This week marks the trade paper publication of Leif Enger's Peace Like a River. The title was an independent bookseller favorite from the moment it was published. It was a No. 1 Book Sense 76 pick and won the 2002 Book Sense Book of the Year Award for fiction. Peace Like a River hit the top of numerous bestseller lists, and was named a Best Book for 2001 by Time magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Denver Post.
To support the trade paper edition, Grove Atlantic is producing and distributing special point-of-purchase materials for independent booksellers that highlight that Peace Like a River was the Book Sense Book of the Year fiction winner. These materials include: an easel-back poster, a counter stand with riser, a large two-sided window poster, a roll of Book Sense stickers, two shelf-talkers, bookmarks, postcards, and more.
Enger was recently featured on the BookSense.com hub site on its "Very Interesting People" page, where he was interviewed by BookSense.com Creative Director Linda M. Castellitto. Here's an excerpt from that interview.
Your book is, as many have said before me, a wonderful read -- you succeed at making the fantastical seem believable, and the impossible achievable. Does this echo any experiences youve had, or feelings you have, about life or human interaction?
Probably a sense that we narrow our expectations as we age; that the field of possibility is much broader, and wonders more likely, than we allow ourselves to believe. This calcification is not inevitable. My older brother, a commercial pilot, abruptly decided about three years ago to learn blues guitar. He bought a G&L electric and a Fender Classic amp and set himself to practice 1,000 hours per year -- you should hear him now.
Do you live among the landscape you describe in the book? Would you talk a little bit about how landscape informs literature in general, and your writing in particular?
Certainly landscape helps mold the characters who inhabit it. A hard plain under relentless weather seems likely to produce quiet hardworking people who squint a lot -- it's the old laconic cowboy standard, and there's truth to it. I'd say the winsome lakes and fields of central Minnesota, where I've always lived, have contributed to a general contentment and generosity.
But geography's also an active exotic backdrop anxious to influence the story, and I like best when writers allow it to do so. In the North Dakota Badlands there were burning veins of lignite that captured the imagination of all who saw them -- Teddy Roosevelt came across them horseback in the 1880s, I saw (and feared) them as a boy of eight, these flameshot cracks in the earth, and the ranchers I talked to while writing Peace Like a River told stories of coal-warmed picnics in January and game wardens disappearing forever into the burning fissures. How could anyone not use such material? What's more dramatic than ground and fire and sky?
When do you do your writing? I know that you used to write in the early morning before you went to work at Minnesota Public Radio. Do you write all day (and sleep a little later!) now?
Early morning's still best for me, though that 5:00 a.m. schedule gets lost in the summer months -- it requires getting to bed early, which is difficult with the evenings so long and light and pleasant. At present, I'm starting at 8:00 a.m. and writing until around 5:00 p.m.; but once autumn comes, and school starts, and it's dark soon after supper, then it's back to early coffee.
What are you reading now? What do you read to your kids?
We still read most nights as a family -- poetry sometimes (I'd recommend Poems and Stories for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages, edited by Harold Bloom) but mostly great fiction by the stalwart writers of adventure like Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Owen Wister.
For the full BookSense.com interview with Leif Enger, click here.