Interview with Wilton Barnhardt

An interview with faculty Wilton Barnhardt appears online at Book Keeping:

What was the inspiration for your book, Lookaway, Lookaway?

Half a century of a Southern upbringing. I did my best to decamp from North Carolina, from eighteen to forty, and it was not my intention to come back here to live, but I returned in order to teach at a new MFA in Creative Writing program at NC State University, a university in which three generations of Barnhardts had taught or studied. I suppose that got me to thinking about belonging to a place, which got me to thinking further that maybe I did belong to the South, after all, despite much earlier noise about being a Citizen of the World.

Who are your favorite authors?

Anyone 19th Century (Henry James, Tolstoy, Balzac, Flaubert, et al). John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, Willa Cather. Among current writers, Valerie Martin, Alice Munro, William Trevor, Allison Lurie, John LeCarre, William Boyd, the crime fiction of Ernest Gaines, the historical fiction of Hilary Mantel, and too many poets to list…

How and why did you start working on this book?

I declared I would write ONE and only one Southern novel, and always imagined I would write it near the end of my life (with all my accumulated wisdom about the South), but I was struggling to finish a Western book that was set in the Time of the Padres. I was teaching at Caltech and luxuriated in Huntington Library privileges… each afternoon, after class, I walked over to the great library and called up all sorts of arcane Spanish histories and prospector’s journals—you name it. But when I moved back down South in 2002, I couldn’t do that kind of homework and those materials aren’t anywhere but out West, so I asked myself, “What can you write that you can research right here in North Carolina?” And so the Southern Novel moved to the front of the line.




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