In a pay-it-forward interview meme-scheme, our good friend Leonard asks:
1. Who’s your favorite historian, and why?
C. Vann Woodward is my favorite, by a nose. The guy wrote history like a good novelist, with an eye for detail, ear for narrative, and tasty turn of phrase always at the ready. He took the South seriously, and thought hard about what great sweeping historical movements like populism and Jim Crow meant for little guys at the bottom, and that’s what it means to be a good historian. Lawrence Goodwyn, who would probably not balk much (but definitely a smidgen) to be called a follower of Woodward, is my second favorite, because he took Woodward’s humanism and curiosity (along with his own experiences as a left-wing journalist involved in the Civil Rights Movement) and applied them to mass movements like the Farmer’s Alliance (from whence the Populists sprang) and Solidarity. Smart, smart guy.
2. How in God’s name do you support a huge state like Texas with no income tax?
It’s impossible. I’m not just being flippant. The state is constantly struggling to figure out how to finance some of the sloppiest social service offerings and lousiest public schools in the country. And basically, what happens is that standards fall and Texas’s huge population (check out how many of our cities are in the Top 25 most populous cities in the country, keeping in mind that the Dallas Metroplex is represented twice) struggles to get by more or less with minimal or no state support. It’s a ridiculous situation.
3. What’s the hardest thing about parenting? What’s the most fun?
The hardest thing is not losing my temper, especially when my son is being extra-stubborn about something at 2 am. I’m not very good at this, and it shames me. The most fun thing is hearing his sounds of joy when he’s playing (by himself or with one of us) or singing or some other something that he’s just discovered is really, really fun.
4. What have you learned from the process of writing a book?
That I’m a slack motherfucker. I’ve let minor setbacks set me off my work for major swaths of time. I’ve gotten derailed on a chapter and not revisited for months, at which point I want to start over with a new focus instead of finishing it in current form. I’ve second-guessed myself into reflexivity. I’ve chosen to let some leads lie fallow rather than admitting that I’m a terrible interviewer. Fiction is easier.
5. When are we gonna play some damn poker? Or failing that, Catan?
To Leonard: You wanna come up this weekend or next? I’m not a poker fan, but I love me some Catan. If it’s the following weekend, I might go ahead & buy the Cities & Knights expansion set. Wait, that’s the weekend I’m going to see Richard Thompson. Maybe the weekend after would be better.
To everyone else: leave me a comment and I’ll post 5 questions for you to answer at your own little corner of the world.