The scholars and creative writers of the creative writing faculty publish books that kickstart conversations and shift paradigms. Championed by leading presses, their work expands and enhances their fields.
Charles Baxter, There's Something I Want You to Do: Stories (Pantheon, 2015)
Penetrating and prophetic, the ten interrelated stories are held together by a surreally intricate web of cause and effect—one that slowly ensnares both fictional bystanders and enraptured readers. . . . As the collection progresses, we delve more deeply into the private lives of these characters, exploring their fears, fantasies, and obsessions. They appear and reappear, performing praiseworthy and loathsome acts in equal measure in response to the request—or demand—lodged in each story’s center. The result is a portrait of human nature that could have arisen only from Baxter’s singular vision.
"The book follows a group of Minneapolis citizens, including a pediatrician, a young drug addict, a translator and a car mechanic—all of whom, like the rest of us, crave love and meaning and moral goodness while confined by the shortcomings and idiosyncrasies of their own personalities. . . . [T]hey eventually constitute, if not exactly a community, a shimmering web of interconnectedness." — Michelle Huneven, New York Times Book Review
Ray Gonzalez, Beautiful Wall (BOA Editions, 2015)
Takes us on a profound journey through the desert Southwest where the ever-changing natural landscape and an aggressive border culture rewrite intolerance and ethnocentric thought into human history. Inextricably linked to his Mexican ancestry and American upbringing, Ray Gonzalez’s new collection mounts the wall between the current realities of violence and politics, and a beautiful, never-to-be-forgotten past.
"'The desert is sick of being written about,' declares the speaker in Gonzalez's 15th collection of poems, yet ultimately what Gonzalez does is allow the reader to experience this expansive American terrain through his image-driven verse. The U.S.-Mexico border is where histories and stories converge, not always pleasant but not always tragic, and certainly worth considering. Magic awaits the keen observer, the careful listener. Each poem encourages the visitor: 'Look.// Put your hands here./ This is a beautiful wall.'" — NBC News
Julie Schumacher, Dear Committee Members (Doubleday, 2014). Winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor.
Jason Fitger is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University, a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college in the midwest. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His life, a tale of woe, is revealed in a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies.
"A smart-as-hell, fun-as-heck novel. . . . Beyond the moribund state of academia, Schumacher touches on more universal themes about growing old and facing failure: not necessarily the dramatic failure of a batter striking out with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, but the quieter failure that accrues over time, until we are finally forced to admit that we are not who we wanted to become." — Alexander Nazaryan, Newsweek
Madelon Sprengnether, Great River Road: Memoir and Memory (New Rivers Press, 2015)
A memoir that takes the reader on a metaphorical journey of traumatic events cast in a psychological trajectory that begins with questions of death and ends in emotional consolation. Guided by a symbolic map of meaning, Sprengnether relays compelling memories of family, friends, and dramatic historical events.
"Sprengnether is a writer of deep and varied intellect. In the space of this book, she wends her way around Freud, Shakespeare, Italian Renaissance painting and cognitive neuroscience. She is at her most compelling, though, when she writes as a mother, particularly in the chapter in which she chronicles the experience of traveling to England for her daughter's wedding. Here is where the intellect falls away and the heart emerges, raw and real, on the page." —Emily H. Freeman, Star Tribune
Madelon Sprengnether, Near Solstice: Prose Poems (Holy Cow! Press, 2015)
This new collection is grounded in the body and sensual awareness as the means by which we experience the world. In a series of interlinked prose poems, Sprengnether meditates on the death of parents, family members, and friends, with the passing of seasons, sexuality, the consolations of landscape, and (always) the significance of light.
"A fierce question propels the poems in Madelon Sprengnether's new book: 'So tell me. What on earth God wants from us?' Is it love, beauty, pleasure, duty? As Sprengnether explores that question, alert to life routines, rituals, sacrifices, even pilgrimages—driving, swimming, caring for an aging parent, exploring landscapes and ancient mythologies—her poems reveal striking layers of desire, grief, and tenderness." — Patricia Kirkpatrick, author of Odessa