Hewitt, Richard 1950-
HEWITT, Richard 1950-
PERSONAL: Born December 16, 1950, in Berkeley, CA; son of Richard Watson (a salesperson) and Mildred B. (a secretary; maiden name, Martin) Hewitt; married Barbara Finn (an art therapist), 1988; children: Benjamin. Education: University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1972; also attended University of Vienna, 1975. Politics: "Erratic Independent." Religion: "Pantheatic." Hobbies and other interests: Travel, food and wine, esoteric languages.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Don Congdon Associates, 156 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Freelance writer in the United States and Portugal, 1975—; master builder in Sintra, Portugal, 1985-1997; Blantrye (hotel), Lenox, MA, hotelier, 1991-96. Also worked as a freelance translator in Portugal.
A Cottage in Portugal, illustrated by Barbara Finn Hewitt, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Also the author of more than thirty stage plays, including Defects, The Blue Hours, Gogo—Hope of Women, Grand Mal, and Turk in the Bath.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Portugal Redux: Another Cottage in Portugal; "A Month with Four Moons," fiction about the lives of four single women entrepreneurs in Iberia; and "Colonies," nonfiction concerning the metamorphosis and current status of once colonized but now independent nations.
SIDELIGHTS: Richard Hewitt has had an interesting and varied career. He began writing plays while a graduate student in Vienna, Austria, where he immersed himself in a local repertory theater as a way to study the German language. His titles in this genre include The Blue Hours, Grand Mal, and Turk in the Bath. Hewitt told CA that he "moved into 'novel' form a few years later." He is probably best known for his travel book, A Cottage in Portugal, which was printed in 1996.
Hewitt and his wife, Barbara Finn Hewitt, lived in Massachusetts, but grew frustrated with the cold, dark winters and the hectic pace of their life. They decided to move to Portugal, where they planned to enjoy the slower way of living. The couple packed up, moved overseas, and bought a 300-year-old rustic cottage that they were going to restore. However, seemingly simple aspects of their restoration project, such as getting clear title to the house, convincing the local water authority to run a pipe up to it, and getting their contractors to show up to work on time turned out to be much more difficult than expected. As Hewitt told CA, "A Cottage in Portugal evolved from lengthy dinners with friends who insisted I recount our adventures."
The cottage and land the Hewitts wanted to purchase was owned by twenty-seven different members of an extended family, and each needed to be found to give consent to the sale. Then, like many a home-buyer before them in any country, the Hewitts discovered that the cottage was in even worse repair than they had initially believed—quite a feat for a house that on immediate inspection had a dirt floor, no running water, and only a single working light fixture. Plus, although the Hewitts had come to Portugal for its more relaxed lifestyle, they were disconcerted when their contractors exemplified this attitude by working at a very unhurried pace. However, eventually the cottage was finished, and its modern conveniences improved upon rather than detracted from its Old World charm.
A Cottage in Portugal has received warm prase from reviewers. Melinda Strivers Leach, writing in Library Journal, hailed the tale of the Hewitt's trials and triumphs as "a delightful story." San Francisco Chronicle critic Tessa DeCarlo commented that the travel genre is full of clichéd descriptions, but "Hewitt manages to imbue these standards of the genre with humor, freshness and plenty of narrative energy." And Donna Marchetti, who reviewed A Cottage in Portugal in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, concluded that "Hewitt is an able and witty writer, and even if you can almost see each new crisis on the horizon, pages before it actually occurs, that's just part of the fun."
The Hewitts went on to spend years in Portugal, during which time Hewitt worked as a master builder and also did some work as a freelance translator. They eventually sold their first cottage and bought and restored another, a process Hewitt describes in a work to date yet upublished, titled Portugal Redux: Another Cottage in Portugal. As Hewitt explained to CA, "Portugal Redux continues the adventures of American 'innocents' abroad attempting to adapt to a foreign culture. Both books give insight into a totally different culture and the way people adjust to different attitudes and latitudes."
Hewitt also told CA that he loves Moritz Thomsen's writing, and he gives the following advice to aspiring writers: "Immerse yourself in the most bizarre, unusual circumstances you can find. This will prepare you for the twentieth-century publishing industry."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 1996, Brad Hooper, review of ACottage in Portugal, p. 1237.
Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1996, Susan Salter Reynolds, review of A Cottage in Portugal, p. 10.
Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), May 19, 1996, Donna Marchetti, review of A Cottage in Portugal, p. K12.
Publishers Weekly, January 15, 1996, review of A Cottage in Portugal, p. 454.
San Francisco Chronicle, March 21, 1996, Tessa DeCarlo, review of A Cottage in Portugal, p. E4.