Ben Fountain

Ben Fountain: It was like a feast

"If we truly wanted to be smart, we would fund libraries and education to the hilt."

I love libraries.

I think the thing that comes to mind right now is the smell. Walking into the library in Kingston, North Carolina, the public library. It was one of those wonderful hold municipal buildings, probably built in the twenties or thirties and just the smell of all those books, the paper, the smell of the card catalog.

I think our sense of smell is one of the most evocative of the five senses, and that's a very powerful association for me.

It was like a feast. You could walk in and just walk all over the library and whatever caught your eye was yours to explore, and for a kid of six or seven or eight or nine years old, that's a powerful thing.

Nobody's telling you what to do, nobody's directing you. You're really a free agent there in the library.

My favorite librarian growing up was that a wonderful lady named Holly Ettinger. She was the school librarian at Northwest Elementary school in Kinston, North Carolina, and she was a gracious, wonderful, southern lady, a woman of great intelligence beautiful manners and she loved books.

And she would read to us, and there wasn't going to be any kind of quiz after the reading. We weren't going to be tested on it. She just read to us for the pleasure of reading.

[On library budget cuts]

Well, I have strong opinions. I think in America it's all about investments these days, right?

We need to run society more like a business, more like a corporation. But then we turn around and something as critical and fundamental as libraries which are our intellectual capital, we're starving those.

If we truly want to be smart about what we're doing with this society in our culture we would fund libraries and education to the hilt.

[On censorship]

Texas has an infamous history of banning books here and there. Okay, again, to use that corporate analogy, where the free market rules all and decides all, and the wisdom of the free market is ultimately the best in the long run.

Well, okay, why can't we apply that to the intellectual marketplace?

Put ideas and books out there and overtime quality will win out. But as soon as you start banning books, as soon as the state starts deciding what can be read and what can't be read, where do you draw the line on that?

Let's see, I just finished a novel called "Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk," which is about football, cheerleaders, the Iraq war, capitalism, the movie business, and the general insanity of American life. So, right now, I want to be writing some short stories, while I'm thinking what the next novel might be.  

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Book Title: 

Brief Encounters with Che Guevara

Library Name: 

Kingston, North Carolina