Glass Castle and Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

What are you reading?

“I’ve read two books lately that my wife turned me on to: The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, and Half-Broke Horses, which is also by Walls. The Glass Castle is a memoir about her life growing up; she started out in Arizona — which is also where my wife grew up — with a pretty dysfunctional family. She ends up as a famous TV interviewer for NBC or something — I don’t watch TV, so I don’t remember that part. The mom and dad were just wild characters.”

Give me an example.

“In the opening scene, she’s three years old, and she’s making her own lunch, cooking hot dogs on the stove. She’s wearing a tutu, and she got caught on fire. Her mother was the kind of person to let her three-year-old daughter do that. And it just goes on from there.”

Were the parents drunks?

“Yeah, there’s drinking, and there are family issues.”

Is Walls working out her troubles by sharing her story?

“It’s a story of how she just overcame. She was never bitter against her parents. She never accuses them. It’s all just matter-of-fact. They were basically homeless when she was in high school. After lunch, she had to rummage through the trash. It’s like that all the way through her childhood. Later on, as she got older, she started maybe seeing why there were problems.”

How did it leave you?

“It was inspiring. Just seeing how you can have circumstances come your way and handle them. It made me think about being a parent and seeing how things... seeing what I would do differently than they did.”

Excerpt from The Glass Castle: “I lived in a world that at any moment could erupt into fire. It was the sort of knowledge that kept you on your toes.”

What about Half-Broke Horses?

“Her mother grew up on a ranch in the ‘30s and ‘40s, out in the middle of nowhere in Arizona. Walls wanted to write a book about that, but her mother said, ‘You ought to write about my mother.’ So the book takes place around 1900. It’s a biography, but she calls it a true-life novel. The grandmother had the same kind of situation. She was pretty much on her own, and she kind of raised her brother and sister more than the parents did. She went on to become a teacher, and she loved to fly airplanes, and she worked on this ranch.”

Does learning about the grandmother give Walls insight?


Tell me about the writing.

“It’s very descriptive — you’re with them. But it’s never a boring amount of detail. The books always start with a significant scene, and Half-Broke Horses starts with a scene where they’re living in West Texas and she’s a little girl, and there’s a big flood. She saves her brother and sister by climbing this tree. You get the real sense that you were in that storm; you feel the storm coming, and then this flood comes. That kind of thing.”

Do you read any magazines or newspapers?

“I read the L.A. Times every day, mostly online.

How many articles?

“Three or four.”

Do you read them to the end?

“No, not anymore. I used to, though.”

Why did you stop?

“On the computer, it’s not the same. In the old days, you would wake up every morning before work, and you had the paper, and it was... I feel like back 10, 20 years ago — I don’t know if this is true, but I felt like I was getting more of a story, a real, true story. Now, I don’t know.”

Neighborhood: SAN CARLOS | Where interviewed: SAN CARLOS REC CENTER

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