Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Christopher Hebert

Christopher Hebert graduated from Antioch College, where he also worked at the Antioch Review. He has spent time in Guatemala, taught in Mexico, and worked as a research assistant to the author Susan Cheever. He earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan and was awarded its prestigious Hopwood Award for Fiction. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with his son and wife, the novelist Margaret Lazarus Dean.

Hebert's new novel is The Boiling Season.

Recently I asked him what he was reading.  His reply:
Over the last year I did a ton of reading for research and for various nonfiction projects I’ve been working on. All of it worthwhile, but that kind of reading doesn’t always make for unmitigated enjoyment. I decided to make 2012 the year of reading pleasurably, and so far so good.

I just finished Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad, which I’d pushed aside for forever. It’s a brilliantly fun book, which is all the more impressive considering how subtle it moves and develops. It’s the first time I’ve read Egan, and I was amazed by her deftness, the startling economy of what she can accomplish in prose. And the restraint she shows in putting together these fragmented pieces in a way that somehow doesn’t feel fragmented at all. Though the book ranges all over in time and space and with a vast cast of characters, I put it down feeling as though I’d had an intensely intimate experience.

The book I just picked up is Sabina Murray’s story collection Tales of the New World. I met her recently at a reading and heard her read from it, and then I immediately raced to the front of the line to buy a copy.

I’ve made it only as far as the opening novella, “Fish,” which is the most—and I assure you this is a word I save for only very special occasions—enchanting thing I’ve read in a long, long time. And not just because it has fairies in it.

The protagonist of “Fish,” Mary Kingsley, born in 1862, is an English spinster who escapes her suffocating family and society by becoming a trader, explorer, and amateur ichthyologist in the deepest unexplored reaches of Africa. Mary is one of the most charmingly defiant characters I’ve ever read. The fact that she’s an actual historical figure is impressive, but the real magic is the effortless irreverence with which Murray imbues her.

I’m a little reluctant to start the next story; I’m not quite ready to leave Mary Kingsley behind.
Learn more about the book and author at Christopher Hebert's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Boiling Season.

--Marshal Zeringue