Tracy Kidder – USA

Linked with Paul Farmer, and with Thierry Fagart.

He says: “I’m sickened by strip malls, gated communities, decaying, dying old downtowns. We’ve lost that sense of ancestry in a place, longevity … I grew up in Long Island, a place that vanished in front of my eyes. I grew up there in the ’50s, in the great building boom. It was pretty distressing – you go away and come home and find a whole town gone, a cloverleaf in its place … Nothing human is alien to me – that’s the state of mind I’d like to aspire to. You don’t get far with people by judging them, and one of the nice things of my profession is I don’t have to. It makes things a lot more fun, more interesting. It’s important to hang around with people for a while, let people know what they’re getting into. I try to make people have their eyes as open as they can be. I think, there’s a certain level of decency and honor”. (full text).

Listen to the Tracy Kidder interview with Don Swaim, 1985 (26 min. 37 sec).

Read: Pulitzer Prize winner gives readers insight.

Read: Arts and Lecture series continues.

For the rest of the Spring 2007-tour, put ‘Tracy Kidder’ into Google and click on ‘news’.

Tracy Kidder - USA two redim 70p.jpg

Tracy Kidder – USA

Read: Tracy Kidder to talk about work of Paul Farmer at Case’s Fall Convocation.

He is an American author and Vietnam War veteran. Kidder may be best known, especially within the computing community, for his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Soul of a New Machine, an account of the development of Data General’s Eclipse/MV minicomputer. Kidder followed up with House, in which he chronicles the design and construction of the award-winning Souweine House in Amherst, Massachusetts House reads like a novel, but it is based on many hours of research with the architect, builders, clients, in-laws, and other interested parties. (full text).

Read: A son of privilege as Army officer in Vietnam.

We think of workplace foosball tables and late-night pizza and other artifacts of tight-knit tech teams as Internet-era developments. But they came way before: Tracy Kidder’s Soul of a New Machine (written about the development of a new computer at Data General) is proof of that. (full text).

He says also: “I first went to Haiti in 1994, for research on an article about some of the American soldiers sent to restore the country’s elected government. I have spent parts of the past several years there, working on a book about an American doctor and a public health system that he helped to create in an impoverished rural region. The Haiti that I experienced was very different from the Haiti that I had read about back in the United States, and this disconnection is even stronger for me today. Recent news reports, for example, perhaps in laudable pursuit of evenhandedness, have taken pains to assert that President Aristide and his Lavalas Party have been using armed thugs of their own to enforce their will on the country. The articles imply that the current crisis in Haiti is an incipient war between two factions roughly equal in illegitimacy. But I have interviewed leaders of the opposition, and can say with certainty that theirs is an extremely disparate group, which includes members of the disbanded army and former officials of the repressive regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier — and also people who were persecuted by both these groups. This is an opposition that has so far shown itself unable to agree on much of anything except its determination to get rid of Mr. Aristide. Most important, the various leaders of this opposition have enjoyed little in the way of electoral success, the true measure of legitimacy in any country that calls itself a democracy. Mr. Aristide, by contrast, has been elected president twice, by overwhelming margins, and his party won the vast majority of seats in Parliament in the last legislative elections, held in May 2000″. (full text).

Tracy Kidder was born in New York City in 1945. Kidder attended Harvard College where he earned an AB in 1967. From 1967 until 1969, he served as first lieutenant in Vietnam and was awarded a bronze star. After his tour of duty, Kidder obtained an MFA from the University of Iowa, where he participated in the Writers’ Workshop, a program known for the literary luster of both its staff and alumni. At the workshop, Kidder met Atlantic Monthly contributing editor Dan Wakefield, who helped him get his first assignment for the magazine in 1973, beginning a long-term association with the publication. Kidder’s articles in The Atlantic have covered a broad range of topics, ranging from railroads, to energy, architecture, the environment, and more. In 1994, Kidder met Dr. Paul Farmer — subject of his latest book, Mountains Beyond Mountains — when Kidder was in Haiti to report on American soldiers working to reinstate Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s democratically elected government. (full text).

Read: Frosh welcomed in grand fashion.

… When the book won a Pulitzer, my Dad became very well-known and the phone rang all the time. People were talking about making a movie. I talked about this in junior high and got resoundly laughed at. My parents split up. My Dad would still go sailing with Tracy and Dick Todd from time to time as Tracy wrote more books and got more well known. I ran into Tracy at the UW where he was reading from his new book, Hometown. He was suprised to see me and we chatted for a bit. He said that he didn’t even have email and had just barely surfed the web. I told him I was working mainly doing web design and online research. He gave a great reading, managing to sound humble and thoughful in the face of a not very full house and silly questions. I figured if he ever does get on the Internet and look himself up — as we all do eventually — he’ll have something fun here to find. I tried to make my links fairly comprehensive but these pages are

otherwise low on content. Please send me any more links you come up with. Thanks, (Jessamyn West, Contact).

Read: Andover about Tracy Kidder.

What does the title, Mountains Beyond Mountains, mean? The title comes from a Haitian proverb, which is usually translated as: “Beyond the mountains, more mountains.” According to Farmer, a better translation is: “Beyond mountains there are mountains.” I first heard the proverb from Farmer, and I remember that he told me, “The Haitians, of course, use it in a zillion different ways.” Sometimes it’s used to express the idea that opportunities are inexhaustible, and sometimes as a way of saying that when you surmount one great obstacle you merely gain a clear view of the next one. Of course, those two meanings aren’t inconsistent, and I meant to imply both in the title. (full text).

Tracy Kidder won the Pulitzer Prize for his second book The Soul of a New Machine, a non-fiction story that tracks a team of engineers at Data General Corporation working on an innovative new computer. It follows the life of the project and those involved in it for over a year. (full text). http://wiredforbooks.org/tracykidder/

Publications: on wikipedia; on Jessamyn West’s blog: (and click on about, or books, or links); on amazon; on ebay.

Reviews on: Book Browse;

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