by Dick Loftin.
I have little and not-so-little piles of clippings, articles and interviews of writers I respect. When I need some inspiration, or simply want something to read just to relax a bit, I’ll get into the pile and pull something out. The other evening, I came across a Paris Review interview from 1999 with author David McCullough, arguably one of America’s greatest historians. Let me say here, that for me, he is America’s greatest historian. He rekindled my interest in history, in books and in writing. I hang on every word he says. He has written ten books since 1968. All of them on his 1940’s era Royal KMM typewriter and all of them are still in print.
Several years ago, Mr. McCullough gave a speech at the Harry Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri. My wife and I went up to hear him speak, and it was truly a wonderful experience. I had read his “John Adams” and Truman biographies, and through McCullough’s work, I learned more about writing, how to write, and what to write, and how history is really storytelling. The subjects of history were as alive then as we are now. We tend to look at historical figures as people from ‘the past,’ – it made me wonder – what about us? At some point, we are living in ‘the past’ right now. So, Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Lincoln became real to me, as living, breathing human beings any time I would read stories about them. Their stories are our stories.
In the Paris Review interview, David McCullough talks about his love of history, how he writes, how he does his research, rewriting and polishing and how important it is to read out loud what you have written. You have the ‘hear’ what you write.
It’s a terrific interview, doesn’t take much time to read and you’ll get a lot out of it. Enjoy.
Read the Paris Review interview with David McCullough from Fall 1999, Here.