Curtis White makes people uncomfortable.
Whether he is writing one of his numerous works of fiction or social criticism, something he writes will probably make the reader squirm.
“It’s sort of a requirement of getting at both human and social issues that are really important.” White said.“I take things that people think they know, and then I look at them in a way that makes them seem strange and thus revealing.”
But he promised he wouldn’t make people uncomfortable on purpose when he comes to the University of Houston-Victoria at noon March 25 as part of the UHV/American Book Review Spring Reading Series. His lecture in the Alcorn Auditorium of University West, 3007 N. Ben Wilson, is free to the public, and light refreshments will be served.
“At these things, I always try to be very cordial and happy,” he said. “I can’t help it if the discomfort happens anyway. It’s sometimes hard to pick around my stuff without finding things that are a little disturbing.”
As a novelist, White has written books including “Memories of My Father Watching TV” and “Requiem.” He also has published books of social criticism including “The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don’t Think for Themselves” and “The Barbaric Heart: Faith, Money and the Crisis of Nature.” His essays have been published in Harper’s Magazine, Orion, Playboy and The Village Voice.
In his novel “Memories of My Father Watching TV,” White tells the semi-autobiographical tale of a father who spends his time watching TV rather than interacting with his family as a way of pointing out how the television altered the shape of the American family.
Other subjects of deep examination have included the red state/blue state schism and the affective link between environmentalism and jobs.
White has carried on two distinct writing careers, one as a fiction writer, and the other as a social critic. He describes the two veins of work as playful. He’s accomplished both tasks while working as an English professor at Illinois State University in Normal, Ill.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming Dr. White and the unique perspectives he brings,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, editor/publisher of ABR and dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. “I think anyone who attends will find the experience illuminating.”
While in Victoria for the Reading Series, authors also attend roundtable discussions with UHV faculty and students, make classroom visits to area schools, give lectures that are open to the community, and go to receptions hosted by Friends of ABR patrons. Past speakers have included Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David M. Oshinsky, author and Iranian refugee Farnoosh Moshiri, and Mexican American author Dagoberto Gilb, who has since joined UHV as a writer-in-residence and professor of Latino studies.
ABR is a nonprofit, internationally distributed literary journal that is published six times a year. It began in 1977, moved to UHV in 2007 and has a circulation of about 8,000. The journal specializes in reviews of works published by small presses.
The final author in the spring reading series, Bret Anthony Johnston, will speak April 22. Johnston is the author of the internationally acclaimed “Corpus Christi: Stories” and the editor of “Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer.” Named a Best Book of the Year by The Independent of London and The Irish Times, “Corpus Christi: Stories” received The Southern Review’s Annual Short Fiction Award, the Texas Institute of Letters’ Debut Fiction Award, the Christopher Isherwood Prize and the James Michener Fellowship.
Johnston’s work appears in magazines such as The Paris Review, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, The Oxford American and Tin House, and in anthologies such as “New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best” 2003, 2004 and 2005.
He is a recipient of the Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship. He has written essays for Slate.com and is a regular contributor to National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” In 2006, the National Book Foundation honored him with a new National Book Award for writers under 35. A skateboarder for almost 20 years, he is the director of creative writing at Harvard University.
For more information about the UHV/ABR Reading Series, call ABR Managing Editor Charles Alcorn at 361-570-4100 or go to www.americanbookreview.org.