My main four books have each been published by LSU Press. This relationship started because my first topic was the work of native Virginian William Styron so involved discussion of Southern writing. I have rarely separated subject matter from actual life. Befriending Styron as a young PhD student was a part of my intellectual and emotional journey. In preparation for my visit to his Connecticut home in 1988 I read Philip Roth’s The Ghost Writer, a novella about a young writer visiting an older, famous one. In the later book on Styron I describe my own version of such an encounter and the friendship that developed. I also write about visits to his American and European settings.
In between the works on Styron I wrote about Joyce Carol Oates and then edited a collection of essays about her. My interest in Oates’s writing began during my time as an MA student between 1984 and 1985 at SUNY Brockport in upstate New York, close to where she grew up. The Bruce Springsteen book originated from an earlier time still, the late 1970s and dawn of the 1980s, when, fanned by his music, my youthful ambition caught fire. A sentence can change a life and that sentence, for me, was “Talk about a dream / Try to make it real.” That’s what we do when we create, and creativity takes many forms.
American Lonesome begins with a visit to the Jersey Shore and ends with a meditation on the international legacy of Springsteen’s writing, music, and performances. Blending research, cultural knowledge, and creative thinking, it dissolves any imagined barriers between the study of a songwriter, literary criticism, and personal testimony.
The first critical study of William Styron since his death in 2006, Rereading William Styron offers a reflection on the writer’s works, world, and character. It combines personal anecdote, scholarly research, travel writing and primary material to provide fresh perspectives on Styron’s achievements.
This self-published volume is a fictionalized memoir based on a quarter of a century of road trips around the United States. A work of emotional rather than actual truth, material in it became the basis for aspects of American Lonesome and Rereading William Styron, but its blend of fact, fiction and fantasy amounts to an approach wholly foreign to those two LSU Press books.
This volume is a guest-edited special number of the journal, Studies in the Novel. The contributions come from across the United States as well as Britain, Ireland and Portugal. Among the contributors are novelists Sharon Oard Warner and Edmund White, historian Henry Louis Gates Jr., a range of literary critics, and a college president co-writing an essay with a recent undergraduate. The volume also contains written interviews and a conversation with Oates herself.
This book on America’s most extraordinary woman of letters traces in Oates’s work evidence of an evolving consciousness that eventually foregoes abstract introspection and the philosophical pursuit of certainty. In its place, Oates’s novels, stories, essays and interviews ultimately promote a more practical approach to art as a tool for understanding personal and social problems and possibilities.
Writing and America is a volume of essays, edited with Neil Sammells and David Timms, surveying the writing genres that have contributed to notions of America. It contains contributions from scholars on both side of the Atlantic that together chart the range of responses to American nationhood from colonial times to the present.
This is the first comprehensive study of William Styron’s work and contains extensive conversations with Styron, included as an appendix. The book follows Styron’s shift away from modernist forms of aesthetic experimentation and personal isolation toward an engagement with society and history. Influenced by writers such as Albert Camus and George Orwell, Styron comes to confront political issues such as slavery and the Holocaust.