Thursday, February 5, 2009

Brendan Short

Brendan Short is the author of the recently released Dream City, his first novel.

He holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas. His fiction has appeared in several literary journals, including The Literary Review and River Styx, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. From 2000 to 2001 he was Writer-in-Residence at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C.

Recently I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I haven’t done the research, or even asked around, but I assume that many first-time novelists hit a period shortly after publication when they feel disoriented. The reviews have been written, the Amazon sales rank starts to rise, and the artistic impulse, after a scramble through the publishing world, emerges weary and timid. At least that is where I find myself—and why I have been drawn to spiritual books lately.

First, I recently finished Acedia & Me: Marriage, Monks and a Writer’s Life, by Kathleen Norris. This ambitious theological memoir tackles the concept of acedia—a kind of soul-weariness—which was recognized as a grave spiritual threat by early Christian contemplatives, but which now is largely seen as indistinct from depression. The prose glides beautifully from scholarship to reflection to moving personal narrative, an appropriately fluid structure given the stealth nature of acedia. It took Norris a long time to write the book, and I’m sure most readers will feel grateful that she stuck with it. I know I did.

Next is Seeds of Hope: A Henri Nouwen Reader, edited by Robert Durback. Father Nouwen was the kind of gentle, melancholy clergyman that lapsed Catholics like me gravitate toward. It’s a shame that some of the priests in my high school felt more inspired to whack kids with paddles than to speak of compassion and loneliness. They should have picked up this book, which serves as a solid introduction to Nouwen’s writings.

Last is Houndsley and Catina, written by James Howe and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay. This tender book about two pals is a bit more Frog and Toad than George and Martha, and, like the best children’s books, it can help parents relearn simple lessons, such as: do what you love because of the fulfillment, not the praise, it can bring. Okay, easier said than done, I know, but still, if a slightly neurotic, praise-seeking, vegetarian feline writer like Catina can learn this lesson, so can a slightly neurotic, praise-seeking, vegetarian non-feline writer like me.
Learn more about Dream City and its author at Brendan Short's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dream City.

--Marshal Zeringue