO INHABITS EVERYONE’S LIVES AS IF IT WAS THEIR DAILY COMPANION. HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THOSE CHARACTERS IN THE STORY?>>I HAD BEEN SPENDING TIME IN THE WEST FOR THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS WHILE I WAS SEARCHING AROUND FOR A STORY TO WRITE. I LIVE IN NEW YORK, BUT SPENT TIME IN WYOMING. STILL A NEW YORKER. ACTUALLY, I CAN’T CALL MYSELF A NEW YORKER BECAUSE I HAVEN’T LIVED HERE FOR TEN YEARS. I HAD BEEN SPENDING A LOT OF TIME IN WYOMING AND ARIZONA AND I WAS INTERESTED IN THE WAY I FELT CALLED HOME TO THE AREA, WHICH IS ODD BECAUSE I DID NOT GROW UP THERE. I’M FROM THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA AND WE CAME HERE WHEN I WAS 12 YEARS OLD AFTER THE WAR. AND I HAVE NO FAMILIAL CONNECTION TO THE PLACE, BUT YET FELT HOMESICK FOR IT, WHICH WAS ODD. SOMETHING THAT I FELT SAD AT THE HEART OF THE WAY WE MYTHOLOGIZED THE WEST. AND I CAME ACROSS THIS PODCAST ABOUT SOMETHING CALLED THE RED GHOST OF ARIZONA. IT’S A TRUE CAMPFIRE YARN, IN SO FAR AS A CAMPFIRE YARN CAN BE TRUE, IT WAS TOLD AROUND THE TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY ABOUT THIS GREAT RED BEAST THAT ATTACKED HOMES THAT HOMESTEADERS HAD ON THEIR RANCHES, AND PARTICULARLY, ENCOUNTERED THESE TWO WOMEN, — A VERY VIOLENT ENCOUNTER. THE PODCAST CONNECTED THE CAMPFIRE YARN TO THE STORY OF THE UNITED STATES CAMEL CORPS, ABOUT WHICH I HAD NEVER HEARD BEFORE, DESPITE ALL MY RESEARCH INTO THE WEST. THE UNITED STATES MILITARY BROUGHT CAMELS OVER IN THE 1850s TO SERVICE PACK ANIMALS IN THE SOUTHWEST, AND I WAS ASTONISHED BY THIS HISTORY AND ASTONISHED BY THE BALKAN CONNECTION BECAUSE WITH THEM CAME YOUNG MEN FROM WHAT WAS AT THE TIME OTTOMAN EMPIRE, JUST LIKE WHERE I WAS FROM.>>WHICH IS WHERE THEY GOT THE CAMELS?>>THEY GOT THE CAMELS FROM ALL OVER THE MIDDLE EAST. THERE WAS A CAMEL SHORTAGE AT THE TIME, SO THEY GOT THEM FROM VARIOUS PLACES, BUT I WAS JUST INTRIGUED BY THIS HISTORY AND BY THIS CONVERGENCE OF DIFFERENT STORIES. THE STORY OF A GREAT JOURNEY AND THE STORY OF SOMEBODY WAITING TO BE ON THE RECEIVING END OF THAT JOURNEY.>>SO, THE CAMP-FIRE STORY, THE TWO WOMEN WHO WERE ATTACKED BY THIS GREAT RED HAIRY — WAS IT A CAMEL?>>YES.>>OK. IT JUST WENT WILD? [LAUGHTER]>>IT HAD BEEN ROAMING AROUND FOR YEARS AND YEARS IT SEEMED, WITH A VERY, VERY STRANGE — IN A VERY STRANGE CONDITION. THEY WERE ASTONISHED BY IT AND COULD NOT RECOGNIZE WHAT IT WAS. THEY WERE LIKE, IT IS A GREAT RED HORSE WALKING AROUND, IT’S THE BIGGER HORSE I’VE EVER SEEN. AND THEN SOMEONE RECOGNIZED WHAT IT WAS AND SAID IT WAS A CAMEL IN ARIZONA TERRITORY.>>I WAS AMAZED BY YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF SOMEBODY ORIGINALLY FROM YUGOSLAVIA, BY YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, AND BY YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE WESTERN LANDSCAPE, OF THE PLANTS, TREES, ANIMALS, AND THE WORDS YOU USED TO DESCRIBE THEM. I WILL READ ONE PASSAGE. WHOEVER HAD THOUGHT TO IN-STATE A WATERING HOLE IN THE SPOT CANNOT HAVE BEEN A WOMAN. IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO LINGER HERE WITHOUT FEELING OBSERVED. THE GOBLIN BARRENS ROSE UP ON EITHER SIDE OF THE PATH AHEAD: BULBOUS GNOMONS; KNOTTED TERRACES; WEDGE-HEADED HOODOOS, NARROWS INTO SOME OTHER WORLD. THEY WERE KNOWN TO PAY GOOD MONEY TO STAND AROUND IN THEIR FRILLS TRYING TO GUESS WHERE IN THIS MAZE OF STONE, SOME OUTLAW OR ANOTHER HAD LAYERED IN THE OLD DAYS. I HAVE TO SAY I WAS TEMPTED TO READ YOUR BOOK WITH A DICTIONARY NEARBY, BUT I DECIDED TO JUST GO WITH THE FLOW. [LAUGHTER]>>WHERE DID YOU ACQUIRE THIS VOCABULARY?>>I DID A LOT OF RESEARCH INTO — I FIRST RESEARCHED THE UNITED STATES CAMEL CORPS TO GET THE BASE KNOWLEDGE FOR THAT, BUT AS IT BECAME CLEAR THAT HISTORY HAD SET THE TERMS OF WHAT THE NARRATIVES WERE GOING TO BE, THIS FORTY-YEAR NARRATIVE ON THE CAMEL SIDE, AND THE SINGLE DAY HERE, AND IT BECAME CLEARER AND CLEARER THAT EVERY DAY VERNACULAR, EVERY DAY CIRCUMSTANCES WERE GOING TO HAVE TO BE A HUGE, HUGE PART OF HER STORY. I STARTED RESEARCHING NEWSPAPERS AND JOURNALS AND LETTERS THAT PEOPLE SENT, TRYING TO GET A FEEL OF THE LANGUAGE. I ALSO CAME ACROSS THIS BOOK CALLED THE “DICTIONARY OF AMERICANISMS.” IT IS REALLY FASCINATING WITH IDIOMS AND TURNS OF PHRASE THAT WAS USED BETWEEN THE 1860s AND THE TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY. THERE WERE NEW EDITIONS COMING OUT ALL THE TIME AND I WAS FASCINATED, PARTICULARLY BY THE FACT THAT THE IDIOMS WERE DIVIDED BY REGION. AND I REALIZED I WAS GOING TO HAVE TO COME UP WITH DIALECTS FOR RESPECTIVE PARTS OF THE BOOK REGARDLESS OF WHAT LANGUAGE BACKGROUND CHARACTERS CAME FROM. SO, IN THE NORTHERN SECTION, IN AMARGO, PEOPLE SPEAK A CERTAIN WAY, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THEY’RE COMING TO AMARGO FROM, AN ENGLISH, GREEK, OR SPANISH-SPEAKING BACKGROUND, AND THEN IN THE CAMEL SECTION, IT IS THE SAME THING, THEY HAVE THEIR OWN SORT OF DIALECT. AND I MADE UP SOME WORDS, YOU KNOW? I FOUND WORDS THAT WERE ARCHAIC AND I HAD A LOT OF FUN WITH THE LANGUAGE. I BELIEVE SOME OF THE WORDS ARE NOT IN ANY DICTIONARY. [LAUGHTER]>>ONE THING THAT IS UNIQUE TO YOUR BOOK IS AMONG THE CHARACTERS, IT IS NOT JUST THE USUAL IRISH, MEXICANS AND THE OCCASIONAL CHINESE, BUT SLAVS AND GREEKS AND MIDDLE EASTERN PEOPLE, PEOPLE WE DON’T USUALLY ASSOCIATE WITH THE OLD WEST.>>YOU KNOW, I GREW UP WITH COWBOY WESTERNS LIKE EVERYBODY DID, EVEN THOUGH I’M FROM THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. THE REACH OF THAT MYTHOLOGY IS SO POWERFUL AND SO PERVASIVE THAT REACHED EVEN THERE. I KNEW THAT THE HISTORY OF THE WEST WAS OBVIOUSLY A LOT MORE COMPLEX THAN MYTHOLOGY BECAUSE ONE OF THE GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF LARGER MYTHOLOGY IS THAT IT HAS TO BE SIMPLE, IT HAS TO FEATURE VERY LITTLE VARIETY AND TELL ONE DEFINITIVE NARRATIVE, BUT IT STILL DID NOT PREPARE ME FOR THE TREMENDOUS COMPLEXITY OF THE HISTORY OF THE SOUTHWEST. AND I JUST FELT SO FORTUNATE AND ENTHRALLED BY A TREMENDOUS VARIETY OF STORIES THAT WERE ACTUALLY THERE. PEOPLE CAME FROM ALL OVER AND THERE WAS A TREMENDOUS INTERMINGLING OF CULTURES AND LANGUAGE AND CUISINES. AND THE WAY HOUSEHOLDS CAME TOGETHER WAS REALLY INTERESTING. AND I WANTED TO EXPLORE THE STORIES THAT I HAD NOT HEARD.>>WOMEN LED ESPECIALLY HARD LIVES IN THE WEST OF THOSE DAYS. IS THAT IS WHAT YOU WANTED TO SHOW IN YOUR CHARACTERS? NOT JUST THE HARD WORK THEY HAD TO DO, BUT THEIR INNER LONGINGS?>>ABSOLUTELY. I WANTED TO GO INTO THE MIND OF THE WOMAN WHO WAS IN THE CORNER. I THINK THIS BOOK ENDED UP BEING ABOUT ISOLATION TO A TREMENDOUS DEGREE, AND I’M ALWAYS CURIOUS ABOUT THE WAY THAT PEOPLE OPERATE WHEN THEY ARE LEFT ALONE, AND THE WAY PEOPLE INHABIT THEIR OWN MINDS AND THEIR OWN BODIES, AND FIND WAYS TO COPE WITH IT, AND I THINK NORA WAS THE PERFECT VEHICLE FOR THAT.>>LORI, WHAT WAS HIS REAL NAME? IT WASN’T HIS REAL NAME?>>HE DOESN’T HAVE — THAT WAS THE NAME HE ENDS UP HAVING, BUT HE CANNOT REMEMBER THE NAME HIS FATHER USED TO CALL HIM.>>OK. HE IS THE CAMEL-RIDING BALKAN OUTLAW, AND HE AND HIS CAMEL, WHERE DID THEY SPRING FROM?>>I WANTED — I KNEW I WAS GOING TO WRITE ABOUT THE CAMEL CORPS. I TOOK A LONG TIME TO EXPLORE WHICH OF THE CHARACTERS’ PERSPECTIVES WAS GOING TO BE THE MOST INSTRUMENTAL. TWO OF THE CAMELIERS WERE REAL PEOPLE, SO MY INITIAL IMPULSE WAS TO TELL THE STORY FROM THEIR POINT OF VIEW, BUT GOING TO CERTAIN HISTORICAL FACT BY WHICH THE NARRATIVE IS CONSTRICTED, I COULD NOT USE EITHER OF THEM BECAUSE YOU DON’T GET THE ENDING OF THE BOOK AS IT IS NOW BY USING EITHER OF THEM. AND SO, I KNEW THAT THE PERSON NARRATES AND FOR WHOM THE CAMEL SECTION IS MOST IMPACTFUL HAD TO BE SOMEONE FOR WHOM EXPERIENCE OF JOINING IN THE CAMEL CORPS, AND HAVING THIS SPECIAL BOND WITH BURKE WOULD BE FORMATIVE AND WOULD FEEL LIKE A KIND OF RETURN TO SELFHOOD AND HE FINDS HIS WAY HOME TO HIS PAST THROUGH THIS CONNECTION HE HAS WITH THE CAMEL CORPS.>>BURKE, THE CAMEL, DOES NOT SPEAK IN THE BOOK, OR HAVE THOUGHTS THAT WE KNOW ABOUT, BUT IT SORT OF FEELS LIKE HE DOES, HE IS A REAL CHARACTER IN THE BOOK, AND THERE IS A REAL RELATIONSHIP, REAL BOND BETWEEN LORI AND BURKE, AND HE IS ADDRESSING BURKE IN MANY PARTS. WE WILL TAKE A SHORT BREAK, BUT WE WILL BE BACK WITH TÉA OBREHT, THE AUTHOR OF “INLAND,” AFTER THIS MESSAGE. ♪>>WELCOME BACK TO “ONE TO ONE.” I’M SHERYL MCCARTHY AND I AM TALKING WITH TÉA OBREHT, THE AUTHOR OF “INLAND.” WHAT IS WHAT JOSIE WHO SAW GHOST AND COMMUNE WITH THE DEAD. WHAT WAS A POINT OF PUTTING HER IN THE BOOK?>>JOSIE AND NORA’S VIEW EXIST TO ANNOY NORA AND — JOSSIE IS A MANIFESTATION OF I THINK THE ANXIETIES OF THE PERIOD. AS THE 19TH CENTURY WAS DRAWING TO A CLOSE, THE TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATIONS THAT IT HAPPENED IN A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME CHANGED THE WAY HUMAN COMMUNICATION WORKED, IN A WAY HUMAN THOUGHT — BASICALLY — WORKED, AND PRODUCED A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF VULNERABILITY IN PEOPLE. AND SPIRITUALISM BECAME OF TREMENDOUS FASCINATION TO A GREAT MANY FOLKS ALL OVER THE UNITED STATES, WHO PREVIOUSLY HAD NOT TAKEN IT ON BOARD AS A REAL THING. AND JOSIE IS A MEDIUM, SHE IS A CLAIRVOYANT, OR AT LEAST SHE HAS BEEN RAISED TO BE ONE, AND NORA FINDS HER EXTREMELY GALLING BECAUSE SHE THINKS SHE IS A CHARLATAN. WHICH IS IRONIC BECAUSE NORA HAS BEEN CARRYING ON A CONVERSATION WITH THE IMAGINED SPIRIT OF HER OWN DEAD DAUGHTER FOR THE LAST 17 YEARS.>>SO MUCH OF THE BOOK IS ABOUT PEOPLE WHO WANDER FROM PLACE TO PLACE, TRYING THEIR HAND AT DIFFERENT THINGS. MEN LONG FOR THEIR WOMEN BUT DON’T SEE THEM FOR MONTHS OR YEARS. THIS SEEMS TO BE THE THEME OF THE BOOK.>>ONE OF THE THINGS I FOUND PARTICULARLY FASCINATING WHEN I DID THE RESEARCH WAS THE WAY WE MYTHOLOGIZE THE ENDLESS POSSIBILITY OF THE WEST. AND YOU KNOW, THERE IS THIS ROMANTICIZED HARDSHIP THAT UNDERLIES THE POSSIBILITY THAT YOU CAN BE ANYTHING IF YOU JUST TRY YOUR HAND AT PROSPECTING OR TEACHING, YOU CAN EXCEL AT ANY OF THESE TRADES, AND THEY REQUIRE A LOT OF A PERSON, REQUIRE A CONSTANT STATE OF CHANGE. THAT ENDLESS POSSIBILITY WAS AVAILABLE ESSENTIALLY ONLY TO WHITE MEN WITH FEW EXCEPTIONS. NORA’S HUSBAND EMMETT IS ONE SUCH PERSON AND THAT DYNAMIC I THINK COMES FROM, IT WAS SO, SO PREVALENT IN SO MANY DIARIES I READ WHERE THE WOMEN WERE LIKE –>>JUST GOING ALONG WITH WHAT THE MAN CHOSE AND HER HUSBAND WAS A NEWSPAPER EDITOR?>>THAT’S RIGHT.>>THERE IS A STRANGE GROUP OF CHARACTERS IN THE BOOK, MANY OF THEM VIOLENT. BUT YOU SEEM TO HAVE A RESPECT FOR THESE PEOPLE WHO CARVED OUT LIVES FOR THEMSELVES IN THIS DIFFICULT TERRAIN.>>I THINK ONE OF THE GREAT PLEASURES OF THE WESTERN IS THE CAST OF HARD SCRABBLE SUPPORTING CHARACTERS. AND I THINK ONE OF THE DIFFICULTIES OF THE SUPPORTING CHARACTERS IS, AS YOU DEVELOP THEM, YOU BECOME INCREDIBLY ATTACHED TO THEIR NARRATIVES AND TRY TO STUFF AS MANY OF THEM AS YOU CAN IN THE BOOK. AND THE LIMITATIONS OF THE FORM ARE SUCH THAT THESE PEOPLE CAN ONLY BE — ON EARTH TO A CERTAIN DEGREE BEFORE YOU HAVE TO MOVE ON WITH THE NARRATIVE, BUT I LEARNED SO MUCH AND TRIED TO STUFF AS MUCH IN IT AS POSSIBLE. I HAVE A TREMENDOUS RESPECT FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN SURVIVE ANYTHING.>>DID YOU HAVE A FAVORITE CHARACTER?>>DID I HAVE A FAVORITE CHARACTER? UM, I THINK MAYBE, MAYBE MY FAVORITE CHARACTER WAS HADJI ALI.>>ONE OF THE CAMEL RIDERS?>>YES. AS I STARTED WRITING THIS BOOK, I WAS HAVING A LOT OF CONVERSATIONS WITH MY GRANDMOTHER ABOUT WHAT HER LIFE HAD BEEN LIKE, AND THE DIFFICULTIES IN WHICH SHE HAD GROWN UP. SHE WAS A MUSLIM GROWING UP IN MOSTAR IN A NATION THAT MARGINALIZED HER PARTICULAR ETHNICITY. SHE HAD A LOT OF — SHE HAD A REALLY DIFFICULT CHILDHOOD AND YOUNG ADULTHOOD, WAS A WOMAN IN A TIME WHEN IT WAS NOT PARTICULARLY EASY TO BE A WOMAN. AND NOT THAT IT IS NOW, BUT SHE HAD A LOT OF THOUGHTS ABOUT IDENTITY AS SHE WAS ON HER DEATHBED, WHICH IS AROUND THE TIME I STARTED WRITING THIS BOOK, AND I THINK A LOT OF HER CONCERNS FUSED WITH HADJI ALI IN A PARTICULAR WAY.>>WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE TITLE “INLAND?”>>I ONCE READ AN ARTICLE FROM THE 1870s ABOUT THE RAILROAD — THE ARTICLE WAS DISCUSSING THE RAILROAD, AND THEY REFERRED TO A TOWN AWAY FROM THE RAILROAD AS BEING INLAND, AND I THOUGHT, WHAT AN AMAZING CONCEPT — HOW IMPORTANT — HOW MUCH CENTRALITY THE RAILROAD HAS BEEN GIVE IN THESE PEOPLE’S LIVES, SO TO BE INLAND OF SOMETHING IS NOT TO BE INLAND OF THE COAST BUT INLAND OF THE RAIL, AND IT STUCK WITH ME. AND THIS WAS YEARS BEFORE I STARTED WRITING THE BOOK. I FILED IT AWAY IN MY TITLE BANK AND WHEN I WROTE THE FIRST WORDS OF THIS BOOK, I SAVED IT AS INLAND.>>IF THE RAILROAD CAME CLOSE TO YOUR TOWN, THAT COULD MAKE THE TOWN OR BREAK THE TOWN?>>ABSOLUTELY.>>PROSPERITY OR NOT, YOU KNOW?>>AND THAT HAS CONTINUED THROUGH THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN SO MANY WAYS, RIGHT? IF A RAILROAD COMES OR THE FREEWAY COMES, OR THE FACTORY COMES, THEN THE TOWN’S LIFECYCLE RISES.>>THE PURPOSE OF ALL ART IS REVELATION, AND I WAS NOT SURE WHAT THE REVELATION OF THIS BOOK WAS SUPPOSED TO BE. AND MAYBE YOU CAN JUST TELL ME. [LAUGHTER]>>MAYBE YOU CAN JUST TELL US. [LAUGHTER]>>I AGREE WITH YOU THAT ALL ART IS ABOUT REVELATION, BUT I ALSO THINK ALL ART IS — PARTICULARLY LITERATURE IS ABOUT PERSONAL REVELATION, READING IS SUCH AN INTIMATE AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND YOU CAN HOPE AS AN AUTHOR THAT– YOU CAN RELY ON YOUR READER BRINGING A CERTAIN KIND OF LUGGAGE TO THE PARTY, AND IN SOMETHING LIKE A WESTERN, WHERE YOU ARE PLAYING WITH THE TROPES OF THE GENRE PEOPLE ARE MORE LIKELY TO BRING THE SAME KIND OF LUGGAGE THAN NOT, BECAUSE WE’VE SEEN THESE TROPES SO MANY TIMES, BUT THE ENDING OF THIS BOOK, I THINK, I THINK THE REVELATION OF THE ENDING IS AN INDIVIDUAL THING, AND SO, I CAN TELL WHAT THE ENDING MEANT TO ME.>>WHAT DID IT MEAN TO YOU?>>I STARTED WRITING THE BOOK BECAUSE THAT CONVERGENCE THAT HAPPENS AT THE END SEEMED SO UNLIKELY, AND SO WONDROUS, AND SO OTHERWORLDLY TO ME, AND I WANTED TO UNDERSTAND THE EMOTIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL CONDITION OF PEOPLE WHO PARTICIPATED IN IT. AND I WANTED TO UNDERSTAND WHY I WAS SO MOVED BY IT, AND WHAT IT WOULD MEAN TO THEM TO HAVE THAT CONVERGENCE. AND I THINK THAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF THE WHOLE BOOK FOR ME. IS THERE A MESSAGE IN IT THAT I WANT SOMEONE — ANOTHER READER TO CARRY AWAY? I CANNOT SAY THAT I KNOW WHAT THAT IS. BUT YEAH.>>WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM RESEARCHING AND WRITING THIS BOOK?>>GOSH. I THINK ONE OF THE REASONS THAT I STARTED WRITING THIS BOOK WAS BECAUSE I WAS SO FASCINATED BY WHAT MAKES STORIES LIVE OR DIE. I COULD NOT UNDERSTAND WHY THE CAMELS WERE NOT A BIGGER PART OF THE WEST. AND I THINK WHAT I LEARNED WAS THAT THE SYSTEMS THAT EXIST TO CARVE OUT NARRATIVES AND SIMPLIFY NARRATIVES, AND UNIFY ALL OF HISTORY OR AN ATTEMPT TO UNIFY HISTORY UNDER A SINGLE BANNER ARE VERY MUCH IN PLACE. AND HOPEFULLY, YOU KNOW, THE CHORUS OF VOICES RISING UP FROM DIFFERENT PARTS OF AMERICAN LIFE IS CHIPPING AWAY AT THE BIGGER NARRATIVES AND SHOWING IT IS A MASSIVE POOL OF STORIES THAT ARE NOT — THEY ARE UNIFIED BY VERY FEW THINGS OTHER THAN SURVIVING, AND DOING THE BEST FOR THE ONES WE LOVE.>>YOU MENTIONED IN ONE OF YOUR INTERVIEWS, THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS THAT AN AUTHOR WILL FEEL COMPELLED TO RETURN TO OVER AND OVER. WHAT ARE YOURS?>>I THINK DEATH IS A REALLY BIG ONE FOR ME. A LOT OF MY CHARACTERS, I MEET A LOT OF MY CHARACTERS AT THE CROSSROADS WHERE THEY ARE TRYING TO DECIDE WHETHER LIFE IS THE WORLD AROUND US, OR WHETHER THE SUPERNATURAL EXISTS. AND THAT IS SOMETHING THAT IS NEVER GONE AWAY. I THINK THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PEOPLE AND ANIMALS, TOO, AND THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PEOPLE AND OBJECTS. THERE IS A LOT OF TALISMANIC WORK IN MY WRITING AND IT JUST SNEAKS IN THERE.>>YOU HAVE SAID THAT, YOU KNOW, EACH READER’S PERSONAL REVELATION FROM THE BOOK IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT, BUT WHAT IN GENERAL WOULD YOU LIKE READERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM THE BOOK?>>THAT HISTORY IS VAST AND COMPLEX AND FULL OF STORIES WE DON’T KNOW. AND WE SHOULD SEEK THEM OUT.>>SO YOU TEACH CREATIVE WRITING AT HUNTER — THESE ARE MASTER’S DEGREE STUDENTS HOPING TO BECOME FICTION WRITERS, I ASSUME. ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR LESSONS THAT YOU REALLY TRY TO DRUM INTO YOUR STUDENT’S HEADS?>>THERE ARE SO MANY. [LAUGHTER] THE BIGGEST LESSON I HAVE LEARNED AND WHAT I KEEP TRYING TO CONVEY IS THAT, THE RELATIONSHIP TO THE WORK ITSELF IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, THAT THERE ARE NO WAYS TO DRAFTS, AND EVEN IF YOU WRITE — I WROTE A LOT BEFORE I EVEN ARRIVED TO THE IDEA OF “INLAND.” AND IT FELT LIKE FAILING ALL THE TIME. STUDENTS IN PARTICULAR WHEN YOU’RE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PROJECT AND IT DOESN’T SEEM LIKE IT IS THE THING YOU WANTED IT TO BE, THE DESPAIR, IT IS A TERRIBLE FEELING, BECAUSE YOU INVESTED ALL OF THIS TIME AND WORK INTO SOMETHING THAT IS GOING TO INTO A DRAWER. BUT WHAT THAT HAS DONE IS BUTTRESS YOUR ABILITY AND MAKE YOU THE NEXT PHASE OF THE WRITER YOU’RE ON YOUR WAY TO BEING, AND IT IS IMPORTANT AND IT IS TOUGH, BUT IT IS SO FORMATIVE. AND IT STEELS YOU AGAINST A LOT OF THINGS YOU WILL HAVE TO ARMOR YOURSELF FOR LATER ON. KEEP TRUCKING, EVEN IF IT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE YOU ARE MOVING ANYWHERE.>>OK. I’M AFRAID WE’RE OUT OF TIME. BUT I WOULD LIKE TO THANK TÉA OBREHT FOR JOINING ME TODAY. “INLAND” IS PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, AND IS AVAILABLE ONLINE AND IN BOOKSTORES. FOR “ONE TO ONE” AND THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, I’M SHERYL MCCARTHY. ♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪

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