Q. You were born and raised in Boston, but at age 15 you and your family moved to Puerto Rico and lived there for two years. Can you tell us about that experience and how it may have shaped your future interests?
ALAN HOWARD Learning another language, in this case Spanish, at an age when it isn’t hard to become fluent gave me access to another culture and continent and sparked my curiosity about other people and places. This immersion
in societies unlike the one you were born into can have a deeply humanizing effect on a person, at least it did on me: identifying with the entire species instead of any number of its subdivisions constructed along familial, national,religious or whatever lines that happen to appeal to you. It opened me to the world. Without those two years in Puerto Rico, I believe I would have become a very different person and lived a very different life.
Q. Your early college education began with you (reluctantly) accepting a football scholarship to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Can you tell us about your path from that point to finally earning a B.A. in Economics at Hamilton College? When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
AH I’ve never wanted to become a writer any more than a drunk wants to become an alcoholic. I can think of many more socially useful and personally rewarding occupations. When I was much younger, I envisioned my life taking shapethe way Saul Bellow describes it in the opening of The Adventures of Augie March … “and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent. But a man’s character is his fate, says Heraclitus, and in the end there isn’t any way to disguise the nature of the knocks by acoustical work on the door or gloving the knuckles.”