NAME: Stuart Vyse.
OCCUPATION: Writer and retired psychology professor.
RESIDENCE: Stonington Borough.
BORN, RAISED & GREW UP IN: I was born in Evanston, Illinois, and raised in the Chicago suburb of Park Forest. When I was in junior high school, my mother moved us to Urbana, Illinois, so that she could finish her college degree at the University of Illinois. Growing up in the shadow of a college campus probably set me on the path to being a professor.
RIGHT NOW I’M IN THE MIDDLE OF: Promoting my latest book, “The Uses of Delusion: Why It’s Not Always Rational to Be Rational,” and editing my next book, “Stonington’s Steamboat Hotel,” which is a history of the building I live in. The Steamboat Hotel book comes out in October from The History Press.
MY PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: It is traditional to say your children are your proudest accomplishment, and I am very proud of my grown children, Emily Goda, an English teacher at East Longmeadow (Massachusetts) High School, and Graham Vyse, a journalist in Washington, D.C. But I don’t want to steal from their own accomplishments. As a parent, I am perhaps most proud that their mother and I were able to allow them to go to the colleges of their choice without saddling them with debt. My employer provided a generous tuition benefit that helped make it possible. Given how incredibly expensive college has become and how rare debt-free college is now, I am very grateful that we were able to give them this start to their adult lives.
TOP ON MY BUCKET LIST: Learning French. I recently went to Paris for the first time at age 70, and my high school French classes did not serve me well. I want to go back to France soon, and I hope to be able to communicate better when I do.
I ALWAYS CARRY: A book, usually with a rubber band around it and a Dixon Ticonderoga 2HB pencil stuck inside. I am a habitual underliner and note-taker. I am also a very slow reader, so I try to read whenever I can.
WHAT I WANTED TO BE WHEN I GREW UP: Without really knowing what it meant, I wanted to be an oceanographer. I was inspired by television specials featuring the undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau, and I read his articles in National Geographic. Unfortunately, I grew up in the middle of the country, about a thousand miles from the ocean, so it didn’t work out.
MY HEROES ARE: Carl Sagan for his ability to communicate the wonder of science and Stephen Jay Gould for his ability to write beautifully about science. In my small way, this is what I try to do each day, and these two set the bar very high.
FAVORITE AUTHORS: I read a lot of fiction, and there are too many favorites to list. Lately I have enjoyed Ann Patchett, Ian McEwan, and Julian Barnes. I read Emily Wilson’s English translation of “The Odyssey” over the pandemic, and I am waiting patiently for her “Iliad,” which is due out next year.
BOOKS ON MY NIGHT STAND: I am currently reading Barry Paris’ biography of the silent film-era actress Louise Brooks and Emile Zola’s novel “Nana” —in translation, of course. There is a connection between these two — at least in my mind — but it’s too obscure to explain here.
TOP THREE SONGS ON MY PLAYLIST: I don’t really have a playlist, but if I did, all the songs of “Blue,” by Joni Mitchell, would be on it. Also, “A Bright Future in Sales” by Fountains of Wayne.
LAST THREE SONGS I ASKED ALEXA/PANDORA/SPOTIFY TO PLAY: “The Blower’s Daughter” by Damien Rice, “The Mesopotamians” by They Might Be Giants, and “The Mother We Share” by Chvrches.
FAVORITE THREE MOVIES OF ALL TIME: This is a changing list, too, but at the moment, I would say Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” (I watch it every summer), Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein,” and the French film “Hiroshima Mon Amour” by Alain Resnais. I am also a sentimental fan of “Mystic Pizza,” because it is a sweet story shot primarily in Stonington Borough.
FAVORITE TV SHOWS: “Law & Order” (particularly the older seasons of the original version), “The Killing” (American version), and lately, “Stranger Things.”
FAVORITE RADIO STATION/SHOWS/PODCAST: I listen to a lot of political and Supreme Court podcasts, including “The Slate Political Gabfest,” “Strict Scrutiny,” and Slate’s “Amicus” podcast.
TOP COMFORT FOOD: Grilled cheese and tomato soup.
SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES I MOSTLY USE: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, for better or worse.
TRAITS I MOST ADMIRE: Intellectual modesty. Being willing to question your own beliefs.
PET PEEVES: Leaf blowers. So loud. So unnecessary.
FAVORITE QUOTATION: I found it in Jill Lepore’s book “These Truths: A History of the United States,” and I framed it and mounted it on my wall:
“It seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”
—Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist, No. 1, October 27, 1787
MY FAVORITE THING ABOUT OUR LITTLE CORNER OF THE WORLD: I never get tired of looking out on the water. I am not a sailor, a swimmer, or a beachgoer, but perhaps because I grew up in the middle of the country, far from the coasts, I love looking out to sea.
CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: My laptop. And coffee.
LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT ME: I am a bread baker. (Actually, my friends and Instagram followers do know this.) I bake baguettes, challah, and sandwich bread, and I recently conquered sourdough.
BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED: “Everything takes longer than you think it will.” I don’t know who told me this, but I’ve passed it down to my kids — probably to their great annoyance.
ADVICE I BEST LIKE TO GIVE: “Everybody’s doing the best they can.” I try to remember this whenever I encounter people in the world.
IF I RULED THE WORLD I WOULD: Hand the reins over to someone more qualified.
IF I WON THE LOTTERY, THE FIRST THING I WOULD DO IS: Because I used to teach statistics, I don’t play the lottery, and I don’t recommend it for others.
I DRIVE A: A sky blue 2011 Honda Fit.
I WISH I DROVE A: An inexpensive electric car — is there such a thing?
ALWAYS IN MY FRIDGE: Beer (most often from Stonington’s Beerd Brewery), cheese, and Miracle Whip (yes, Miracle Whip).
IF I COULD INVITE ONE SPECIAL PERSON TO JOIN ME FOR DINNER AND CONVERSATION, I WOULD INVITE: Barack Obama. I suspect he has a lot to get off his chest.
— Interview arranged and edited by Nancy Burns-Fusaro