Tracy Kidder turns 69 today, and I thought about him during yesterday’s Veterans Day activities and while working on a writing project for Research Computing at CU Boulder. A Vietnam War veteran, Kidder is very well known in the computing world for the work that won him the Pulitzer Prize, The Soul of a New Machine, an account of the development of Data General's Eclipse/MV minicomputer.
While that is Kidder’s prize winner, I think his book House might be even more deserving. Kidder, who lives in Williamsburg, Mass., said he hit on the idea of writing a book about the trials and tribulations of building lawyer Jonathan Souweine's Amherst, Mass., home while following some local carpenters around.
His hundreds of hours of research and interviews with everyone from the architect to Souweine’s in-laws to, of course, the builders, shows how ordinary parts of our lives can be brought into extraordinary focus through a writer’s portrayal.
In a 1994 essay, Kidder wrote: "In fiction, believability may have nothing to do with reality or even plausibility. (But) 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."
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