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So Brad… can I call you Brad?

Sure, for now.


Ten years ago, after you made a couple of appearances on national television and a book of yours was getting some attention, a widely-read newspaper columnist wrote a little piece about you.

I don’t think I like where this is going…


If memory serves, the opening line was: “Brad Herzog. Remember the name. He just might be the next Stephen King or John Grisham.”

(rubs temples and winces) And your point is?


I’m just wondering… What do you think of that now, a decade later? Hmmm….?

Three words come to mind: “Dewey Defeats Truman.”


Surely, the guy had a sense of your literary potential…

Absolutely, except that he hadn’t read anything I’d written… And he was a TV columnist… For USA Today, which is the Hannah Montana of newspapers. I’ll just settle for people remembering my name.


Obviously not, given your latest narcissistic endeavor, TURN LEFT AT THE TROJAN HORSE. Okay, it’s a travel memoir. I can understand the travel part – a cross-country jaunt to a college reunion. Fine. Lots of angst and Angus cows. But look at the other memoirs published this year – there’s one written by a playboy, a dominatrix, an internationally successful model, even a master falconer…

Don’t forget Laura Bush.


That’s what I’m saying. You don’t own a whip and high heels. You don’t know a peregrine from a pelican. You didn’t sleep with a guy who had one finger on the button and the other nine on Mad magazine. You’re just an average schmuck like me.

Essentially, yes. And him (points to imaginary bystander in the room, who turns tail and runs).


Who?

Everyone. Most guys, at least. I have a wife, two kids, an unfathomable mortgage, aches where I didn’t know I had muscles, professional frustration where I wasn’t aware I had ambition. Frankly, while I’ve been entertained by the memoirs of heroin addicts and Hall of Famers, I’ve never been particularly enlightened. How accessible can it be if I can’t see hints of myself in the protagonist’s journey?


So you took off on your own journey – a road trip toward your alma mater in Ithaca, New York…

Right. And I revisited the original hero’s journey – the homeward voyage of Odysseus, King of Ithaka – by passing through tiny hamlets like Troy (Oregon), Calypso (Montana), Siren (Wisconsin) and Apollo (Pennsylvania). I channeled Socrates (“The unexamined life is not worth living”) and Kerouac (“The road is life”) and cobbled together an early midlife memoir of an Everyman in search of the hero within.


You’ve been working on that one, huh?

Guilty.


Fine. So it’s more than your usual travel memoir. I’d even call it epic yet intimate.

Oh, that’s good. I’ll have to use that.


But the Greek mythology? Really? Didn’t we suffer enough in high school?

Nah. We just didn’t learn it right. Those myths are a sort of collective unconscious, embedded with universal truths. We weren’t made in the image of gods. The gods and heroic archetypes – those crazy stories passed through the ages – were created in our images, reflecting our fears and our fantasies.


Are you supposed to be Odysseus?

Nope. It’s the other way around. He’s just a manifestation of my psyche. He is me.


You mean, he is I.

Yep, you too.


You arrogant bastard.

Hardly. Odysseus is the prototype of the flawed fictional hero. At times, he could be hypocritical, unfaithful, merciless, an astoundingly unsuccessful leader, physically unimposing. Even one-eyed Polyphemus called him a “short, worthless-looking runt.”


You know you’re no physical marvel if you’re being dissed by a Cyclops.

He’s why Superman falls prey to kryptonite, why Sherlock Holmes prefers his seven-percent solution…


Why Indiana Jones hates snakes.

Exactamundo.


Now you’re channeling Arthur Fonzarelli?

It’s in my DNA. I dressed up as the Fonz for about six Halloweens in a row. Slicked back my hair with Brylcreem.


You should have used Rogaine.

Now I’m going to kick your ass.



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Brad Herzog BRAD HERZOG lives in Pacific Grove, California, with his wife and their two sons. He is the author of hundreds of national magazine articles (covering topics ranging from civil rights movement to sports car racing and from Pez to Zen), a series of children’s books for Sleeping Bear Press and three critically acclaimed American travel memoirs in which he examines big picture concepts while traveling through some of the tiniest dots on the map.

In STATES OF MIND (John F. Blair, 1999; Pocket Books 2001) –which one reviewer for the Orlando Sentinel claimed “will stand with Travels with Charley as a rare road-trip book to endure,” he turned a figurative search for elusive qualities into a literal and allegorical search. Herzog crafted essays on 18 tiny hamlets – from Faith (South Dakota) and Hope (Mississippi) to Pride (Alabama) and Joy (Illinois) – and their eponymous virtues. The book was named one of the ten outstanding books from small publishers in 1999 and rose to #2 on the Amazon.com best-seller list. It has since been included as part of the curriculum in several college and high school geography and literature classes.

Herzog’s second travel memoir, SMALL WORLD (Pocket Books, 2004), was a post 9/11 examination of the state of the union and the ties that bind. Once again, he examined the whimsy and wonder of the country’s tiniest hamlets – from Rome (Oregon) and Athens (New York) to Jerusalem (Arkansas) and Calcutta (West Virginia). In 2006, it was listed among eight “classics” of the travel literature genre in Lonely Planet’s guidebook, USA, along with true classics by Kerouac, Steinbeck and William Least Heat-Moon.

TURN LEFT AT THE TROJAN HORSE, a cross-country version of the ancient Greek epics and a search for the heroic ideal in America, is his latest in the travel trilogy. More than just a trek to Ithaca (New York) for a college reunion and more than another reimagining of Odysseus's ancient journey, it is a memoir exploring the parameters of a heroic existence -- by delving into the lives and lessons in the nation’s nooks and crannies, by examining the universal truths embedded in ancient myths, and through a fair bit of self-evaluation.

3 Responses to “Brad Herzog: The TNB Self-Interview”

  1. The comments need a ‘like’ button. I like this, especially since Fonzie and Indy are mentioned practically in the same sentence!

  2. dwoz says:

    Imagine that. A book reviewer/interviewer saying the words, “You arrogant bastard.”

    I cannot imagine what alloy of irony that represents.

    heheh

  3. Simon Smithson says:

    It belongs in a museum!

    I love the idea of recurring human mythos elements and icons. Maybe some day, Brad, you’ll stand in the pantheon with a lightning bolt at the ready.

    Until then… welcome to TNB! (better late than never, right?)

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