On the introductory page of his new novel, The Practical Navigator, Metcalfe writes: "Navigation is the process of charting a course from one place to another.'' It does not take long before the reader understands the importance of navigation to his story. It's about a parent navigating an autistic child, an adult son navigating a mother with dementia and a single dad navigating a rocky love life. Before turning to novels, Metcalfe, 63, wrote for stage and for films, including the production drafts for Pretty Woman, Dangerous Minds and Mr. Holland's Opus. We caught up with the author by phone from his home in La Jolla, Calif., where he lives with his wife, Claudia. They have two children, Wesley, 19, and Olivia, 25.
What's on your nightstand?
I have three things in front of me. I have A Man Called Ove by Swedish author Fredrik Backman. It was given to me by my wife. It's about a curmudgeon. It makes me laugh. Then, I have Brown Dog by Jim Harrison. I had read some of the (six) novellas inside it, but with his death, I wanted to read him again. I knew there were ones that I had not read.
What was the highlight?
For me, I love Brown Dog. Brown Dog visits Los Angeles, and he hooks up with a successful rewriter of screenplays.
Are you sure you never spent time with Mr. Harrison?
That would have been a delight, and actually I like his nonfiction as much, sometimes even more, than his fiction.
What do you think Americans will remember most about him in 100 years?
He creates the most incredible, compelling characters. There always seem to be elements of touching on the past. And the first thing I read was Legends of the Fall, I didn't know anything about him and I said, "Oh my god, who is this?"
What's the third book?
My daughter is at UCLA, and UCLA gave students Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It is a letter between father and son. I'm already 20 pages in. It's about race in America. It's a memoir.
You think it comes at a good time?
It does. I'm reading about black experience that I haven't read before, and it's enormously compelling.
Contact Piper Castillo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @Florida_PBJC.