January 2011

John Ehle

[Writer]

“I’m not sure that killing him with a bear was the best idea I’ve ever had, but it was convenient at the time.”
Things Ehle has done in service to the “hands-on” approach to research:
Cured a country ham
Canned peaches
Built an outhouse

Michael Ondaatje: Did the characters in The Land Breakers, like Lacey Pollard, for instance—who in the first half of the book seems one-dimensional, but who then returns to the mountain with a sense of the world outside, “the wide road,” and has seen everything that’s going on out there, as opposed to this small valley—did you even imagine Lacey Pollard emerging that way, or was that something that evolved as you were writing? Because he becomes a wonderfully tragic character.

John Ehle: It goes back in a way to Eugene O’Neill. A man chooses life or love. Love meaning he would have stayed with his wife, and life meaning he would have gone to find out what the world was like. So he evolved. He didn’t evolve as much as he should have. I mean, he didn’t have a chance. I’m not sure that killing him with the bear was the best idea I’ve ever had, but it was convenient at the time.

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Michael Ondaatje is the author of several books, including Coming through Slaughter, The English Patient, Running in the Family, and Divisadero. His new novel, The Cat’s Table, will come out in the fall.

Linda Spalding is the author of Who Named the Knife, A Dark Place in the Jungle, and three novels.

Leon Rooke is the author of Shakespeare’s Dog, A Good Baby, The Beautiful Wife, and numerous collections of short stories.

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