Todd Kliman, author of The Wild Vine (which is all about the Norton grape that was grown in Missouri with huge success at the end of the nineteenth century) and food critic of The Washingtonian, will be appearing on our THOUGHT FOR FOOD panel in the Windsor Auditorium at 4.30. Here are his excellent answers to the Unbound Questionnaire. (And no, still no author photo.)
What is your favorite word?
"Possibilities." I also have a sweet spot for "flabbergasted."
Name one book that you would like everyone in the world to read.
Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet
If you could visit any literary location, real or imagined, where would it be?
Krochmalna Street -- Isaac Bashevis Singer's Yoknapatawha County, though the street did in fact exist, a dirty, clamorous, and fascinating focal point of the Warsaw ghetto. Singer brings us the smells and sound and texture of daily life there. Above all he brings us the people. The schemers! The dreamers! The peddlers! The thieves! The whores! The yeshiva boys!
What is your favorite opening line of a novel or poem?
Mother died today.
(Also illustrates my theory of the modern European novel: all the action is in the first sentence.)
What book did you most enjoy in the last year?
The book I was most thrilled to stumble upon was The Infatuations by Javier Marias. Marias is a Spanish novelist who is mmensely popular throughout Europe and an obscurity, still, in the States. The story of The Infatuations is a simple one, but the prose is insinuating, the attack mesmerizing, and the overall effect intense; the entire time I was reading it, I found myself thinking and perceiving the world as Marias does, questioning my assertions, doubting what I thought I knew, wondering what if anything was certain in the world.
Lighter, but just as dazzling in its own way -- City of Bohane by Kevin Barry. The language is a thing unto itself -- a zesty, funny, lyrical mix of English, Gaelic, Irish slang, and invented Irish slang.
What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked at an author event?
Not an author event -- but speaking about writing to a class of students last year at an all-girls high school in Addis Ababa, I was asked: "What do you want to do with the rest of your life?" I was initially taken aback, and then deeply, profoundly touched by this question, which came at the end of a week-long stay in a city I'd wanted to visit for years; a city that bewildered and inspired and enraged me, and that continues to this day to haunt me. The class was amazing, like nothing I've encountered anywhere else in the West -- curious, open, joyous, kind, respectful, and, for teenagers, remarkably mature.
The girl's question seemed uncannily to perceive my state of mind at that moment -- halfway around the world, and also at the halfway point of my life.
Tell us one thing about Missouri that you knew without having to look it up on the Internet.
That the state was the Napa Valley before there was a Napa Valley -- with 120 wineries at the time of the Civil War, all within roughly a hundred mile radius of St. Louis. ('Course, I've only known that for a short time, ever since researching it for my last book.)