Arthur Powers' book A Hero for the People: Stories of the Brazilian Backlands takes the reader on a journey through the beautiful scenery and intriguing characters of Brazil; this month, you can get the eBook edition for only 99 cents! Get to know Arthur a little bit this Monday morning, as he talks to Press 53 about desert island books and the joys of writing, below.
P53: When do you first remember wanting to be a writer?
AP: When I was in junior high school, we had a “classics” shelf at our school library. Jules Verne, Dumas, Sir Walter Scott—I read them one after another. I began to think it would be fun to write. Later I took a creative writing class in high school—and wrote a story I still think is pretty good (very influenced by John Steinbeck). I got seriously into writing in college—especially poetry—but it took years to be really good at it.
In one sense, though, I never really thought of myself as a writer. I have always loved history, and have sought to be an active participant in the history of our times—a husband, father, grandfather, member of the community, community organizer, lawyer. My writing flows out of and complements my life. Part of that life is people—I love people. I love to listen to them, hear their stories, see things from their point of view. And (I hope) that love comes through in my stories.
P53: Inspiration or perspiration?
AP: Inspiration! Almost all my best work starts with flashes of inspiration—poetry and stories that seem to flow through me. Then comes the craftsmanship—which I truly enjoy—of finding the right approach, the precise words, the way of describing a scene, of portraying the inner essence of a character. This is work, but such enjoyable work it is a pleasure. If I really perspire too much over a poem or a story, it usually doesn’t work out well.
P53: What’s your desert island book?
AP: I love G.K. Chesterton’s answer to this question: “a manual for building a boat.” Such admirable practicality aside, I would take (in order)—1) a Jerusalem Bible, 2) my complete works of Shakespeare, 3) a large book of blank pages (with some pens) for writing, and 4) a big, fat anthology of short stories.
P53: What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
AP: The American political system. We should ponder the work of Wendell Berry.
P53: You can only eat one food for the rest of your life; what is it?
AP: What a horrible thought! The joy of eating—as in life—is diversity.
Three Facts About Arthur:
1) My father and both grandfathers were professional musicians.
2) I greatly admire St. Theresa of Avila.
3) Our granddaughter, who lives with us, has a red-eared slider (which, to those not from the South, is a turtle) named alternately Scooter and Myrtle (we’re not quite sure whether our turtle’s a girl or a boy).