Good to Know
Kooser revealed some interesting facts about himself in our interview:
"I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a young man, but realized that I'd have to make a living somehow. I tried high school teaching but was incapable of maintaining discipline in the classroom and the students ran right over me. In 1964, after being tossed out of graduate school because I was a completely undisciplined scholar, I went to work at an "entry level" job in a life insurance company and over twenty five years was gradually elevated to a vice presidency.
During those years I wrote every morning from 5:30 till about 7:00. I never saw myself as an insurance executive, but rather as a writer in need of a paying job."
"I love living in rural America, away from the noise and clamor of the city, and I am completely content to go all week without speaking to anyone but my wife and my dog. My wife, Kathleen Rutledge, is the editor of the Lincoln Journal Star, the daily newspaper in Lincoln, Nebraska, and she helps keep me up on the news. I rarely leave home unless I can't find a good excuse not to go.
I write and paint and do chores around the farm, and am immensely thankful for every new day."
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In the winter of 2003, Ted Kooser answered some of our questions.
What was the book that most influenced your life -- and why?
Lentil, by Robert McCloskey. It is a children's story of a boy who couldn't quite fit in, yet finds a way to be an important part of his community by learning to play the harmonica. Feeling that I too didn't quite fit in, I identified with Lentil. There's a passage in Local Wonders about this book.
What are your ten favorite books?
- An Almanac for Moderns, by Donald Culross Peattie
- Lost Country Life, by Dorothy Hartley
- Berlin Diaries, by Marie Vassiltchikov
- Love Lessons, by Joan Wyndham
- Eccentric Islands, by Bill Holm
- Kilvert's Diary, 1870-1879, by Francis Kilvert
- The Essays of E. B. White
- Swimming Lessons, by Nancy Willard
- The Collected Tales of Chekhov
- In the American Grain by William Carlos Williams
- Tender Mercies
- The Last Picture Show
If you had a book club, what would it be reading -- and why?
If I had a book club it would be reading Marie Vassiltchikov's Berlin Diaries, a marvelous look at the lives of the Russian nobility living in Germany during the last days of the Third Reich.
What are your favorite books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
My favorite books to give are detective novels or unusual cookbooks. My favorite books to receive are collections of letters, commonplace books, diaries, literary and domestic essays.
Who are your favorite writers, and what makes their writing special?
I look to E. B. White for beautiful, clear prose, touched with good humor and generosity. No other writer approaches him when it comes to making me feel good about being alive.
What are you working on now?
I am finishing up a book of poems called Delights and Shadows that will be published by Copper Canyon Press in 2004. I'm also writing a little book on poetry writing.
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