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Work That Builds a Sense of Home

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Steven Ratiner: Were you fearful when you decided to move to rural New Hampshire - away from academia, far from the literary scene?

Donald Hall: I had very good students at the University of Michigan.... But I didn't really like the way we all lived together at the university. I grew up in the suburbs, and the university town is like the suburbs.... People of the same economic class lived near each other and they drove the same cars. I went to school with kids who tended to be like each other.... This place was an alternative - my mother's peoples' place, my grandparents' place. I came up here where there was such a diversity. And I was met at the depot by an old man driving a horse and buggy. What could be more different? I knew when I came here from Ann Arbor, I wasn't going to be driving a horse and buggy, but I had the sensation that I was coming to a different culture, one that resembled the old one. The things had changed less than I expected and I really admired it. I was frightened of making a living, quitting tenure, quitting regular income for the rest of my life. But I, with the support of my wife, ... had the courage to do it, and it has worked out very well.... Writing about this place has been a sort of center for me ... a platform for me from which to view the rest of the world. Remember the poem by Yeats, "Lapis Lazuli," in which he looks at a piece of sculpture in which three Chinamen climb away from the world and look back down on it.... It's a way, not to separate themselves from the world, but to gain enough distance on it to see it clearly and to comment about it. It's a place of vantage point. And I think that, in terms of my writing, this landscape, t hese people, this place has been a vantage point from which to look at the place itself and at the rest of the world that I have known.

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