Siberia is a state of mind.
Russians don’t complain, usually.
I was friends with Russians who said I should see Russia. I went there in ’93 and it was so exciting, and I went to Siberia and had a great time.
Writing humor for me is more like a watchful-ness. You have to watch. When you say something funny, or someone else does, it’s more like you wait for the piece.
With reporting, if you work hard, you can usually pull something out. But writing humor doesn’t respond to working hard, necessarily. I mean, you could just sit there and look at the page all day and maybe something will come.
To me, a bag in a tree is like a flag of chaos, and when I remove it, I’m capturing the flag of the other side. In the end, it doesn’t matter how ironic or serious or even effective on a larger scale bag snagging may be.
I am an author, and like many in my profession, I am also a traveling salesman, going all over in an attempt to persuade people to spend twenty-five dollars on a hardcover book by me.
I’d read books in Russian, and they would take me forever. I wanted to write a book that would last and would not be superficial. Siberian-travel writing is its own genre.
Human connection is the way things work. It’s like a patronage system. You know somebody, and he knows somebody, and he knows somebody, and he knows the district governor, and it’s okay.
America to me is so varied and exciting. I always feel nostalgia for the place I’m not in, and then I get there and find myself in a traffic jam going into the Lincoln Tunnel, and I think, ‘God, why was I romanticizing this part of the country?’ I think it has to do with the romantic, unrealistic temperament.
Once, America’s size in the imagination was limitless. After Europeans settled and changed it, working from the coasts inland, its size in the imagination shrank.
On two or three book tours, I have visited bookstores in the Mall of America and signed copies of my books and introduced myself to store employees who I hope will sell them.
I’m one of those people who happen to like trees. I don’t know why – I just do. As a kid, I loved to climb them. The distant, upper branches, especially, were celestial and alluring.
When I needed to think or was really upset, generally I climbed a tree.
There’s an idea of the Plains as the middle of nowhere, something to be contemptuous of. But it’s really a heroic place.