Journalist Steven Solomon is the author of the books Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization, and The Confidence Game. Before participating in a panel on the price of water, he explained why we should fear the Mississippi River, how to cure writer’s block, and why it’s better to be innocent than cynical in the Zócalo green room.
What’s your favorite pizza topping?
Just a margarita.
Where would we find you at 10:00 on a typical Saturday morning?
Your first book predicted the financial collapse over a decade before it happened. Your second book predicted a water crisis. What’s the next big problem facing our world?
I’m working on the Mississippi River, and we’ve got lots of problems on the Mississippi, several of which could be quite catastrophic, including the erosion of coastal Louisiana and the exposure of the oil and gas industry to floods.
Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn?
Oh, definitely Huck Finn.
What do you eat for breakfast?
Either a smoothie or on certain days, I may have oatmeal.
How would you describe yourself in five words or less?
I’m fairly cynical, yet believe that it’s wise to try to be innocent.
What is your greatest extravagance?
We just bought a Mini car, a convertible. That was a little extravagant. Not terrible.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
A book on making the bayous of Atchafalaya, a river that’s a distributary of the Mississippi. The Upanishads are always there. A Richard Hofstadter book is probably there.
Whose talent would you like to have?
I think it would be a writer—a writer’s talent. Some people are natural storytellers. I’m a pretty good one, but there are some who are really very good. I’ll tell you one guy I know who’s awfully good, and he’s an Occidental grad like myself: Steve Coll. He’s also quite a good reporter.
What’s your cure for writer’s block?
I have it every day, so basically I get started slowly, I get some coffee, tea, read the news, walk around a little bit, I might have lunch. And then by the afternoon it’s usually gone.