3 Questions with Cullen Murphy: Our "3 Questions" Series Continues
NOTE -- this talk was postponed to February 16th due to icy weather.
This week we feature “3 Questions” with Cullen Murphy, author of Cartoon County: My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe. Mr. Murphy is the editor-at-large at Vanity Fair and the former managing editor of The Atlantic Monthly. (He is also the brother of the The Long Haul author and truck driver Finn Murphy who visited The Norwich Bookstore last year.)
Cartoon County tells the story of Mr. Murphy's father -- John Cullen Murphy - the illustrator of the wildly popular comic strips Prince Valiant and Big Ben Bolt, and a man who had been trained by Norman Rockwell. Cartoon County focuses on a period of time in the last century when many of the the nation's top cartoonists and magazine illustrators - including Mr. Murohy's father - were neighbors in the southwestern corner of Connecticut. This book, through the lens of the author's relationship with his father, brings the postwar American era and life in the arts alive.
Mr. Murphy will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, January 17th. This Norwich Bookstore event offers an excellent opportunity to learn about this unique place and time in the 20th century. This event is free and open to the public. However, reservations are recommended as space is limited. Please call 802-649-1114 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to save a seat and/or secure your autographed copy of Cartoon County.
1.What three books have helped shape you into the writer and editor you are today, and why?
A Sense of Where You Are, by John McPhee. This was McPhee's profile of Bill Bradley as a Princeton basketball player, and I read it in college. It made me aware of the possibilities of a certain kind of literary reporting. Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome. A teacher gave me this nineteenth-century romp when I was in seventh grade in Ireland--there was a kind of high-end silliness about it that has offered a reminder ever since not to take yourself too seriously. Big Story, by Peter Braestrup. Peter was a mentor, and this book was his account of how the press reported the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. It was influential because the account offers many cautionary tales; because it demonstrated that a journalist could do scholarly work; and because I watched him research and write it even as he held a full-time job, showing how that was done.
2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?
Maybe William James. From what I can tell just from his writing--I've never read a biography, and should--he seems to have combined an omnidirectional mind and a genial disposition. And for someone who was at his peak around the turn of the last century, he comes across as someone whom you could bump into tomorrow and think you were meeting a contemporary. You would never think that about his novelist brother.
3.What books are currently on your bedside table?
Munich, by Robert Harris. I'm a big Robert Harris fan, and would especially recommend his Rome trilogy, built around Cicero. (Also Pompeii--the opening scene is a classic.) Dinner at the Center of the Earth, by Nathan Englander. I've loved Englander's work ever since reading the early stories of his that we published in The Atlantic. And Grant, by Ron Chernow. Anything by Chernow is worthwhile. Although Hamilton has gotten the most attention--for obvious reasons--I was captivated by his biographies of Rockefeller and Washington.
NOTE: As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing and the living of life, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”. In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore or bookstore related venues. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to both attend these special author events and read their books.