All in the Family: MFA Alum A.J. O’Connell’s Interview of MFA Alum (and book prize winner) Nick Knittel
I expected someone older when I met Nick Knittel. It was 2009 and Knittel was part of my second-ever workshop at Fairfield University’s low-residency MFA program. He’d submitted a story about two little boys who’d lost their mother. Because the story featured a compassionate father, that’s kind of who I expected when I checked in on Enders Island.
Instead I met a young man, just out of undergrad, who could write a mean piece of short fiction.
Two years later, Knittel won our MFA program’s inaugural book prize (judged by poet Charles Simic) for “Good Things,” a collection of deep, quiet short stories. The book was released by New Rivers Press in October 2012. Now that first story I read – the one about the grieving little boys – is available for all to read, along with nine others.
For entire interview, please click here
James M. Chesbro’s essay ”Night Running” which first appeared in CT Review, has been selected as a notable essay for the Best American Essay series, 2012. http://www.hmhbooks.com/hmh/bestamerican/essaysbookdetails
Matthew Hamilton’s poem, “Benazir Bhutto” was short-listed in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal poetry contest, “Betrayal,” and will appear in the March 2013 issue.
- In Corporeality, Hollis Seamon’s latest fiction collection, we meet the cat lady, the professor dealing with a plagiarist while coping with personal hardships, sibling rivalry of the unnaturally cursed kind, the dog that goes beyond everyday dog sense and scent to protect its owners. These are some of the eclectic characters and settings that make Corporeality irresistible and difficult to put down once you’ve started reading. Like her preceding collection Body Work and mystery novel Flesh, this book is a testament to Seamon’s ample gifts as a storyteller.
PRAISE FOR CORPOREALITY:
Hollis Seamon’s Corporeality is a wonderful collection of stories, dazzling and unsentimental, full of everyday tragedies, fairy-tale motifs, and rambunctious, life-affirming characters who stand up to bullies and to fate, whether in a hospice, a flophouse, or a university classroom. It’s a feast of language that you won’t soon forget.
—Alan Davis, author of So Bravely Vegetative and Alone with the Owl
The characters in Corporeality are smart. Smart enough to see that the world is chaos and decay, but sometimes too smart for their jobs, whether they’re professors or trash collectors. And they are way too smart for their undependable bodies, which is the great rub of Hollis Seamon’s fine and original stories. How do we cope, these carefully calibrated stories ask, when our minds grow daily more perceptive and sharp and witty, yet the darkness still approaches?
—Dave King, author of The Ha-Ha
What a magical collection! Hollis Seamon’s enchanting stories will make you marvel anew at the forever strange, blessed, and heart-breaking affliction we share as human beings on this earth. Seamon’s lovingly-rendered characters will linger in your memory for a long, long time.
—Edward Schwarzschild, author of Responsible Men
These stories make memorable the people you wonder about in passing—the cat lady, the deformed, the witness to a questionable death, the professor who walks out of class never to return, the teen boy in hospice, the neighbors of the crazy, victims of acts of god, the loveless and forlorn. Written with both humor and pathos, the quirky characters in Hollis Seamon’s stories drew me in and left me, as she writes, “astonished by life.”
—Eugenia Kim, author of The Calligrapher’s Daughter
These stories have grace, wit, adventure, danger, humor, compassion, magic, and rage. Hollis Seamon casts full and dazzling light on those who are often overlooked—teenaged lovebirds in hospice, flood victims before the flood, plagiarists, arsonists, old ladies, fat dogs. She brings them to life so tenderly and powerfully that they stay with you, long after the last page.
—Nalini Jones, author of What You Call Winter
During my all too brief time on the island with you amazing writers, I managed to create and post a video podcast for my online class regarding the marriage of Cadmus and Harmony at Mycone. This is when all the gods and mortals ate at the same table, and humans never knew sickness, loss, or struggle. In other words, it was paradise just before the fall, and so it can also, in my humble opinion, be aligned with the birth of art (thus I have betrayed my first core value: art emerges from pain). Also during this time, after conversations with several of you, I proposed to Mike the idea of a workshop (or series of workshops) for summer 09 on the topic of mythology. After all, being virtually surrounded by water, away from loved ones, cast into a common fate with strangers…all this is archetypal and alludes to Odysseus (your choice: Circe or Calypso’s island).
So what is at stake here? What are the lessons, the tests, the gift that looks like a trick or the trick that looks like a gift? Water is the literal and metaphorical symbol of life while winter denotes death, isolation, loss. So the ions are charged with meaning. We sit, watch the horizon, dream common dreams, and muse. The ships will not return to the shore, so like Odysseus, if we are to leave it is because the dream of home hasn’t faded. When we leave, we leave alone but with gifts from the gods. We build our rafts in bricoler fashion: rags and bones and driftwood…memories, dreams, blood. And the return is always mythic…always illo tempore (in that time). By this, I mean prodigal son, Odysseus, Portia. We return home a stranger, both to ourselves and to our loved ones. This isn’t negative per se, but it births art so it is essential. If we never leave home, if we never travel beyond, if we never cross into darkness, we shall have no gifts to bring back.
Wishing you all god speed on your journeys, and the cool part is that this summer, ironically as well as mythically, will now suddenly constitute your journey home as well.