Savannah Book Fest Q&A: Karl Marlantes

Savannah Morning News

A graduate of Yale University and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Karl Marlantes served as a Marine in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts and ten air medals.

DO: You’re a highly decorated Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, yet you also attended Yale and later were a Rhodes Scholar. This combination seems to make your books both gritty and cerebral. When writing, do you find those two traits — the experiential and the theoretical — at odds with one another, or do they naturally work in balance?

Marlantes: Theory is supposed to be about reality. A good theory is one that describes reality correctly, and a bad theory is one that doesn’t. So, there is really only conflict between the experiential and the theoretical if I’m working from a bad theory. Writing has often made me change my mind about something. I see the world through a character’s eyes, realize that the way I personally have been seeing the world is different, and then I have to decide if I’ve just been wrong about my view, or if both views are just different ways of seeing the same reality. ... One could even get into whether or not we create our reality and there is no reality outside of our own minds — Bishop Berkeley versus whoever it was that kicked the rock and said “I refute him thus” and all that.

For the full interview, please click here.