Monday, October 8, 2007

David Mizner

David Mizner is the author of Hartsburg, USA, about which the Kirkus reviewer wrote:

"[An] engagingly warm novel that humanizes the country’s culture wars…. [Hartsburg] could have been a slapstick satire, as it details a school-board campaign pitting a born-again Christian with a questionable past against a failed screenwriter who has returned to his Ohio hometown, bringing some of his Hollywood values with him. Though Mizner has fun with his characters, he is more concerned with illuminating them than with making fun of them.... This is fun to read.”
John Kenyon interviewed Mizner at Things I’d Rather Be Doing.

The first two exchanges from the interview:
TIRBD: What was it about a school board race in particular that appealed to you as a venue for exploring the political and social issues you deal with in the novel? Is it better suited than a city council or county supervisor race?

DM: A school board race, of all local races, seemed the most logical venue for examining the so-called culture war. Schools are often where the hot buttons gets pushed: homosexuality, sex-ed, religion, race. Schools are also a target of intense fear and focus: our children are there. The anxiety hovering over our children lends itself to drama. And ridiculousness. When I started writing the novel, I thought the candidates’ children would play a bigger role in the novel than they ended up playing. In fact, it becomes a joke in the book: a school board race from which young people and their interests are absent.

Reviewers have pointed out that you have written one of the most well-balanced books about the so-called red/blue split, offering well-rounded portraits of both sides. Being a liberal, which did you find harder to do: write about the warts of your own side or to look for the positives in the other?

It was definitely more of a challenge to write Bevy and her friends and family, simply because I’m less familiar with conservatives. I’m glad reviewers thought I was fair to both Wally and Bevy -- the book would be a disaster if there wasn’t something like

Balance -- although the people who reviewed the book are probably liberals themselves. I’m hoping to get reactions from conservatives, especially religious conservatives. To the extent that I managed to be fair to Bevy, it was because I like and relate to her. I'm similar to Bevy in some ways. We’re both disorganized and are always struggling to hold back disorder. And when I wrote the book, I was living on an island in Maine, isolated, and I couldn’t help but infuse Bevy with my loneliness -- that happened by accident. I guess it's a cliché that all your characters are you, but it’s true for me. To write a believable book, I knew -- or, I guess, figured out along the way -- that Bevy needed to be just as much me as Wally.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue