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"In Sunlight and in Shadow," Mark Helprin


Jeff Glor talks to Mark Helprin about, "In Sunlight and in Shadow."

Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?

Mark Helprin: It's a book about falling in love in a time that has passed, but a time that I knew very well and that seems to me more vivid than the present. I could say that the inspiration, which means literally "breathing in," was memory. Nabokov wrote a book called Speak, Memory, a beautiful title that I would have used had he not gotten there first relatively recently. But what I'm talking about isn't nostalgia, it's more, to my mind at least, about reporting on something that you can see, just out of reach, as if you are looking on as it happens.

JG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?

MH: What surprised me most was the irresistible way it tractored me into it every time I sat down to write. I don't expect that everyone will have the same reaction, but I really felt that I had crossed into some other world. This was wonderfully therapeutic, in that it allowed me to forget this world for a while, which made it pleasant and easy to face it upon return.

JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?

MH: Physician or naval officer (surface or air, not submarines: I like a view).

JG: What else are you reading right now?

MH: Very easy to report: "Diplomacy" by Henry Kissinger; "De la Democratie en Amerique" by Alexis de Tocqueville (with French dictionary in tow); "Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute;" and "Smert Dolgushova," "The Death of Dolgushov," a Russian short story by Isaac Babel, with an absolutely essential English pony.

JG: What's next for you?

MH: Just before the publication of "In Sunlight and In Shadow," I finished the first draft of a novel. 11 more polishes to go and it may be ready for publication.

For more on "In Sunlight and in Shadow," visit the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt website.