Today I'm featuring the final installment in a three-part interview with my friends Chadd VanZanten and Russ Beck. In June, the History Press published their humorous collection of essays On Fly-Fishing the Northern Rockies: Essays and Dubious Advice. You can read part one and part two of the interview and be sure to add your comments about writing, reading, and fly fishing!
An Interview with Chadd VanZanten & Russ Beck,
Part Three: Pearls of Wisdom, Obi Wan Kenobi, & A Year with Ernest Hemingway
Chadd: I’m not writing anything right now because I’ve been too busy working on promoting the book, but I have a few projects that I’ll get to soon, hopefully. I want to write a series of essays on the Wind Rivers of Wyoming, for example, that incorporates some of the conservation history of that place.
Russ: I'd love to collaborate with Chadd again--but I'm going to need some experience first. I'm wrung out on fishing.
Chadd: Yes, Beck said he’s open to writing another book together, and I have to say that it would be good for both of us to do that. Beck said that having the book deal in hand made him write better, and he said our jumbled, haphazard review process pushed his writing forward in terms of quality. I agree with that. This is by far the best of Beck’s work that I’ve ever read. And I’m the same way – the reviews I got from Beck were extremely helpful in getting my essays into proper shape to appear on a page. It’s funny – that deadline pressure really has a way of sharpening you up. You realize that you’re about to submit your work to be enshrined on a page in a book that will sit on shelves for decades if not longer. And when you get that realization, you want really badly to get everything right.
Russ: I'm always working on a memoir about growing up Mormon in central Utah.
Russ: (1) It’s never worth it. (2) It’s never worth it. (3) It’s never worth it.
If a Hollywood film company bought the rights to your book to adapt it to the screen, who would you cast (both as major and minor characters)?
Chadd: I want Sir Alec Guinness to play me, and I would want him to be dressed as Obi Wan Kenobi for the entire film. Ryan Gosling would play Beck, and he’d have a fake beard like in “The Notebook.”
Russ: Billy Bob Thornton/Meryl Streep = Chadd. John Cusack (but not jerky Cusack) or Zach Galifianakis = Russ. Thelma and Louise Brad Pitt = Brad.
OK, now for some lightning-round questions. Answer with whatever first comes to mind:
Russ: Chadd (well, Brad).
Who is the better writer?
Chadd: Norman McClean is better than both of us put together.
Chadd: It pays the bills. Wait, no it doesn’t. I have no idea.
Russ: Because it beats not writing.
Chadd: We wrote a book to answer that question. And we failed.
Russ: It will make you a better person.
What would Ernest Hemingway say?
Chadd: “Write drunk. Edit sober.” (Beck does the opposite.)
Russ: Fish only point up stream.
Last question, the one I always ask: In the world of make believe, if you could pick five authors from any time period in history to spend a year with on a desert island, who would you pick and why? How do you think they would get along together? When a ship came to rescue you one year later, what would we find?
Russ: My wife writes--can I take her? Fine. Vonnegut, Hemingway, Gabriel García Márquez, Dostoevsky, Wolfe. Partially because that feels like the list I'm suppose to put down--but I would love to hear what those five would talk about. I think if anything got out of hand, GGM will have ways of calming everyone down. I'm not sure why. We probably wouldn’t get along together a whole lot. I'm pretty sure (maybe minus Hemingway and Doestoesky) those folk aren't builders. I hope we'd survive.
Chadd: I would just take two – William Faulkner and the beforementioned Ernest Hemingway. Both great writers, of course, but for very different reasons. Faulkner was the master of challenging, biblically dense prose and elaborate conceits, the true meaning of which no one is really sure of, while Hemingway evoked soaring heights of expressiveness without ever resorting to complexity or pretense. I’d take them to the desert island because I like to think they hated each other, and I have a feeling that neither would be willing to let the other get in the last word, and so they’d argue endlessly for my enjoyment about whose approach was better. We would have to have a steady supply of liquor on the island – if they ever sobered up, they’d be completely unable to keep up the argument. I’d be the moderator of the debate. Faulkner and Hemingway would wake up each day and start in where they’d left off the day before, and I would get between them if things ever got to heated or if they tried to get physical about it. I’d listen to them insult each other and pontificate while I made the fires and prepared food for the three of us. We’d do this every day for a year. When the ship came to rescue us, I would get aboard, but Faulkner and Hemmingway would just order the captain to unload any booze he had on the ship, and then they’d keep on arguing while the ship sailed away.