Friday, June 12, 2009

Writer of the Day: Anthony Doerr

As it's Friday, I should be blogging about this month's featured book, The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, but things have happened that have convinced me to change my plans for today's post.

Mainly, I had dinner on Wednesday with Anthony Doerr, Idaho's Writer-in-Residence. Doerr is not only a brilliant writer; he's also one of the most humble literary minds I've ever encountered.

Doerr: The Writer

Anthony Doerr is the author of three books, a memoir (Four Seasons in Rome), a collection of short stories (The Shell Collector), and a novel (About Grace).

All three have received wide critical acclaim. The Shell Collector was named a "Notable Book of 2002" in The New York Times. The Book-of-the-Month Club called About Grace one of the "Five Best Novels of 2004." Doerr has also earned a first prize in Barnes & Noble's "Discover Prize for Fiction." He's won an NEA fellowship, and he's a recipient of the Rome Prize (which comes with a year-long stay in a writing studio in Rome -- not bad).

Doerr: The Class Act

Doerr is also in incredibly kind and humble man.

When I first met him, I told him that I'd read a recent article he published in Smithsonian magazine, and he seemed genuinely moved. He thanked me, sincerely, for taking the time to read his work and answered, with apparent pleasure, all of my pestering questions about his writing.

He spent two days at the college where I teach, and even though we'd organized half-a-dozen events around his coming (in fact, we worked him pretty hard while he was here), he never grew frustrated in having to answer the same student questions again and again (all variations of "How can I become a famous writer?"), and what's more, he never lost a sliver of his sincerity.

What You Should Read

So, if you're interested in seeing some of Doerr's writing, where should you start?

Here are two possibilities:

My Idaho readers might be especially interested in checking out Doerr's recent piece in the Smithsonian. In it, Doerr writes a beautiful explanation of why he chooses to live in Idaho.

And since Father's Day is roughly a week away, another great place to start reading Doerr might be in a book that came out last month called The Book of Dads: Essays on the Joys, Perils, and Humiliations of Fatherhood. Doerr, who has twin boys, contributes one essay and other contributing authors include great writers like Charles Baxter, Rick Bass, and Richard Bausch.

(Hey, honey, am I dropping a big enough hint here?)

That's all for today. I'll pick up the discussion of The Yiddish Policemen's Union next Friday.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

I loved Doerr's article about Boise. It was interesting to approach the article with my less ideal image of the city, and then to come away thinking, "maybe I want to live there someday." Yet I don't think he romantisized Boise. I think he just illustrated all the good things people usually miss when living in a place like that.

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