1980s heartthrob talks on self discovery at Wilton library

Actor and writer Andrew McCarthy, best known as Blane McDonough in the 1980s film Pretty in Pink, will give a talk about his new memoir, The Longest Way Home, at Wilton Library on Thursday, June 6. The book is a New York Times best seller and a travel story inspired by Mr. McCarthy’s attempt to reconcile singularity and intimacy before a marriage to his now wife.

Mr. McCarthy’s presentation will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Wilton library, and will focus on the process of creating The Longest Way Home. Registration via wiltonlibrary.org is required to attend the event.

Once known as a member of the “brat pack” after starring in such classic 1980s films as St. Elmo’s Fire, Mr. McCarthy has since worked as an editor-at-large for National Geographic, directed television shows, and acted for the screen and on Broadway. He has had travel articles published by Slate and The Atlantic — among other publications.

Four years into an engagement to his fiancée, Mr. McCarthy could not bring himself to make the final commitment. Unnerved by his own indecision, he returned to the activity that has always helped him work through difficult times, traveling the world.

However, a New York Times book review warns a potential reader this story is not simply that of a successful man globe-trotting away his concerns about marriage.

“This isn’t a brash, boorish, ‘don’t go loving me, babe, because the road’s my middle name’ memoir of masculine bravado,” it reads. “It’s a good book about a good man who’s trying good and hard to figure himself out.”

When he was 29, Mr. McCarthy discovered traveling was his path toward self-discovery. Now that he is 50, this passion in reflected in his book, which uses sprawling destinations as the background to his rite of realization.

“I sort of discovered travel later in life, when I was 29,” he said. “I walked across Spain. That trip changed my life and just grew from there.”

The trip documented in The Longest Way Home takes place across many different areas of the world, and each of its nine chapters relates to an area explored by Mr. McCarthy on his trip. During that time, Mr. McCarthy sought to understand the connections shared by humans across the world, digesting them to aid his own understanding of self and intimacy.

“It’s an internal journey that is played out in exotic locales. It’s not a trophy book. It’s a searching for how we have connections with people while still maintaining singularity,” he said.

According to Mr. McCarthy, his time in Patagonia was among the most profound experiences portrayed in the book.

“The space and the people [there] are amazing. They’re all sort of refugees from their other lives. Ten years ago, the town didn’t even exist. The land is very powerful as well.”

The author also acknowledged that different people perceive themselves and their relationships in very different ways.

“My wife always says, ‘I need to have us to have me,’ but I need to have me to get to us,” he said. “The book is about trying to come to terms with the balancing of the two. That doesn’t mean I don’t crave the singleness of my own existence. But it’s about reconciling the us and the me.”

For the actor and writer, the physical and emotional distance that travel brings is a form of therapy like no other.

“There’s just something about the emotional aspect of leaving that yawns wide open with possibility,” he said. “The reason to go away is not to discover a new Starbucks. It’s to feel far away rather than just someplace that feels like home.”

For those Wiltonians looking for a career in travel writing, Mr. McCarthy says it’s important to remember the people, sounds and smells of their destination — not just the airfare and hotel rooms.

“If you’re doing it for the free trips, you’re in the wrong business. If you’re actually serious — sell me a story and don’t sell me a destination.”

Though he has spent time working as a writer, actor and director, he believes that directing television requires the most artistic confidence.

“Acting is like breathing to me, I’ve been doing it so long. I do a lot of TV directing, and I think that requires the most performance of confidence. You have to stand in front of 50 people and know exactly where you’re going.”