Wildfires are a familiar problem for our summer reader this week. Four years ago, Philip Connors gave up his day job as a copy editor in New York to become a fire lookout at the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. He joins us from his home in Silver City, New Mexico.

Phil, welcome to the program.

Mr. PHILIP CONNORS (Fire Lookout): Thank you for having me.

HANSEN: So, did you just get out of the woods?

Mr. CONNORS: Yes. Fire season here has ended. We've had between eight and 10 inches of rain in the last three weeks, so I'm no longer useful.

HANSEN: Huh. Do you have a lot of time to read up there?

Mr. CONNORS: Yeah. Well, there's not much else to do, so I pack in a lot of books.

HANSEN: So what have you been reading lately?

Mr. CONNORS: Well, I'm about 30 pages from finishing Home Land, a novel by Sam Lypsite, which is probably one of the funniest things I've ever read.

HANSEN: What's it about?

Mr. CONNORS: Well, it's written in the voice of a guy name Louis Miner, who writes a series of updates to his high school alumni newsletter. And been thinking about this guy and it's seems to me that if Ignatius Riley of Confederacy of Dunces...

HANSEN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. CONNORS: ...and Alexander Portnoy of Portnoy's Complaint had somehow managed to have an illicit lovechild, it might be this guy. He's hapless. He's hilarious. And he's, you know, you've probably seen alumni newsletters. You probably get one yourself. And they're mostly shiny, happy people reciting their glories and successes.

HANSEN: Huh. What else have you been able to read?

Mr. CONNORS: I'm also reading a book of letters by Edward Abbey. It's called Postcards From Ed. He was the great sort of desert anarchist and defender of the West's wild places, also a fire lookout for many years. And apparently, he started his day every morning by writing witty letters to friends or hilarious invectives to various editors and newspapers, and that's how he got his juices going to continue his fiction and nonfiction.

HANSEN: Uh-huh. So if you had all the time in the world and could settle in with just one book, what would it be?

Mr. CONNORS: Oh, friends keep telling me I need to read The Magic Mountain, because the way I describe my summer job makes it sound sort of a one-man sanatorium on a magic mountain all of my own. And I keep promising them I will, but maybe next summer.

HANSEN: Hmm. That's Thomas Mann, right?

Mr. CONNORS: Correct. Yes.

HANSEN: Philip Connors is a fire lookout in the Gila National Forest for half the year, the other half he writes as a freelance writer.

Phil, thanks a lot.

Mr. CONNORS: Thank you.

HANSEN: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from