Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wilton Barnhardt

Wilton Barnhardt is the author of the novels Lookaway, Lookaway, Emma Who Saved My Life, Gospel, and Show World. A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he teaches fiction in the master of fine arts in creative writing program at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where he lives.

Not so long ago I asked the author about what he was reading. Barnhardt's reply:
Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Since my own publisher approached Ms. Fowler for a blurb, I admit I felt obligated to read something new of hers (I remembered her first novel, Sarah Canary, as a quiet masterpiece). Her latest is simply one of the best, most moving, important, humane books I’ve read in years. There are not many original family sagas left to tell, but, somehow, Fowler has thought of a new one. (I suspect there are many nonfiction models for accounts of family life where some Skinner-like research experiment has played out, seemingly harmless and engrossing at the time but with later dire consequences, but there is no fiction I have ever heard of with Fowler’s particular subject.) I won’t say much more about it—it is full of surprises which I have no intention of spoiling. The narrator is winning, funny, wry, which doesn’t quite prepare you for the heartbreak and profound sadness ahead.

Edmund White, Jack Holmes and His Friend

White is a master of felicitous prose, particularly when describing the Jamesean intricacies of human relations—and, yes, he can write sex better than most, and gay sex better than anyone! White, for my money, has been too melancholy in some of his books and his trademark moroseness is here, too (with good reason—existential New York miasma, AIDS, literary failures), but the spark of love and friendship, between the gay hero and his straight friend, in the end suggests hope, is a life raft to cling to. And White’s narrative legerdemain arrives once a paragraph, page after page, description after gorgeous description—spiced up by some of his wittiest dialogue as well.
Visit Wilton Barnhardt's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue