My recent books combine creative criticism with travel writing and memoir. I learned to paint at school and studied English and History at Loughborough University. After further studies at SUNY Brockport and the University of Nottingham, I worked as an Assistant Professor at Harlaxton College, Lincolnshire. I taught American and European literature at Bath Spa University 1993-2019, becoming Professor of American Literature in 2007 and MA Creative Writing Programme Leader 2016-19. I now divide my time between Wiltshire and Paris. My writing, painting and photography relate to my interest in diverse places, cultures, people and wildlife. I’m particularly interested in the shared ability of people and other animals to concentrate in pursuit of a goal, whether that’s to create, build, perform, observe, or interact.
Rereading William Styron (2014) and American Lonesome: The Work of Bruce Springsteen (2018) feature portraits of Styron and Springsteen on the respective covers. Both involve memoir. Styron became a friend while I was writing The Novels of William Styron (1995). I painted the portrait on learning of his final illness, knowing we’d never meet again. This led me to reflect on his work partly through the lens of our friendship. American Lonesome is a meditation on an earlier inspiration. Springsteen’s songs were among those that galvanised me in youth and have accompanied me ever since. Another publication combining writing and painting is Joyce Carol Oates Ou Quelque Chose D’Approchant (2017). This is a memoir of getting to know the author while writing Dark Eyes on America (2005). JCO wrote of the portrait that she hoped that she was indeed “something like this.” My current manuscript explores painting as that other, key element of my creative life. I see it as part of my preparations for the spring 2021 exhibition.
My verbal and visual expression invariably relates to travel. I feel twice as alert when abroad. Living in Paris is having a similar energising effect as the heady mix of literature, music and painting had in youth. As with these other arts, photography is another way to make unfamiliar places familiar. Much of the time I’m out and about putting together the jigsaw of the city. In the Photography section, there’s a page specifically devoted to photographs of the Crane Academy, a school in Kitale, Kenya. My wife, Nicki, and I took these photographs on a visit to support the Crane’s link with the Royal High School Bath. Like many of us, I can’t imagine being without a camera, if only on a phone, as an aid to observation and memory. My painting exhibition will reflect on that aspect of twenty-first century life even as I pay homage to artists I revere from earlier times.
Feel free to email me about my past or current work (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also contact me through the Facebook page or Twitter. On both forms of media, as well as Instagram, I’ll be providing updates on the exhibition, including previews of new paintings.
You can watch here a 3-minute clip of me talking about American Lonesome: The Work of Bruce Springsteen at the Louisiana Book Festival, Baton Rouge.
You can listen here to my BSU Professorial lecture, Mortality and Memoir: Recalling What Matters