Welcome back for the second installment of my conversation with Robert Fulghum. I listened to What on Earth Have I Done? in my car recently and I liked very much that you read it yourself. It was much more personal and made me feel like I knew you a little better. Did you ever consider having someone else read your books?
No, I've read all of my books through audio. And now, the most intimidating thing, I don't know if I'll do it or want to even try, is to read the novel. I don't know if you've seen this novel. It weighs seven pounds! And it's two volumes about the size of War and Peace. The thought of reading that, well, I don't know. But I think it's important that, if a reader can read well, and I have a reasonably comfortable voice, then you really ought to do it. Because I think, when I write it's like I'm telling you a story, like I'm talking.
Okay. Well, you can do it and you did do it. But what I want to know is, do you actually enjoy reading your books aloud? Do you ever think to yourself "Hmmm, I really like that part" or "What was I thinking?"
I must say that the first time they asked me to do it, I thought, "Oh, this'll be a piece of cake." Well, if you have no experience whatsoever in a recording studio - and the first one was recorded before a lot of the digital technologies came along it's a grind. Because they'll stop you and make you go back and pick up this little word and that little word and it's one of the most exhausting things I've ever done.
Now, they can pick out the exact microdigital thing and they mark it, they fix it. Everything goes much faster now. But still you've got an invisible audience in front of you. That's why I do them I sit down and act or think as if I'm sitting in a chair with a glass of wine, telling someone the stories rather than performing. And I don't think I've ever pulled it off. It's hard not to think of yourself when you're recording in a studio with all these people around that you're performing. But, that was my goal.
It's work; it really is. And it's becoming weirder because of the technology. It used to be you're sitting in the studio and there's a sound engineer and there's another engineer who's overseeing the whole thing and there's four people who were involved in this. Now, there's you and a guy behind the board and the supervising editor can be in Boston or New York by phone, talking to you and the engineer at the same time and it's all in the ether. You're not sure if you exist yourself for a while!
You have to listen to it afterwards to make sure you really do!
It's very disembodied.
It sounds like it. Over the course of a year, you now reside in three different places: Seattle, Utah and Crete. Does this semi-nomadic life help to keep your powers of observation fresh?
I don't have to be in one place anymore as a writer. I've got family in Seattle. I have friends now in many places and because of the success of my novels and writing in Europe, I've got several places I can go and I could live there for several months because I know people there. I would like to be, and think of myself, as a citizen of the world. And I want my kids to think of themselves as citizens of the world. And to have the opportunity, in the later years of my life to make that a reality, has been an extraordinary privilege. I feel so lucky that I can go and live in a place like Bali for several months and think, "Wow, mine is not the only way to live in the world." You know that abstractly. You live in a village, you experience it; that really jars you loose from your prejudices and preconceptions.
When you're in Utah and Crete, do friends come and visit or do you just immerse yourself in your retreat and separate yourself from your other life?