What did it mean for his friend, despite this rooting, to face the phenomenon that his latest book has become? According to Scribner, “All the Light” spent more than 200 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It has sold over 5.7 million copies in North America in print, e-book and audio form, and 9.5 million copies worldwide.
“I can’t imagine that a writer doesn’t have the slightest pain in mind when this success comes,” Walter said, “but no matter how anxious he was, all the expectations in the world didn’t. can’t change the fact that you always have to write something else, and that’s what it did.
After our descent from Lake Titus, we stopped for dinner at Smiley Creek Lodge, a restaurant surrounded by acres of land and topped with a wooden sculpture of a grizzly bear holding a fish.
I wanted to know more about the flip side of popularity, if it ever made him view his own work any differently. After all, Doerr himself told me that literature must be, on some level, “disturbing.” Can a book be unsettling and also overwhelmingly popular? He admitted that the only criticism of “All the Light” that dealt a heavy blow was that it had aestheticized war, not really showing the suffering of the Holocaust.
Then there was the matter of his short signing chapters. Doerr scoffed at the possibility that this was an adaptation to readers’ attention span. “I know where you’re going with this,” he said with a smile, looking completely in his element with the sun setting behind the mountains, the empty purple sight all around us and a burger and fries in his. plate.
He had chosen this approach for the most practical reasons. As a parent, he couldn’t hope to get more than an hour or two of solid work before he had to deal with commuting with the boys to practice swimming or some other activity. “I may have accidentally tripped in there,” he said.
Maybe it was by accident and maybe had the side effect of being easy to read, but this way of composing a novel offered a bridge between Doerr’s miniaturist and the seeker of connections across the world. He could focus on the details of each piece of the story, but there was also fun in placing them against each other. Sometimes he would lay out all these micro chapters on the floor so that he could see them and discover the resonances between the characters across space and time.