Q: What inspired you to write Where Was I?
A: One thing led to another. I was entrapped by health and could no longer travel. At the same time my age suggested a comprehensive look at my output. Did my work over the years indicate continuity? The answer to both was a resounding yes.
Q: The writer Adam Hochschild called the book “A superb display of sharp observations from a man who's been everywhere you'd ever want to go, known everyone you'd ever want to meet, and brought it all alive in a voice you wish you had.” What do you think of that description?
A: Are you kidding? I’m flattered!
Q: How did you first get into travel writing?
A: I got into travel writing through the side door. I was part of the anti (Vietnam) war movement, and much of the antiwar propaganda reached the public through the underground press. I was able to confabulate the antiwar literature with more lefty cultural coverage.
I became a travel writer not by my own effort but by being called one. (“Oh, really? I’m a travel writer? Fine by me.”)
Q: What do you hope readers take away from this book?
A: If you accept that travel writing describes what goes on when nobody’s looking, you’ve got it made.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m exploring different ideas. Ask me again in six months.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Yes, from the Tennessee Ernie Ford song, “Sixteen Tons”: “If the right one don’t a-get you, then the left one will.”
--Interview with Deborah Kalb