Party! Inside the artist’s mind interview series 3, Mercedes Webb-Pullman, Looking for Kerouac

Welcome to the party! Why a party? Because I feel like celebrating:

  • An enjoyable and thought provoking book
  • the amazing author and
  • YOU, my fellow blogger/bloggees. Like Listening to Kerouac, you have opened up the world to me.

Commenters and “likers” to this post will be entered in a raffle for a copy of Mercedes’ fabulous new book and/or some Mrs. Fields cookies. I’ll leave the raffle open for a few days.

Here’s my review:

Reading Looking for Kerouac lets you take a challenging and interesting journey the easy way. The author’s voice is so engaging that you can read some before bed one night, put the book down (that is, turn off your Kindle or other device), open it the next day and pick up right where you left off, speeding by train through today’s America and via the author’s mind through an America of a different time.

The realism and honesty throughout the book are deeply engaging. You learn a lot about the Beat Poets and the history “goes down easy” interwoven with the author’s vivid portrayal of America and her life, now and then. Looking for Kerouac is a Must Read.

Kerouac 2

Mercedes, congratulations on the publication of your stunning “travelogue, memoir, quest,” LOOKING FOR KEROUAC. Thank you for letting me read an advance copy and for being here today to talk to us. Beautiful cover, by the way!

Looking for Kerouac feels very stream of consciousness in the way the prose flows between present day thoughts and observations, memories of the past and history. Did much of the prose style happen as you were jotting notes while you traveled or did you write notes and then compose the draft to have that effect?

MWP: Thank you for the invitation, Nia, and for helping me by reading and commenting on the advance copy. It is almost exactly two years since I took the trip, and I’ve worked on the book since then, to the extent that I couldn’t see it any more! Your notes helped me with revision, and regaining perspective.

I took notes all the way through my trip, and saved the oddest things; tickets, menus, timetables, hotel bills, the ephemera of travel. When I was ready to start writing I brought these all out, sorted them along with my photos, and sort of recreated the places, went back into them all.

The style of writing is very much a choice – I wanted to emulate Kerouac’s style, using his method of ‘spontaneous prose’.

NS: There is so much detail I marvel at how you collected it all. Did you use a voice recorder or pad and pen?

MWP: I took notes, notebook and pen. I could have taken film with my iPad but just took still shots. When I started writing though, the scenes in my memory came back to life prompted by the pictures and the collection of ephemera.

NS: I also marvel at and learn so much from your honesty. Sometimes I want to write something true and when I read this work it has that feel of truth to it. But there is no one Truth; everything is filtered. Can you comment on the travelogue as memoir technique, using travel as a filter on your own memories and also on using Kerouac’s On the Road as a template?

MWP: Veracity is very important in my writing – but as you note, there is no one Truth. In the end all I can do is call it as I see it! I think Travelogue is a wonderful vehicle for memoir – have thought so since I first read Paul Theroux’s books. Maybe I tried to accomplish too much with Kerouac, weaving his story in with my past and present, so we all floated together in book time. I just know that’s the way the story wanted to be told.

NS: I don’t think you tried to accomplish too much, Mercedes, because you really pulled it off. The way you wove the story threads completely worked and was marvelously seamless and intriguing. In fact, it’s difficult to make one’s own travelogue interesting to others, because a chronological sequence of events can read like a phone book. What you did is the most interesting one I’ve ever read, including Travels with Charley (Steinbeck). I also applaud your veracity and hope one day to dip a toe a bit more deeply in that pool as a writer. Your book caused me to reflect on my own life and thoughts about our society. I found myself in your shoes exploring what my reactions might be and learning from yours.

You mentioned several times that you were no longer interested in having possessions. Can you tell us a bit about what this choice makes available to you?

MWP: I’ve studied Zen Buddhism – or rather, tried to live as an aware person. I acknowledge that attachment and desire cause suffering, and I try to remind myself of this. On a more personal level, I had to leave my home and garden in another country to come back to New Zealand and help care for my mother. Along with this loss I think I have gained in compassion and have learned a little more about the world and my place in it.

NS: Thank you for sharing yet another experience and insight. I agree about learning more compassion and about learning our place in the world. My heart wrenches for you having to leave your home and garden. I can relate to taking care of your mom (a journey in itself) and learning to hold things in life with an open palm instead of a clenched fist. Your sensitivity, wisdom and writing ability allowed me to examine these lessons in a new light and resonated not just with my mind but with my heart. Bravo! And thank you!

Looking for Kerouac is available as a Kindle e-book here: http://amzn.com/B00EU6U26W

You can also find out more about Mercedes on the new blog at Poetry Sans Frontieres. Here’s the direct link to Mercedes’ guest blogger post.

Thank you, blog readers! Say hello or drop a “like” to be entered in the cookies and book raffle.

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9 thoughts on “Party! Inside the artist’s mind interview series 3, Mercedes Webb-Pullman, Looking for Kerouac

  1. John Holland

    Great interview Nia. Mercedes answers the questions like she writes her poetry and prose. With truth and honesty. I enjoyed this a lot!
    Don’t add me to the draw. I’ve already bought Looking for Kerouac and I think it is wonderful I hope it gets to be read by everyone who likes literature.

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    Reply
    1. Nia Simone Post author

      Thanks, John. You’re right and that’s really a good point about how Mercedes answered my questions. Very consistent with her style so I guess that makes her style consistent with her philosophy. I think that’s known as integrity.

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