I had to write a biographical blurb about myself recently as part of the promotion for this TV show I’m going to start hosting on our local public television station. I hate writing biographical blurbs. My tendency is to write something short, flat and restrained. But not in an interesting or even self-deprecating way. Instead, I do this in a fearful and insecure way. Thankfully, this time, the person who requested the bio rejected my first blurb, and insisted on more details. And she gave me some questions to answer — What do I read? When did I first start writing? What sort of TV do I watch?
My answers follow (and my original blurb is at the bottom of the page):
I first got into journalism in 8th grade, when I started writing for the student newspaper and where my deeply sarcastic columns about the holidays caused tremendous discord and not a small amount of confusion among a student body most concerned about buying the newest Journey album.
Later, after college, I became a reporter because that seemed like the only paying job an English major could get. That first job was as a community reporter in Old Saybrook, Conn., where I covered everything from the town council to the opening of a new sewage plant.
I moved to New York City in 1992 and worked in book publishing, then for a business magazine, as well as getting my MFA in writing from Columbia. I started publishing short stories in 1994 or 1995.
I moved to Memphis in 1995 and started working at Towery Publishing.
Shimmer, a dark and sometimes funny book about the people and friends at the heart of a company built on a lie, was an American Booksellers Association IndieNext Pick in 2009 and came out in paperback this past summer. Fredric Keoppel was nice enough to say: “One is reminded in Barnes’ language and locution of Don DeLillo’s scalpel-sharp delineation of American corporate culture and paranoia, and of David Foster Wallace’s penetration into the heart of the relationship between human consciousness and rapidly changing technologies.”
I have 600 channels on my TV, but seem to only watch Charlie Rose, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. I listen to a great deal of Miles Davis, but, if pressed, I will admit that I remain fan of Led Zeppelin. If I’m alone in my car and a Neil Diamond song comes on, I won’t necessarily turn it off.
In phases, I read too much Cormac McCarthy, which can leave me feeling as if life has no purpose and hope is just a dream. At those points, I switch to reading narrative nonfiction focused mostly on various obscure scientific endeavors such as island biogeography and string theory. For reasons I don’t understand, topics such as those have a deeply calming effect on me.
I read a great deal of Don DeLillo and most recently finished Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow.”
I’ve watched, in their entirety, each of the 8 episodes of Ric Burns’ PBS documentary “New York” at least six or seven times.
Here was the original blurb:
Eric Barnes is Publisher of The Daily News Publishing Co., which includes the daily business and politics paper, The Daily News, the weekly edition of that paper, The Memphis News, the real estate information service Chandler Reports, and a newspaper in Nashville, the Westview. He has been publisher since 2003. Prior to that, Eric held various positions at Towery Publishing, the Memphis-based national publisher of city guides, hard cover books and business directories. He worked in publishing in New York and Connecticut before moving to Memphis. Eric attended Connecticut College and Columbia University. He is the author of the novel Shimmer. Eric lives in Midtown with his wife Elizabeth and their four children.