Featured Interview With Clifford Browder
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
Born and raised in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, so I’m a child of the Midwest. Went to college in Southern California, and after two years in Europe I came to New York to do graduate work in French. Over time I became a veteran New Yorker, love the city despite (or because of) all its faults, think it’s the most exciting city in the world. All my books, fiction and nonfiction, relate to New York, as does my blog, “No Place for Normal: New York.” So now I’m a New York guy through and through.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I was a nerdy bookworm from an early age, hated sports (except soccer), and loved English and history. I was scribbling by fifth grade, if not earlier, and was chosen as Literature for an allegorical play done every year by eighth graders toward the end of the school year. I’ve never had writer’s block, have been scribbling ever since.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
Favorite authors? For the novel, Henry James, though admittedly his later works are difficult. Also James Joyce, especially for Ulysses. I’m rereading Dickens’s Bleak House now, think he use ten words where three would do, but his story holds me fast. Trollope is an easier read. George Eliot’s Middlemarch is magnificent, Jane Adams is delightful. Flaubert is impressive, as is his pupil Maupassant. Them I can read in French. Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain I have to read in translation. For poetry, Dylan Thomas (though difficult), William Blake, Wordsworth, T.S. Eliot, the French Symbolists, Milton’s Paradise Lost (those first two books!), Lorca, Allen Ginsburg’s Howl.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
There are two: one nonfiction, published, and one forthcoming novel. Nonfiction: New Yorkers: A Feisty People Who Will Unsettle, Madden, Amuse and Astonish you, made up of posts for my blog. A mix: a personal memoir with bits of history and travel lore thrown in. It’s all about how New Yorkers live and die, their languages, a cemetery that does whiskey tastings, hustlers, scams and cons, fires that I survived, and how I learned the Charleston. A fun book, with serious moments. Lots of reviews, rating from five stars (a rave) to one star (trash, don’t bother with it). I learned long ago what authors have trouble accepting: better a bad review than no reviews at all.
The novel: Forbidden Brownstones, the fifth in my Metropolis series of novels set in nineteenth-century New York. The story of a young black man who dreams of living in a brownstone, that being the typical residence of the white gentry who run the city of New York. He succeeds by becoming the butler and gatekeeper of the most exclusive brothel in the city, run by the notorious Madame Ida. In time, as Ida ages, he runs the place, nurses dangerous fantasies of completely possessing it. To be released in January 2021.
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