CREATIVE LATE BLOOMER: Karl Marlantes
This month (October 2013) Marlantes appeared, along with Cameron Smith, a fellow Marine veteran who is director of the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs, in the Think & Drink Series 2013: How to Love America. The happy-hour Think & Drink series, sponsored by Oregon Humanities and held at The Mission Theater in Portland, combines beer drinking with conversations about big ideas.
|Karl Marlantes at the Texas Book Festival 2010|
HIS CREATIVE LATE BLOOMER STORY:
A football player and student body president of his high school class in the logging town of Seaside. OR, Karl Marlantes won a National Merit Scholarship and attended Yale University where he played on the Rugby team. A Rhodes Scholar at University College, Oxford, he left after one semester to volunteer for active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps. Serving in Vietnam as a Marine Corps 2nd and 1st lieutenant, he was awarded the Navy Cross, Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts and ten Air Medals. After Vietnam, he was posted to Marine Corps headquarters in Washington D.C. where one day he passed by a group of anti-war protesters, yelling obscenities at him. He decided he needed to tell his side of the Vietnam story in novel form. For more than 30 years, off and on, Marlantes worked on his Vietnam novel. Employed as an international energy consultant throughout the world, he wrote and rewrote the story, despite rejection from publishers. Then in 2009, a small, nonprofit press in Berkeley, El Leon Literary Arts, printed 1,200 paperback copies of the now 800-page novel. One of those copies caught the attention of editor Morgan Entrekin, president of Grove/Atlantic, who slimmed down and sped up the story. In 2010 Atlantic Monthly Press and El Leon Literary Arts co-published a 598-page hardback version of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War. Marlantes was 65. Debuting on the New York Times bestseller list in April, 2010, Matterhorn was both a New York Times Notable Book and an ALA Notable Book that year. The novel also won the William E. Colby Award from the Pritzker Miliary Library, the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction and the James Webb Award for Distinguished Fiction from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation. In 2011, the novel won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, the Washington State Book Award for fiction and the Indies' Choice Award for Adult Debut Book of the Year.
In 2011, Marlantes followed up the success of his bestselling first novel with a non-fiction book: What It Is Like To Go To War, an account of what life is like for veterans returning from the fog of war. A year later, the Atlantic Monthly Press published another book by Marlantes, this time the non-fiction What It Is Like To Go To War. That year Marlantes's war experiences were included in the History Channel series' Vietnam in HD. An interview about his harrowing first day in Vietnam is posted on History Channel site. Go to http://www.history.com/shows/vietnam-in-hd/videos/karl-marlantes?m=518971be8380b to watch.
WE NEVER SAID IT WOULD BE EASY
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF PERSEVERANCE
"If the book would have been published when I first wanted it to be, it wouldn't have been half the book it is today," Marlantes told the Wall Street Journal. "I didn't have the experience or maturity I brought to the characters over 30 years. The other thing is the racial stuff. I didn't really get into the racial stuff at all in the earlier drafts. I was afraid of it. By the time the '90s rolled around, I realized you cannot write about that time period in America without dealing with racism."
"Over the years, the book got better," told USA Today. "I learned from reading the greats -- Tolstoy and Flannery O'Connor and others -- and asking 'How did they do that?' You've got to stay at the table. If you walk away, nothing will ever happen."