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Cocktail Hour


The House at the End of the World

categories: Cocktail Hour

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Dauphin island Take a good look at this photo—snapped last December by the marine biologist John Dindo on the west end of Dauphin Island, Alabama—and you can see almost everything that’s wrong about building homes along the coastline in this climate-changed, hurricane-prone, post-Sandy world. You can even make a game of it, if you want—sort of like one of those spot-the-error puzzles that you find on the children’s placemat menus at Red Robin. It’s easy to play along: Just print out the image and draw a big red circle around all the things that make no sense whatsoever.

 

Here’s what I circled:

 

It’s obvious that this oversized house was built on an untenable spot. It’s practically asking to be flooded by the next major storm or taken out by the next hurricane. But what I’m really interested in is the owner’s second mistake—the one that ended up compounding the first one. In an Continue reading →

Table for Two: An Interview with Melissa Falcon Field

categories: Cocktail Hour / Table For Two: Interviews

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Melissa Falcon Field and Noah

Melissa Falcon Field and Noah

Debora: I’m so pleased to be among the first to announce your debut novel, What Burns Away. Kudos! How does it feel to know that bookstores all over the country are unboxing your book and making room for you on the Newly Released shelf?

Melissa: Well Debora, I have to say that it is wildly exciting. Publishing a novel has been a dream I have been chasing since my college days, back when I had a big spiral perm and wore stonewashed Daisy Duke cutoffs. Always, in those years, I carried an enormous bag full of books with me everywhere I went, furiously reading Stephen Crane, Annie Proulx, Jane Smiley, John Cheever, Eudora Welty, Raymond Carver, Willa Cather, Andre Dubus, Stuart Dybeck, Mary Karr, Annie Dillard, and so many more. I read literally everything I could get my hands on, studying plotlines, and working hard to develop my own with a ferocious appetite, I still read to inform my craft. But the debut, holding my own work in my hands, it feels like a big deal—a graduation of sorts, a kind of birth, and a sense of legitimacy after chasing the dream and working as hard as I have to understand how to write a novel, for some twenty years now. And, mostly, I am full of gratitude for all the great mentors and literary friendships that gave me doses of the necessary tough love along the way. Continue reading →

Bad Advice Wednesday: Create a Tour!

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

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My long-former student and great old friend Melissa Falcon Field had a book coming out, and mine had just been published, and so we put our heads together and thought–Let’s do some a reading together.  Just that.  And then we figured out where, adding one another to invitations already received, until we had several events lined up, then several more, from Maine to New York City, and back again.  We named it after an element both of our books share: TAINTED LOVE. Continue reading →

When Doug Met Arnold

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arnold one          During my research on the Abbey-Stegner book, I became fascinated with an episode of the old TV show, “American Sportsman,” in which Doug Peacock spends a week in backcountry of Yellowstone looking for grizzly bears with Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is a younger more innocent Arnold, fresh off his early “Pumping Iron” fame, and one of the pleasures of the show is the odd couple factor. There is Peacock, who was the real Grizzly Man and retains that title in my book despite the Herzog documentary, in archetypal Wildman mode, spouting his radical enviro-philosophy—including some great lines about his goal “preserving an element of risk in wilderness” by keeping an animal around that can kill humans—and there is Arnold, kind of stiff and silly at first, but then getting more and more into it. The two only see tracks the first day but that night they stand in the smoke of the fire to disguise their “foul human scent,” after which Arnold says: “I hope the whole week is going to be as strange as the first night.” When they finally do see grizzlies, a sow and its yearling, Arnold’s whole face lights up with a goofy enthusiasm and he keeps muttering things like “This is fantastic.” In a way he perfectly embodies Peacock’s main point: that we feel more alive when the threat of death is near.

 


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Lundgren’s Lounge: “The Whites,” by Harry Brandt, aka Richard Price

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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Richard Price TheWhites

We live in a culture that is obsessed with specialization and categorization. Things that don’t fit easily into a preordained niche make us nervous. The result diminishes work that is unique and difficult to classify, but it also does a disservice to writing that becomes pigeonholed into a category that does not often receive the serious attention it deserves.  Continue reading →

Come to Minnesota to Write This Summer

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bemidji-1Cold and miserable? Try thinking ahead to summer. Better yet think ahead to the week of summer solstice in beautiful northern Minnesota. Now add writing to the mix…..

 

Boy I should have gone into advertising and bagged this book-writing thing. Anyway, the above is my attempt to seduce you into signing up for my “Writing from Place” workshop at the Minnesota Northwoods Writing Conference starting this June 20th and running through Friday June 26th.

 

Here’s a description of my class:

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All the Wild That Remains Trailer

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Hi folks. Here’s the trailer for All the Wild That Remains:

 

 

I’ve pasted below some nice things some people are saying about the book. More at my home site: www.davidgessner.com

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Bad Advice Wednesday: Don’t Know Where You’re Going

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

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So many people ask if I outline, if I know where I’m going when I start a story, a novel, an essay.  The answer is an inefficient but satisfying: No.  I’m not even E.L. Doctorow trusting that he’ll get where he’s going even though it’s night and his headlights only illuminate a small part of the way.  Because that implies he knows where he’s going, that it’s only the way in question.  I’m more like getting in the car blindfolded and seeing how far I can go before I crash.  Usually, the crash is more interesting than whatever magnificence I’d planned. Continue reading →

Lundgren’s Lounge: “Astonish Me,” by Maggie Shipstead

categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence

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Rewarding read … Dylan Thomas prize winner Maggie Shipstead.
Over beers recently with a famous American writer, I admitted to being somewhat preoccupied. It seems I was halfway through a reading of Maggie Shipstead’s second novel, Astonish Me, and the story was there hovering on the edges of my consciousness, always. My friend the writer leaned forward conspiratorially and said, “Maggie Shipstead is the next great female American writer.” Indeed. Or the next great American writer, period.

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Cartoon Bill Makes the Rounds

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We are lucky enough to have a lot of great guest teachers who visit down here at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. This past month our grad students were treated to a class with the poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil (who by the way found out just yesterday that she had landed a poem in the forthcoming Best American Poetry–congrats!). Anyway, we were having a little goodbye party for Aimee and who should show up? Bill! He was looking good too…..

Aimee

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