Originally appeared in The Boston Book Review
Q&A Bill Bradley: “a small forward, a senator”
How can a people that wages war on nature reflect God? How can a society with grating poverty amidst great wealth remain just? What is it that guides one through life. What is it that one yearns and strives for? Politics shrinks from even acknowledging these basic questions. It is easier to give a response based on a poll than one that flows from your heart.
Time Present, Time Past
HB: The title of your book comes from T.S. Eliot’s “Burnt Norton”:
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
Why did you pick this phrase from the Four Quartets?
BB: I thought it captured what I was trying to create in the book. It’s a memoir on the one hand; it’s also about the moment; it’s also about the future. Will we be able to preserve the American dream? What is our relationship to the land? Will we be able to deal with ethnicity and diversity as we move into the twenty-first century?
HB: Do you read poetry?
BB: My wife is a literature professor. She reads poetry from the standpoint of the skill of poets. I read poetry like you read a novel, like you read lyrics to a song, like you feel in a day. I’m always struck by how words well done can have a real impact. My wife and I went to the National Poetry Reading down in Washington to hear poets from all over the country. Rita Dove was there. The economy of their language as compared to the power of what they were saying was just mind-boggling to me. Poetry is a form that at age 52 I’m just beginning to understand.
HB: There are moments in the book when the prose is piquant. One of my favorite sentences occurs when you are writing about genealogy and say: “If you look, you never know what you will find in the past — a scoundrel, a thief, a murderer, a religious fanatic, a bore, a small forward, a senator.”
BB: I’m so glad you saw that.
HB: What other kinds of writing do you like?
BB: I like history. That’s probably what I read more than anything else. If I were going to pick the writers that have meant something to me in terms of literary work, I’d pick Tolstoy. I’d pick Conrad. I’d pick Mark Twain.
HB: Anything recent?