241 CHRONICLESnpyramid. The only problem with that is it seems that wenforget as much at the other end as we are learning at thisnend. The sum total of knowledge does not increase, which isnone of the things which makes it so difficult for us ever tonhave enough information to properly imagine the past.nBell: Starting into the first novel, did you have particularninfluences? Did you see yourself in relation to the Agrariansnor the Fugitives or Southern Renascence writers at all?nGarrett: Not really, but I had certainly read them — andnhad read an awful lot of William Faulkner. I was trying notnto do something that sounded like everything they did, butninevitably some of my concerns were the same.nBell: What about Faulkner as an influence?nGarrett: I went the opposite direction from some I know.nExample: Reynolds Price says somewhere that he is almostncompletely unfamiliar with Faulkner. Very early he read onenbook or something and decided he didn’t want to read anynmore because he just didn’t want to be influenced. I did thenopposite; I read it all. I think you have to do one or thenother. I wanted to use the things he had taught us, but Indidn’t want to sound like him, to pick up the rhythms andnthe words and the tropes and devices. In the best sense,nthere are ways to use the influence and work better. That’snwhat I wanted to do, and whether it was always successful ornnot I don’t know.nAs for the others I did indeed read a great many.nSouthern novelists interested me the most. Warren, Lytle. Inliked Tate. Caroline Gordon. I was tremendously excited bynreading the first things of Carson McCullers. I didn’t knownFlannery O’Connor until a little bit later, when I began tonget stories turned down: “I like this story a lot and I wouldnpublish it, but it sounds too much like Flannery O’Connor.”nI had Flannery O’Connor mixed up with FlannnO’Brien. Anybody named Flannery, .1 just thought it wasnsome guy from Ireland. It bugged me because I hardlyncould have been influenced by somebody I never heard ofnand thought was an Irishman. So I was greatly pleased, yearsnlater, to find in her book of letters one that says: “KatherinenAnne Porter came through town. We had lunch. She tellsnme I write a lot like George Garrett. Who is he? I hope he’snno one terrible.”nBell: The Finished Man is a political novel, and I’mnwondering how you’d compare Southern politics with thenpolitics of Elizabethan England.nGarrett: In Southern politics failure didn’t cost you yournlife either, but there weren’t too many second chances. Asnlate as the 40’s and early 50’s, you get aced in Southernnpolitics and you are finished. Except, strangely enough, fornClaude Pepper, who’s the model for the senator in thatnnovel. He was one of the leading Democratic senators, verynlikely would have been Vice President instead of LyndonnJohnson. Instead he got beaten out of the Senate by his ownnprotege. The book is modeled closely enough on thenPepper/Smathers race, and most of the papers down Southeastnreviewed it with pictures of them and discussed it in thatnway. Anyway, Claude Pepper survived all of this. A fewnyears went by and he found himself—he is now a majornnational figure again: Claude Pepper the congressman, nown80-some years old, leading the aged people of America.nThey don’t even remember Claude Pepper the senator.nThere is a story that goes with this. Susan and I bothnnnworked for Jack Kennedy, years and years ago. My job wasnto try to talk writers into voting for Kennedy. And I must tellnyou that I made endless phone calls, and many famousnwriters of my generation (I can remember their names, andnI hope they’re reading this interview) said, “Kennedy andnNixon, Kennedy and Nixon — two of a kind, I’m notnvoting!” Later, many of these same guys were very passionatenabout marching against the Vietnam War. But after theynmade that statement I didn’t take their judgment aboutnVietnam or anything else very seriously. Their knowledgenof politics was zero, and I am not progressively orientednenough to think that they acquired more knowledge as theynwent along.nAnyway, very shortiy after Kennedy’s election, I wasninvited to a Kennedy party and got introduced to one of hisnhotshot guys as somebody from Florida. This guy said, “Tellnme how we can win over and get next to the Democrats innFlorida. We didn’t do well there in the election.” Peppernhad come into Congress that same election, so I told him,n”Co talk to Claude Pepper. He’s a winner.” And the guynsaid, “I would like to talk to Claude Pepper but he’snembarrassingly New Frontier.” Now, that stunned me,nbecause it suddenly dawned on me that their feeling aboutnthe voter was like my feeling about beautiful scornfulnwomen. Any woman that liked me, something was wrongnwith her. The Kennedy people constantly tried to win overnpeople that didn’t like them, and they had contempt fornanybody who did.nBell: There’s an episode in that book where the judgenprovokes a public beating, and gets himself badly hurt, so hencan turn it to political account when he finally gets out ofnthe hospital. I have always wondered if there was any truthnin that.nGarrett: There is a basis of reality in that, though it didnnot involve a public beating. My father and his law partnerngot up at the big Fourth of July picnic where speeches werenbeing made and said that the two of them would defend freenof charge anybody who resisted the Klan in any way. Killnthem, whatever. And then they very shortly had cases andnso on. They did in fact run the Klan out of Central Florida,nand they were in great danger of being killed. It’s a showboatnway to take on the enemy, to really hit them right out therenin the open. The Elizabethans have that sort of thing inncommon with the Southerners. Something might havenhappened, but if it didn’t happen right then, they were safe,nas the only people who could possibly kill them were Klannpeople. It sort of was a shield of protection to do it sonpublicly. By doing it quietly they might easily have beennburnt out or killed.nBell: In the first couple of novels, did you feel like younneeded to work for the market at all?nGarrett: I didn’t know what the market was. I wantednThe Finished Man to be kind of a straight novel. I wanted tonlearn how to do one. The way it got published at all innAmerica was because the English had already accepted it.nScribner’s had rejected that novel. When they looked at thenfirst hundred pages they said I didn’t understand what annovel was like. I did nice short stories, but I had tonunderstand that a novel had a beginning, a middle, and annend to it, and my story as outlined didn’t.nWhen Eyre and Spottiswoode took the book, thenn