Anthony Doerr talks “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” his new literary epic.
Anthony Doerr talks “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” his new literary epic.
This high in the Idaho Rockies, the water is absolutely pure. It was the glacial lake that transformed McCall, Idaho, into a vacation destination. Locals may prefer boating over reading, but the town’s modest public library is doing brisk business. Nearly 50 years have passed since it first opened, and it’s still packed with books from authors from around the world, as well as some from here in Idaho, like Anthony Doerr.
When he and his family drove up from Boise for a holiday, he would sneak in here and write back, and he would mix in with the other tourists. But in 2015, after winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Doerr’s incognito was destroyed.
‘All the Light We Cannot See,’ one of the librarians said, and we looked at the picture, and we were trying to be casual!’ Meg, one of the librarians said.
Doerr once remarked, “A library is the only place an author is famous.!”
“All the Light We Cannot See” is a massive work of historical fiction that will leave you breathless. Nearly a full four years were spent on the New York Times best-seller list. In total, over 15 million copies of the album were sold around the world. It’s going to be a Netflix series.
“Was it overwhelming?” inquired reporter Lee Cowan.
Doerr described the experience as “utterly overwhelming.” It’s been a while since I absorbed what happened in that novel, and I still haven’t.
There were articles, short stories, and even a biography that Doerr had written over the course of years, all of which received generally excellent reviews but didn’t achieve the same level of financial success. In reality, according to Shauna, his wife, it wasn’t that long ago “an author who was struggling to get published,” as one reviewer put it: “Tony was trying to get published as an author, but he was receiving a lot of rejections. Do you think this is ever going to happen? ‘ “Do you believe I’ll ever be able to accomplish this?”
This man’s won more than one Pulitzer… but is it possible for him to repeat the feat? As he sat down to write his second book, surrounded by boxes of notes, he had high hopes for it.
“What do you guys think of this stupid title?” Doerr recalled asking his family one day.
“Cloud Cuckoo Land” is the name of the place (published by Simon & Schuster, a ViacomCBS company). As the name implies, trying to sum it all in a single line would be foolish.
It’s just as big as his last one, if not bigger, spanning 700 years from 15th-century Constantinople through present-day Idaho and far into the 22nd century.
A giant book of everything is what Doerr was planning, where he tried to fit all his likes and hobbies into one volume.
Cowan inquired, “Have you ever sat down and questioned yourself, ‘Why did I do this to myself?'”
“It is, indeed, absurd! A lot of the time. With 400 little chapters, it’s nearly like a novella. In the work, there are 105 characters named “
So many, in fact, that he produced a diagram to make it easier to follow his literary path through the maze.
“For the sake of mental exercise, I made an attempt to braid all of the crossings together. Plates are spun around poles. So the reader doesn’t forget what’s happening, I’m constantly spinning these five plates in their minds and touching them.”
as said by Shauna: “About five times he said, “I can’t do it, and I’m going to trash it.” And I firmly asserted, ‘You simply cannot!’ I’m intrigued and eager to learn what transpires! I urge you to press on. ‘”
On several hundred pages, the story jumps from one century to another, with many characters, but Doerr’s thousands of small details serve as solid breadcrumbs to get the reader back on track.
Doerr made the following statement: “I’m not sure how excellent I think I am yet. I’d like to think that my work is improving.”
“But, truly, how serious are we talking here? You’ve got to believe in yourself, right?”
“No. I really don’t think so. Language is nothing more than a constantly failing mechanism; you’re so close to conveying what you really want to, but you just can’t make it happen. So, for me, writing has this inherent humility built into it.”
Born and raised in Cleveland, Doerr began writing when most of us were only beginning to read books with more words than pictures: when he was fourteen years old, “I used to keep short stories in spiral notebooks. Even as a child, I used to take over my mother’s typewriter and compose stories about my dolls and other things.”
“At what age did you start writing these short stories?” I asked. Cowan poked his head in.
“I’d guess between the ages of 8 and 9. There was a time when dialogue had a lot of power. You could hit quote marks and have your characters speak foul language or whatever they wanted. That appeared to be extremely potent.”
His mother was a science teacher and spent a lot of time exposing him to nature’s wonders; this fascination has remained with him throughout his life and in his work. “When you’re in the woods, your worries seem less important,” he remarked. “I believe that at times, we all require that.”
It was McCall’s surroundings that inspired much of the setting for “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” with its ponderosa pines, which, as the author indicates in his novel, are no longer as timeless as we previously assumed.
He made the following statement: “Climate change is accelerating at a faster rate than scientists had anticipated. All of these things are happening right now, in our lifetimes. And it’s something that our children will have to deal with as well. As a result, I believe it is the obligation of the novelist. It would be irresponsible of me not to address this subject in some way in the novel if it is the most pressing one of our time.”
In his story, the disappearance of nature is far more subtle than the disappearance of books, which is his other major concern.
His story is built around a fragment of an ancient Greek book that has been carefully preserved by individuals who have cared for it throughout the years. That could explain why Doerr chose to dedicate the book to librarians everywhere, whom he refers to as the keepers of human knowledge.
Doerr asserted,” In reality, a library is nothing more than a collection of portals. You don’t have to live through your own experiences; you can live through the experiences of others in incredibly intimate and deep ways by reading. This idea that you can live numerous lives via books is so powerful. “
On paper, he appears serious, but in person, he’s not. To his twin sons, who are preparing to leave for college, he never mentions that he’s a novelist since it sounds “high and mighty.”
Cowan inquired, “How do your children feel about it all?”
“We don’t talk that much about all this stuff,” he said.
“Have they read any of your books?” I queried it.
“Not according to me! Not the guy who’s like, ‘I’ve got to work on my sentences now!’ I want to be the dad who goes out and plays hoops with them after dinner.”
As a novelist, Anthony Doerr is all you’d hope he’d be able to do, able to connect the past with the present, the every day with the extraordinary, and to remind us all of our fleeting place in a story we hope will go on forever.
“Our time on earth is finite, but I hope our species’ is not,” he concluded. So the best we can hope for is to pass on our culture and this location to future generations.”