A common measure of poverty is how much money you have in relation to other people - that is useful as far as it goes, but that excludes the case of, say, a hunter in the rainforest who has no money but is not poor. And there can be a number of people with money but who can consider themselves unwanted or invisible or estranged from society.
As I get older, I find myself getting angrier and angrier. Doubtless, change itself, not to mention physical decline and inevitable petty tragedies of disappointed expectations, would have made for resentment in any event; but I used to be a passive schoolboy, my negative impulses turned obediently inward.
I think that there always have been and always will be at least two Americas - the poor America, the second America, tends to be in the shadows. Sometimes it's an America of people in a ghetto of color, sometimes it's an economic ghetto, but definitely there is a parallel America which people in the dominant America prefer to ignore if they can.
When I was writing the first few books, what I would do is write a bunch of sentences and then go back and expand and explode those sentences, pack as much into them as I could, so they'd kind of be like popcorn kernels popping... all this stuff in there to make the writing dense, and beautiful for its density.
After college, I went to San Francisco and worked as a secretary in a reinsurance company. That was a pretty dismal job. It was a real small place. Guys would come in, and they'd sort of stick out their arms like wings so I could take their coats off. They'd tell me, 'Two,' and I'd put two lumps of sugar in their coffee.
Really what it gets down to is that my idea of the American life, the American dream, whatever, is that I can do what I wish in the privacy of my own home. And as long as I'm not hurting anyone, no one has a right to know what I do. The main thing that I have to hide is that I don't have anything to hide.
The first chance I had to go to Japan, which was in the early nineties, I went to a Noh play. I thought, 'This is very, very slow.' I noticed lots of people falling asleep. I didn't really know what was going on; I was getting a little sleepy myself. Then the more I studied it, the more fascinated I got.
Whenever I travel to a poor country, I try to help at least one person. Usually, that person helps me just as much - I can find a local poor person to be my guide or my interpreter. That person makes money from me, I make money from him or her, we both learn about each other. It's an equal win-win relationship.