Eddy L. Harris
Harris, a graduate of St. Louis Priory School and Stanford University, has embarked on many journeys over the years for his work, including a one-man canoe trip down the Mississippi River for Mississippi Solo (1988), extensive travel in Africa for Native Stranger (1992), a motorcycle trek through the South for South of Haunted Dreams (1993) and a return to New York, where he spent his early years, for Still Life in Harlem (1996). His most recent project is River to the Heart, a documentary about a second trip Harris made down the Mississippi in 2014. "The focus of the movie is the journey, and the focus of the journey is partly river, partly me personally as well as the people who touch me as I go downriver," said Harris, 61. "I'm using the Mississippi as metaphor for who we are and where we are."
Harris will be a featured speaker at the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs being held Feb. 15-17 at USF St. Petersburg. For information, visit stpetersburgconferenceonworldaffairs.com.
What's on your nightstand?
Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. It is not the first time I've read it.
How many times have you read it?
I think three. It's a brilliant book. I keep coming back to it because it is for me a piece of work that is totally unexpected. I'm not sure I should say this, but by the end of the book, I empathize with the killers. I don't know how good you have to be as a writer to make that happen, but Truman Capote did it. Somehow you feel for them.
How do you think he did it?
One of the things I try to do in writing and in my life is to put myself into other people's circumstances, and that's what Capote managed to do. He climbed into the circumstances of the people who committed the crime. He doesn't sentimentalize it or glorify it. He does it straight, and the straightness and honesty make you feel what they are feeling when they are in the prison cells.
So you wouldn't call it compassion.
I don't think so, but all writers are part schizophrenic. The writer is a writer when he is writing, but he is a different person in his real life. It is confused, especially when the writer is writing something personal. People can start to think the character on the page is the person whose book they are buying.
Any other books?
Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America by John M. Barry.
Are you using this book for reference?
Partly reference and partly inspiration and partly informational purposes. It covers the lower Mississippi, and the flood that people don't know about and don't think about. It's not just the river but politics around the flood.
How is your transition going from writing in print form to digital form?
I'm not even trying. I have not moved into the digital age. When I write, I still write longhand with a fountain pen and Moleskine notebook.
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