A Conversation with Charlie Quimby

Quimby author photoWhy the title Monument Road?
Monument Road is the name of the road that runs near my house and takes people from town to the entrance to the Colorado National Monument. The protagonist, Leonard Self, must drive this road to get from his remote ranch to almost every other place on earth, and on his last day, must complete a loop of the road from his ranch, through town,  to the place where he will scatter his wife’s ashes.

The Colorado National Monument is also a real place, and I make reference to specific landmarks. I wanted to point readers to the actual location that inspired this work of fiction and perhaps inspire them to visit and learn more about what this country offers.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? Who?
Comic strip reporter Brenda Starr was pretty hot, but that was mostly a visual attraction and I was only ten. Six or seven years later, I had a crush on a real girl who scared me to death on a cliff and I made her into a fictional character. Does that count?

If your favorite author came to Minnesota, who would it be and what bar would you take him/her to?
Some of my favorite authors are too dead or too old and dried out. I’d love to lead David Byrne on a bike tour of local brew pubs and tap rooms.

What was your first favorite book?
I, imitating the pious youth my parents clearly wanted, asked for a Bible for Christmas when I was eight, and then started reading it only to realize the Good Book isn’t that great a read cover to cover. After that, I remember the We Were There books, a series of (mostly American) historical novels written for children, with titles like We Were There on the Oregon Trail and We Were There with the Pony Express. It made me feel like kids could be part of great events and not just solve mysteries about secret castles.

Let’s say Fahrenheit 451 comes to life, which book would you become in order to save it from annihilation?
I have to reject the idea that we should be concerned with saving specific books, however worthy they may be. What we must reject is censorship and the notion that any art, any knowledge should be restricted or destroyed for some nefarious social purpose. I’ve sold used books and collectibles, and I can tell you many books that were good in their deserve to die. They survive as objects or fetishes but they cease speaking to the present. We won’t be impoverished morally or otherwise in the future if no one reads Paradise Lost or As I Lay Dying. But if no artists are creating and no one is grappling with the great issues of the time—that will be a tragedy.

What is one book you haven’t read but want to read before you die?
I am haunted by this question and surrounded by the answer, which is constantly changing as I evolve and fall in and out of love. I buy more books than I can possibly finish, and yet each one is the “one” when I plunk down the money. If these were women instead of books we’re talking about, I’d be in some kind of deep counseling by now. As it is, your question is merely disturbing. Of course, I expect to keep reading after I die.

What Western or environmental issues concern you most?
Water is probably number one. I was born in Rifle (world’s largest trout hatchery) along the Colorado River, grew up in Glenwood Springs (world’s largest naturally heated outdoor pool), and then headed out from Grand Junction (where canals made life possible and the landscape memorializes wetter and drier epochs) to work rigs and haul water in the oil fields. Water was critical to all those towns—for tourism, industry, agriculture and natural habitat.

Second, and related, big beautiful places attract development—for recreation and lifestyle choices—and that growth jeopardizes the very things that attract people in the first place. This growth is related to unsustainable population growth, but also to the increasing economic disparity between the haves and the have nots. The wild and open places at the fringes of our country attract both types, and both impose unique pressures on these fragile lands.

Western libertarian values are peculiar because the people who hold them both love the land and enable policies that threaten it. The government also plays a disproportionate role in land use here. Then you have environmental interests that come at the issues from a perspective that doesn’t always respect the people who have been here for generations. It’s potent material.

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