Dispatches from Lisbon
First appearing in somewhat different form as a series of dispatches on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency—an excellent literary site to add to your list of bookmarks—Philip Graham’s new book The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches from Lisbon offers readers an exuberant yet introspective account of the author’s year long sojourn in Lisbon with his family as they explore Portugal’s music, its inventive cuisine, and its vibrant literary culture.
Recently, Graham was interviewed about his book on the Inside Higher Ed. blog, The Education of Oronte Chrum. Here’s an interesting passage from the interview wherein Graham answers a question put to him about “writing other cultures” and the “dangers of misrepresentation”:
I think the dangers of misrepresentation when describing a conversation you had five minutes ago with a family member or friend are high, too. Because the thoughts of others are unavailable to us, humans have to make do with varying skills of interpretation. We’re all fiction writers of a sort, throughout our lives shaping characters out of the selected and often misleading signals we receive from the people we think we know. A spotty business at best, this. But what’s the alternative except deepening isolation?
The same goes for travel, since every country on the globe shares a second, secret name of Pitfall. Yet sometimes where you live doesn’t give you what you need or want or whatever you’re secretly searching for, and when you find a place that does, that becomes the most rewarding travel, the kind where each footstep on the outside is accompanied by an echoing footstep within. These steps are necessarily tentative. In The Moon, Come to Earth, I tried to separate from myself any notion of being an expert. I was and remain simply your run-of-the-mill flawed fellow, awkwardly nosing about another culture, never quite sure what I might come upon, what might resonate inside me, attract or appall me.
Continue reading the full interview on The Education of Oronte Churm blog.