“How long will preppies be around?”
“Centuries, I guess. Maybe forever. As long as there is madras in the world.”
THE PREPPY AND THE TROUT
There isn't a great deal of modern literature about us Preps, so when one was brought to my attention, I had to check it out.
It's a novel by the talented Robert Reichardt and honestly, it's a very entertaining read. I'm sure readers will thoroughly enjoy his wonderfully written and colorful characters.
Here's a brief teaser to wet your whistle:
Laced with wit, sophistication and humor, this novel about preppies is filled with colorful characters leading frustrating lives. Set in the resort town of Ketchum, Idaho, the story revolves around a young, insecure, former lacrosse star who owns a fly-fishing shop, his demanding preppy wife, and a bungling older preppy who’s recently moved west to escape his troubles by trout fishing.
Eric Berensen (the fly-fishing shop owner) is a lame former lacrosse star at an unnamed college (Colgate) who has married over his head into an old east-coast family. His preppy debutante wife, Corkie (an elementary school teacher and yoga and riding enthusiast), attempts to transform him into her version of a preppy -- something he has no intention of becoming. More conflict arises due to her longing for a child -- much to his dismay. To complicate matters, a lovely divorcee (Brooke Lowell) shows up with the intention of seducing the troubled Eric who also struggles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
The young couple befriends an aging preppy named Kip Noll III who’s recently arrived in town. He becomes known as “the Preppy” because of his classic New England dress and mannerisms. Despite a fine social pedigree, a charming personality and an Ivy League degree, Kip’s made a total shambles of his life (financial and two divorces) and is now eagerly awaiting a large inheritance from his Aunt Caroline to rescue him. Unfortunately, his unethical sister, Topsy (a Seven Sisters graduate) from Old Lyme, Connecticut, has other plans. Ironically, an outrageous long-distance legal battle ensues.
Fragments of Chuck Berry’s old tune, “No particular place to go,” serves as the novel’s background theme song, as each of the characters seek out their own “Particular Place” in life after prep school. Similarly, Izaak Walton’s, The Compleat Angler, forms the philosophical backdrop for the fly-fishing aspects of the story.
The narrator’s introduction of himself in the middle of the novel comes as something of a surprise.
Robert was gracious enough to let me pick his mind and get his thoughts on his new book, preppies and what he hopes to achieve.
The Preppy Times: Hello Robert, I must say, what an interesting title for your book. How did you choose that name?
Robert Reichardt: I thought the title “The Preppy and the Trout” encompassed something of what the book was about -- preppies living in a natural environment, no longer in school -- that sort of thing.
TPT: What made you decide to write the book?
R.R: Last summer, I was on vacation in Ketchum, Idaho and thought it would be a unique setting for a novel. Then the problems arose: what would it be about, who would the characters be, what kind of lives would they be leading, what were their past stories and what would be the conflicts besetting them? Somehow, I stumbled upon the idea that they would be preppies -- composites of people I’ve known, and then a lot of autobiographical material gradually got grafted on as well.
TPT: How long did it take to write The Preppy and The Trout?
R.R: About a year. The writing is easy, it’s the thinking about what to say that’s the catch. As the old saying goes: “Sometimes I sits and thinks, and other times I just sits.” I’m a big believer in revising -- the beauty is in the re-writes. It’s amazing what will pop up on the third or fourth time around. This is a common practice -- I think Flaubert and Fitzgerald each rewrote their masterpieces many, many times.
TPT: When did you start writing?
R.R: I’ve always enjoyed the written word, and consider reading to be one of life’s best (non-fattening) pleasures. I never really did engage in creative writing much until rather recently -- I wrote a group of plays (mostly comedies) a few years ago which are still awaiting to be discovered.
TPT: What was the first piece you ever wrote?
R.R: Years ago I tried to write a novel when I was living in Europe. Of course, it wasn’t any good and so I moved on to other things
TPT: What is your choice of medium to write and why?
R.R: I do a combination of yellow legal pads with pen, and organizing in MS Word. When I think of all the great writers who created their work on typewriters, I have nothing but admiration for them. And to have to rumble through stacks of paper must have been very time-consuming and frustrating as well. No wonder so many of them drank heavily. Writers today are lucky.
TPT: Are there any more books in the works?
R.R: A book of my collected plays (“Karen, The Fuse Lady and Other Plays”) will be coming out in eBook in a few weeks. How’s that for a plug? I also have another novel I’m trying to work the kinks out of -- but that’s a long way off.
TPT: Tell me, who are your favorite writers?
R.R: Of course the list could stretch out, but I’ve always admired Evelyn Waugh for his wit (VILE BODIES, A HANDFUL OF DUST), and so far as sheer brilliance in handling the English language none are better than Lawrence Durrell (THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET), Aldous Huxley (POINT COUNTER POINT), and all the short stories of John Updike. In the area of the imagination, I like the ironic works of Jose Saramago (BLINDNESS, THE STONE RAFT), and the inventive novels of Kurt Vonnegut. The “preppy” authors John Cheever and John Knowles are in there too.
TPT: What is your favorite genre?
R.R: I like literary novels and also non-fiction histories (THE WILD BLUE by Stephen Ambrose, and THE RIVER OF DOUBT by Candice Millard, for example).
TPT: What was life like for you growing up?
R.R: I grew up in a Brooks Brothers and J. Press milieu and so this gave me a pretty good insight into the lives and psychologies of the preppies which people “The Preppy and the Trout.”
TPT: What are your thoughts on Preps in society today?
R.R: In recent years, there’s been an attempt to water down and extend the shoreline as to what constitutes “preppy.” Obviously, this is being perpetrated by companies with no history of being preppy who only have the bottom line in clear view. To them, preppy is merely a passing fad which might or might not be carried next season (depends on the sales figures). Many consumers who would like to partake in the preppy schema are being grossly misled as to what it’s all about. The recent unnecessary catastrophic sequel to a classic book hasn’t helped much either. And there’s also been a denigrating, mocking attitude towards preppies coming from certain quarters of society. Let’s face it, contemporary America is a slovenly culture with the majority running around looking pretty bad. A well dressed person with taste and class is looked upon with suspicion (if not with total incomprehension). It’s just the opposite of the 1920-1950s when even factory workers tried to dress well and present a positive image. Of course, preppies aren’t going to discard their Nantucket Reds, topsiders, signet rings, Lillys, bow ties, LL Bean Norwegian sweaters, blazers and follow the mob to “fit in.” Preps today are probably farther away from the mainstream than at any other time, but it’s only because the mainstream has jumped off a cultural cliff. To our credit, we haven’t moved an inch and don’t need to.
TPT: In your opinion, what do you feel makes good writing?
R.R: I admire conciseness and brevity in a writer -- someone who doesn’t take five pages to say what could be said in one. Modern Age impatience, I suppose. Knowing how to structure a novel to keep the reader’s interest and curiosity is a welcome quality. I’m also a sucker for extraordinary metaphors and similes -- someone who can make connections between disparate things I never would have thought of. Intellectual depth shining behind the words is another important element. And especially for good writing, I need to have some humor showing up now and then or else I tend to get bored.
TPT: What advice would you give to budding writers?
R.R: Read as much good literature and great writers as you can and eventually by osmosis, some of their thought patterns will take hold in you. Don’t worry too much about being “original” (they say that Shakespeare said it all, and what he left out James Joyce put in) so tell your stories in your own voice.
I advise studying the books on novel writing published by The Writer’s Digest. I’ve found them to be helpful in structuring, plotting, scenes, characters, action, etc.
Although there will always be a market for printed books, the future is tilting heavily toward eBooks. Price and accessibility are big factors. The major publishers have been downsizing for some time, and unless you’re already a celebrity or politician, the days of substantial advances being passed across the table at some posh Manhattan restaurant and major marketing pushes are over. Putting your book out in eBook format allows you access to millions of potential readers globally in a short time.
TPT: Where does Robert Reichardt plan to be in five years?
R.R: We make our plans and the Gods laugh at us. Anyway, like everyone else, I’d like to be healthy and happy.
TPT: Finally, what do you hope readers will take away from your book?
R.R: I hope they will have enjoyed reading it and gotten to know the lives of the characters. The preppies depicted in “The Preppy and the Trout” are human beings first and in a certain social category afterward. This is a book more about psychology and relationships than what the people are wearing. I also would like for the readers to laugh as much as possible, and to be entertained by the various situations. I’ve attempted to make it as smooth flowing and as easy to read as I could -- nobody wants to trudge through “War and Peace” nowadays.
TPT: Robert, it's been an honor.
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Also available on Apple iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. And let me know what you thought of it.
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE PREPPY AND THE TROUT AUTHOR ROBERT REICHARDT
Labels: Interview with Robert Reichardt