A Conversation with Douglas Trevor and Claire Vaye Watkins
Join us for an evening of discussing literature in both the novel and short story format with University of Michigan Zell Writers’ professors Douglas Trevor and Claire Vaye Watkins as they discuss Trevor’s new collection of short stories, The Book of Wonders. Both authors have a published novel and collection of short stories.
Douglas Trevor is the author of the short story collection The Thin Tear in the Fabric of Space, winner of the 2005 Iowa Short Fiction Award and a finalist for the 2006 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for First Fiction, and the novel Girls I Know, winner of the 2013 Balcones Fiction Prize. His short stories have appeared in dozens of publications, including most recently Ploughshares Solos, The Iowa Review, and New Letters. A professor of English literature and creative writing, he is the current Director of the Helen Zell Writers' Program at the University of Michigan.
Claire Vaye Watkins is the author of the novel Gold Fame Citrus and Battleborn, which won the Story Prize, the Dylan Thomas Prize, New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. A Guggenheim Fellow, she is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan and the co-director, with Derek Palacio, of the Mojave School, a free creative writing workshop for teenagers in rural Nevada.
Gold Flame Citrus
Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, NPR, Vanity Fair, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, Refinery 29, Men's Journal, Ploughshares, Lit Hub, Book Riot, Los Angeles Magazine, Powells, BookPage and Kirkus Reviews The much-anticipated first novel from a Story Prize-winning "5 Under 35" fiction writer.
In 2012, Claire Vaye Watkins's story collection, Battleborn, swept nearly every award for short fiction. Now this young writer, widely heralded as a once-in-a-generation talent, returns with a first novel that harnesses the sweeping vision and deep heart that made her debut so arresting to a love story set in a devastatingly imagined near future: Unrelenting drought has transfigured Southern California into a surreal, phantasmagoric landscape. With the Central Valley barren, underground aquifer drained, and Sierra snowpack entirely depleted, most "Mojavs," prevented by both armed vigilantes and an indifferent bureaucracy from freely crossing borders to lusher regions, have allowed themselves to be evacuated to internment camps. In Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon, two young Mojavs--Luz, once a poster child for the Bureau of Conservation and its enemies, and Ray, a veteran of the "forever war" turned surfer--squat in a starlet's abandoned mansion. Holdouts, they subsist on rationed cola and whatever they can loot, scavenge, and improvise.
The couple's fragile love somehow blooms in this arid place, and for the moment, it seems enough. But when they cross paths with a mysterious child, the thirst for a better future begins. They head east, a route strewn with danger: sinkholes and patrolling authorities, bandits and the brutal, omnipresent sun. Ghosting after them are rumors of a visionary dowser--a diviner for water--and his followers, who whispers say have formed a colony at the edge of a mysterious sea of dunes.
Immensely moving, profoundly disquieting, and mind-blowingly original, Watkins's novel explores the myths we believe about others and tell about ourselves, the double-edged power of our most cherished relationships, and the shape of hope in a precarious future that may be our own.
A lonely female accountant falls for a man who seems to have stepped out of a Greek myth; a scholar uncovers a lost Shakespearean couplet and decides to quit academia; a celebrated author experiments with downloading a story from her brain and uploading it to another. In these and other stories, Douglas Trevor explores situations--both unsettling and comic--in which people lose their bearings, reinvent themselves, and resolve, sometimes haplessly, to make sense of their lives. Characters are kidnapped by teenagers; they are bitten by raccoons. Some of them go on Prozac; while others rely on bowling to persevere. Running through these nine stories is the ghostly, and at times material, presence of books themselves. What does it mean to turn to books for comfort? Or to uncover the ways in which the stories we absorb and revisit not only open up worlds but also close them off? In a variety of moods and settings, The Book of Wonders reminds us not only of the struggle to connect, but also of what the most unlikely of people may realize they share.