Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Philipp Meyer

For the Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg interviewed Philipp Meyer about his new novel, American Rust.

Trachtenberg's introduction and the first exchange:

In a hardboiled debut novel that seems particularly apt during the financial crisis, Philipp Meyer sets "American Rust" in Buell, Pa., a once-proud steel town in the Monongahela Valley. Two unlikely friends are trapped in the town. Billy Poe is a former high school football star whose life is already marked by regret. The other, brainy Isaac English, could have followed his older sister to a top school, but instead stayed at home to care for his ailing father. Then, as he is finally fleeing, a chance meeting results in a brutal crime that changes the lives of everyone he knows. Mr. Meyer, 34 years old, lives outside Ithaca, N.Y. Such well-regarded novelists as Pete Dexter and George Pelecanos have publicly praised "American Rust." Spiegel & Grau, which publishes Mr. Meyer, has printed 15,000 copies, a good commitment for an author's first book in this economic climate.

WSJ: Is there a class element to violence? Poe led a violent life prior to the murder that kicks off the book.

Mr. Meyer: In my mind Poe and Isaac represented my two sides while growing up. One was a bookish kid; my parents were artists and recovering hippies. We moved to a blue-collar neighborhood in Baltimore where unemployment was really high. Someone was nearly beaten to death in front of our house and there were always cops and ambulances on the street. I grew up getting in fights and running from fights. But inside the house my parents listened to classical music. The poor are generally the ones shooting and stabbing each other. It makes the news when a rich kid is involved.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue