- LEE OLDS describes himself thus:
“Grew up in mansion of rich parents, made honor roll plus athletic plaudits in prep school I detested and was asked to leave at year's end. Went to work, traveled to Alaska, Got B.A. from Cal Berkeley, M.A. in philosophy from SF State. My thesis was on 'time, space, and infinity' and though my adviser said his committee had decided to award me the degree he also claimed if he read it over for six months he doubted he'd understand it. Worked on waterfront in Manhattan as well as San Francisco. Was disinherited along the way. Wintered for many years in Puerto Vallarta. Wrote (and still do) constantly though I have been accused of being too original to be published, too harsh, too fatalistic, etc. well, I’m still here writing and perhaps now getting published.
As Condorcet once said, 'the time will come when the sun will shine only upon a world of free men who recognize no master except their own reason, when tyrants, slaves, priests and their stupid or hypocritical tools will no longer exist except in history or on the stage'. One, of course, wonders if that time will ever come. must strive for it...”
An Interview with LEE OLDS
Q: You sold 1/4 million copies of Too Much Sun in the 60s. What was it like being a best-selling author? What happened after that?
LO. What was it like being a 'best-selling' author? Nothing really. I’d just gotten something out there. It enabled me to engage some interesting people in Manhattan on a different level, but the publicity wasn't that great since Vanguard Press, the hardcover publisher promoted it little, and despite rave reviews bookstores didn't sell (or stock) many. The mass sales took place in worldwide supermarkets or chain stores of the paperback Bantam edition where people could pick the book up, read a few pages and either buy it or not.
After that no general trade house would publish my many submissions. Their invariable answer was 'though I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book I’d never publish it'.
Q: Too Much Sun is a coming of age story, does it mirror your own life?
LO: All first novels are pretty much bound to mirror one's life. It certainly helped develop my philosophy of it.
Q: What prompted you to work with us, the upstart digital publishers?
LO: You cater to the arcane which my novels are, though how other trade house publishers have not picked up on this I can't say. Americans, of course, don't write philosophical novels. Might that be the reason they don't publish them? They’re too interested in perpetrating the great American myth, i.e. a country beyond analysis or quantification.
Q: You live in California, I imagine you as a 'Henry Miller in Big Sur' type figure, how far off am I?
LO: Of course, have been exposed to all the scenes, jazz, peace movement, rock movement, so-called spiritual quest in Big Sur and the Haight Ashbury, sometimes as an integral part of but mostly behind them as my curiosity works in philosophical, strange, almost voyeuristic ways. They’re certainly a valid part of me, as valid as any other. I want to see whether they have any long lasting edifying effects for what one might call a better society. Or were they merely a gratuitous, hedonistic fad for capitalism to feed on and make the claim it has artists, more PR B.S.
Q: How has your writing style changed over the years?
LO: My writing style has changed over the years by becoming more didactically focused, more cooperation, less competition more socialism and atheism, less capitalism and religion two latter ideals which I believe as did the late Hitchens and Dawkins are bringing the world to an unpleasant close. Man has to confront man. Sublimations won't do it.
Q: Do you read much fiction, if so what, who are your favourite authors and why, and how has your reading changed since when you wrote Too Much Sun?
LO: Who do I read? Tolstoy, Hamsun, Gide, Celine, Traven, Lowry, Conrad, Pushkin, Dostoevsky, etc. etc. VS Naipaul, Neruda, Borges, Marquez, Rulfo, Lillo, Hesse, Mann, Broch, Musil, Mishima, Ooka, Forester, Mistry, and many others with whom I can identify with and/or learn from. I don't read American writers much. James, Crane, Wharton and of course Lovecraft and Poe are among my favorites. The big four, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner and Fitzgerald I can do without though some of Faulkner and Fitzgerald provides interesting psychological insights. As to Pynchon, DeLillo, Franzen, Bellow, Vollman et al, forget it. As de Beauvoir said, but what about people. Where, I wonder, is the 'big picture' in America? It’s an interesting country. It must be somewhere. I’m still looking. I must say I don't consider myself well read. Foreign films are the same. You go to them to find life; not to Hollywood the bed of sensationalism and cheap entertainment.
Q: What next for Lee Olds?
LO: Right now I’m reworking various versions of my past novels that I still hope to have published. I feel they'll better express my philosophy, i.e., no god, no free will, no nothingness. Happenstance and disposition as in evolution rule. In my foreshortening, the style itself suggests the perhaps uncomfortable, claustrophobic philosophy as well as a closer look, I believe, as to how things in actuality causally transpire. If we adapt to what I consider to be that more scientifically valid dictum and everything else goes well for us it just might lead to a more peaceful coexistence of species.
Books by Lee Olds:
By The Book Folks, 29 Oct 2015
By Joe Jamieson, 18 Oct 2015
By The Book Folks, 03 Mar 2016
By The Book Folks, 14 Oct 2015