I was born in Rocky Mount, NC. The town of 24,000 proved a great place to spend the first 17 years of life. But, after that, onward, outward.
After a sound public education, I attended Penn and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. After being drafted into the military and studying Indonesian, I emerged as a writer, not a painter.
Collections collect collectors. It doesn't work the other way around. A certain object misses its own kind and communicates that to some person who surrounds it with rhyming items; these become at first a quorum, then a selective, addictive madness.
For anybody living out their twenties, Sex and Career remain major topics: being sexy can help give you a career, and having a career can make others finally find you sexier.
Having great friends in New York is like having great friends on an expedition into Darkest Africa in the early 19th century. You need them. And you need sponsorship on a daily basis. I have a painter friend here who says, 'I need two compliments a day just to break even.' And we gave them to each other, and we got them - and honestly got them.
The luckiest person in the world is somebody who is born into a small, shabby-genteel town on a major railway connection with 24,000 souls and a bird sanctuary and whose grandfather owns a farm and whose father owns a business -whose family is mildly prosperous but not rich, which means you can leave the town.
People have asked me about the 19th century and how I knew so much about it. And the fact is I really grew up in the 19th century, because North Carolina in the 1950s, the early years of my childhood, was exactly synchronous with North Carolina in the 1850s. And I used every scrap of knowledge that I had.
My mother had a master's degree and had been a schoolteacher before she started having kids at 30. But my father's family were landowners, farmer-merchants. Moneymaking was extremely important, like one of those semi-rapacious families in Lillian Hellman, where they know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Living in Manhattan opened me to whole new sets of things to envy, study, gather and imagine stealing. A full-size 1809 German harp, beautifully painted with three goddesses, covered in a pea-green coat of great silvery refinement: mine for $180. Though all its strings were broken, its beauty let it claim a quarter of my one - bedroom.