"I always want to write something better than the last book." -- Tracy Kidder
John Tracy Kidder (born November 12, 1945) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer of the 1981 nonfiction narrative, The Soul of a New Machine, about the creation of a new computer at Data General Corporation. His book, Strength in What Remains, the story of a Burundian genocide survivor, was released August 25, 2009.
"At first, I spend about four hours a day writing. Toward the end of a book, I spend up to 16 hours a day on it, because all I want to do is make it good and get it done.""Being a professional writer is not an easy way to make a living.""Continuity is one of the things I like about New England.""I do believe that enduring geological features are important, though I don't think I can be clear about exactly why.""I know that to write you have to have stories you want to tell. You have to keep your mind alive, and you have to work hard.""I never planned on doing a book about Paul Farmer or his organization. I met him in Haiti when I was on a magazine assignment. It's almost like his story sort of fell in my lap.""I tell beginning readers to read a lot and write a lot. If you want to write a book, find a subject that's really worth the time and effort you'll put in.""I think if the writing comes too easily, it shows - it's usually hard to read.""I usually write about ordinary people and ordinary things, but Paul Farmer is the least ordinary person I've ever met... He's the leader of a small group of people who hope to cure a sick world, and I hope my book can help in some small way.""I want my prose to be as clear as a pane of glass.""I wrote a novel about the combat experiences I didn't have in Vietnam.""If you had an essentially happy childhood, that tends to dwell with you.""If you live in the same small place long enough, something you don't like is bound to happen.""In a very basic way, a prominent landmark such as Mt. Holyoke tells you where you are. They let you know that you're not the first person in a place.""Paul Farmer has helped to build amazing health care system in one of the poorest areas of Haiti. He founded Partners in Health, which serves the destitute and the sick in many parts of the world from Haiti to Boston and from Russia to Peru.""People say you can't teach writing, but I think that's nonsense.""The combination of domesticity and wildness - that's a deep expression.""The hardest thing was learning to write. I was 13, and the only writing I had done was for Social Studies. It consisted of copying passages right out of the encyclopedia.""Things were here before you and will be here after you're gone. The geographic features, especially, give you a sense of your own place in the world and in time.""What I like about non-fiction is that it covers such a huge territory. The best non-fiction is also creative.""What interests me is trying to catch the reflection of the human being on the page. I'm interested in how ordinary people live their lives.""When I select a topic, it's usually a commitment of two to three years of my life.""You do the right thing even if it makes you feel bad. The purpose of life is not to be happy but to be worthy of happiness."
Kidder was born November 12, 1945 in New York City.He graduated from Phillips Academy in 1963.He attended Harvard University, originally majoring in political science, but switched to English after taking a course in creative writing from Robert Fitzgerald.He received an AB degree from Harvard in 1967.
He served in the US Army as a first lieutenant, Military Intelligence, Vietnam, from 1967 to 1969. After returning from Vietnam he wrote for some time and then enrolled in the Iowa Writers' Workshop.He received an MFA degree from the University of Iowa in 1974.
Kidder wrote his first book, The Road to Yuba City, while at the University of Iowa. The Atlantic Monthly commissioned the work, and he continued writing as a freelance for the magazine during the 1970s. The Road to Yuba City was a critical failure, and Kidder said in a 1995 interview that "I can't say anything intelligent about that book, except that I learned never to write about a murder case. The whole experience was disgusting, so disgusting, in fact, that in 1981 I went to Doubleday and bought back the rights to the book. I don't want The Road to Yuba City to see the light of day again."
Kidder said that, unlike many other writers, he was not much influenced by his Vietnam experience: "Of course, whenever you're in an experience like Vietnam, it is bound to influence your work; it's inevitable, but I really don't think it greatly shaped me as a writer." His works for Atlantic Monthly include several essays and short stories about the Vietnam War, including "The Death of Major Great" (1974), "Soldiers of Misfortune" (1978), and "In Quarantine" (1980). Writing in 1997, David Bennett rated these three pieces "among the finest reporting to come out of Vietnam".
His second book, The Soul of a New Machine, was much more successful than his first, and won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction in 1982. He has continued to write nonfiction books and articles and these have been well received by the critics.
Kidder is considered a literary journalist because of the strong story line and personal voice in his writing.He has cited as his writing influences John McPhee, A. J. Liebling, and George Orwell. In a 1984 interview he said, "McPhee has been my model. He's the most elegant of all the journalists writing today, I think."
Kidder wrote in a 1994 essay, "In fiction, believability may have nothing to do with reality or even plausibility. It has everything to do with those things in nonfiction. I think that the nonfiction writer's fundamental job is to make what is true believable."