Biography

Most of my life has been fairly thoroughly explored in my earlier memoir, the end of the world as we know it. I was born in a small university town in Virginia, a town in which, besides teaching, the chief preoccupations were drinking bourbon and telling complex anecdotes, stories about people who lived down the road, stories about ancestors who had died a hundred years before. For southerners, the past is as real as the present; it is not even past, as Faulkner said.

I went to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and then lived in Europe for several years, thinking that I would be an actor or a painter, two things for which I had a passion that outran my talent.

I wrote an early novel, and then my parents disinherited me, so I moved to New York, which is where small-town people move to do and say the things they can’t do or say at home, and I ended up working in advertising, a profession that feeds on young people who have an amorphous talent and no particular focus.

Fired in my early fifties, the way people are in advertising, I tried to figure out what to do with the rest of my life, and I came back around to the pastime that had filled the days and nights of my childhood: telling complex anecdotes about the living and the dead. I think, when we read, we relish and devour remarkable voices, but these are, in the end, stories we remember.

I live in a tiny town in Virginia in a great old farmhouse on a wide and serene river with my dog, whose name is Preacher. Since he has other interests besides listening to my stories, I tell them to you.