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Kent Haruf, Author Of Moving, Colorado-Set Novels, Dies At 71


Of course parents like to tell kids that carrots are good for their eyes. Once they've had some, they might be ready to read. And there might come a time to pick up a novel by the late Kent Haruf.


That writer died over the weekend. Like many writers, he created his own world, the fictional town of Holt on Colorado's eastern plains.

GREENE: His most famous work, "Plainsong," was a 1999 finalist for the National Book Award. The New York Times called it, quote, "a novel so foursquare, so delicate and lovely, that it has the power to exalt."

INSKEEP: Ten years ago, Kent Haruf spoke of his career with NPR's Diane Rehm. He recalled how hard he'd tried to gain a slot in the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop.


KENT HARUF: I was so desperate to get there that I moved myself and my wife and oldest daughter in the middle of winter to Iowa City and just told them I was there. And I got a job as a janitor in May of that year, and then they did accept me. I think they kind of were surprised that anybody wanted to do such a thing as move in to Iowa City in the winter time. And it was a good place for me. I got good help. But I - it took me a long time to write well enough to publish anything. As I say, I was in my early 40s before I published anything at all.

INSKEEP: He worked for many years as a teacher. In that time, he came to believe that it is not ability that separates those who become successful from writers who don't.


HARUF: It doesn't seem to me there's a scarcity of talent among students who want to write. But what there is a lack of is a talent for work, that it's so difficult to write and it takes so long to learn how to write well that most people give it up before they get good enough.

GREENE: That's the author Kent Haruf. He was 71 years old when he died on Sunday. His final novel, "Our Souls At Night," will be published next year. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
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