Sunday, May 9, 2010

Adam Schuitema

Adam Schuitema’s stories have appeared in numerous magazines, including Glimmer Train, North American Review, TriQuarterly, Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, The Carolina Quarterly, and The Florida Review. He is an assistant professor at Kendall College, where he teaches creative writing, as well as rhetoric and literature courses.

His new book is the story collection, Freshwater Boys.

Late last month I asked Schuitema what he was reading. His reply:
I’m currently reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. I have a little hundred-year-old copy of the book with type so small I have to squint, but there’s something lovely about holding it in my hands. He focuses primarily on his professional rise as a printmaker, inventor, and highly engaged citizen. In fact, one of the most remarkable elements of the narrative is how little of his personal life he reveals. Franklin spends several pages discussing his methods for trying to obtain moral perfection, yet only one paragraph on meeting and marrying his wife, and only three sentences on the death of his four-year-old son. (And neither are named.) Still, Franklin’s prose is exceptionally readable, even to an American of the twenty-first century.

I recently read Bonnie Jo Campbell’s latest story collection, American Salvage. It’s been receiving tremendous critical acclaim, and rightfully so. Campbell zooms in on small-town, blue-collar life in Southwest Michigan, the settings so earthy they seem to put dirt under your fingernails. There’s sex and drugs and violence, and yet—remarkably—loveliness. This is the result, in large part, to her incredible prose. But just as important is the dignity with which Campbell treats her characters.

And I just read Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying for the third or fourth time. What struck me this time around was the voice of Vardaman, who is often quoted for his bizarre but striking lines like, “My mother is a fish.” But this time around I was moved by some of the other passages where his observations are so clearly those of a child who notices and describes those types of things that, as we age, we either forget or forget to communicate. I especially love his descriptions of the burning barn: “The barn is still red. It used to be redder than this. Then it went swirling, making the stars run backward without falling. It hurt my heart like the train did.”
Visit the official Freshwater Boys website.

--Marshal Zeringue