Interview with Richard Goodman

New Book Alert: Richard Goodman, writer extraordinaire, has just released A New York Memoir: fourteen essays about thirty years spent in the world’s most glorious city. The author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France and The Soul of Creative Writing, Goodman has also published essays in the New York Times, Harvard Review, Creative Nonfiction, and Vanity Fair.

Richard Goodman

What is “home” for you? Is it a particular place or person or thing?

Home for the last thirty-five years has been New York City. But for some essential part of me, home will always be southeastern Virginia, where I grew up.

When did you first hit the road? How did it go?

First hit the road relatively late, when I was twenty-five. Took a Greek freighter to Syria and then met up with a great friend of mine in Athens, and we traveled together all over Europe and North Africa for a year and a half. It was absolute bliss.

How did you break into the travel writing scene?

I’m not sure I ever did!  It’s always been a catch as catch can sort of deal for me.

What travel story will you still be telling your pals in the nursing home?

The one for mixed company?

Let’s say you could take a free trip with anyone of your choosing (a historical figure, an ancestor, a super hero, etc). Who would it be, where would you go, and why?

I think it might be very interesting to go up the Congo (or someplace in the far east) with Joseph Conrad. I’d certainly learn a hell of a lot about human nature, writing, navigation, and just about everything else. From what I’ve read, he was a very likeable man.  Or, if he weren’t available, let me go trekking with Charles Darwin. All you have to do is read Voyage of the Beagle to see how amazing this man was.

What specific travel resources (websites, guidebooks, blogs, etc) do you always consult when planning a journey?

If I am going anywhere in the world that has been mapped by the good tire folks at Michelin, I will certainly consult the relevant map. Those maps are wonders, storehouses of knowledge, efficiently, beautifully conveyed.

Which travel writers or books have been especially inspirational to you?

The list is long, and I really don’t won’t to bore anyone with a bibliography. But one book that’s stayed with me forever is Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard. It seems to me to have been written in a state of grace. He takes you to Nepal in search of the elusive snow leopard, but that’s just the plot, as it were. In this book, Matthiessen is wise, awed, vulnerable, sad–struggling with the death of his wife from cancer and trying to make sense of it and of his life against an ancient rarified atmosphere with the help of the spirit of Zen. It’s what, at least to me, travel writing should be at its best.

What is the hardest lesson you’ve learned on the road?

To quote Horace: “When you go on vacation, remember you take yourself with you.”

What advice can you offer to folks with itchy feet?

Go, go, go.

A new york memoir