Sunday, April 03, 2005

Weekends with Book TV

I don't know how much rain we received from late last night until the latter part of the morning. I'm sure many areas of the state are experiencing flooding. There is still a significant snow cover in much of the state and the melt, combined with the torrential rains must have pushed river levels to flood stage in many places.

In addition to rain, we had gusty winds which knocked out my power. After spending most of my morning without any electricity and no lights on a very dark morning, I realized that I don't think I'd enjoy life without some of the modern conveniences.

The lack of lighting forced me to sit near my window to be able to read my newspapers. With nothing else to do, I actually read a good chunk of a book that had been sitting on the coffee table for about a month. Hearing the whir of my fax machine and the sound of appliances kicking on however, was a welcome sound around noon.

Living in the country, everything is geared to having electricity. With a well supplying my water, no power means no well pump, so you can't take a shower, flush your toilets, or utilize any water other than what you have available in jugs or pitchers.

With the return of a modern convenience I often take for granted, I once more had access to my television. While so much drivel passing for programming, there are still those little gems that are available via this medium. One of my guilty pleasures on weekends, particularly Sundays, is Book TV on CSpan 2. I love the format of their In Depth program, which allows a given author three hours to talk about their work, discuss world events and other issues pertaining to their subject of expertise.

This Sunday's In Depth guest was Robert Kaplan. While Kaplan obviously holds contrary views to my own on the military and politics, I was very impressed with this author. A writer who got his start as a freelancer, receiving payment of $40 for his first published story in The Christian Science Monitor in 1984, Kaplan is now a respected novelist and regular contributor to The Atlantic Monthly.

Kaplan has written ten books, ranging from books about the African Continent (Surrender or Starve: The Wars Behind the Famine), the Balkans (Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History), and his most recent book about the Mediterranean Region (Mediterranean Winter: The Pleasures of History and Landscape in Tunisia, Sicily, Dalmatia, and Greece).

Kaplan described his political leanings as being that of a moderate conservative. I found his honesty about America's imperialistic inclinations rare, for someone who self-identifies as a conservative.

What I enjoyed about Kaplan's thoughts on his subject matter was his obvious belief in grounding his research in the history of the regions he writes about. I found some of his discussions about foreign policy particularly intriguing. What was refreshing in listening to Kaplan speak was his enthusiasm for journalism, rare in many interviews with those in the profession. Additionally, Kaplan came across as someone who doesn't start with ideology and then try to force everything he writes (and speaks) about into a box, constricted by being wedded to the constraints of his political leanings.

Like many writers talking about their craft, Kaplan talked some about how he comes to his stories, books and tricks of the trade. By listening to authors like Kaplan, I learn new ways of thinking about writing, pick up new tips and hopefully, glean one or two things that will help me to be a better writer.

As has happened in the past, my initial exposure to a particular writer on In Depth has led me to read their books and gain another author and viewpoint to draw upon and learn from. I will certainly pick up one of Kaplan's books soon and decide for myself if he is a writer I want to add to my canon.

If there are any writers out there reading this, I'd be interested in some of your "guilty pleasures" that pump life into your writing and possibly provides new ideas for the development of your craft.

1 comment:

Vageehe M. Steele said...

It is nice to see some one is interested in reading than looking for a place to add to his/her cholestrol intake or to find out who won the last game of football, baseball and so on so forth..