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American Book Review: Critic, writer returns to novel roots

By APRILL BRANDON
March 25, 2010 at 4:03 p.m.
Updated March 24, 2010 at 10:25 p.m.

Curtis White, a novelist, essayist and critic, reads an excerpt from his novel "The Idea of Home" during Thursday's American Book Review reading series at the University of Houston-Victoria

What's next

The next American Book Review reading series features Bret Anthony Johnston on April 22.

Writer Curtis White wore two hats throughout his career, both as a novelist and as a cultural critic.

Even though in recent years he's more well-known for the latter, on Thursday he decidedly wore his novelist hat as the speaker for the American Book Review reading series.

"For the last seven years, I've been Curt White, Mr. Culture Critic and I haven't had much of a chance to think about fiction I've written, let alone think about writing new fiction," he said. "So this is a great opportunity for me to go back and see what stands up, to see what I want to read to you."

White, who is also a professor of English at Illinois State University, read an excerpt from his novel "The Idea of Home," which he wrote between 1988 and 1991.

"The idea was to write a highly architectural book that doesn't have a unifying plot, but is highly conceptually designed. It may look and feel random, but there's nothing random about it," he added. "It's a novel of pieces, lots of individual pieces, but the architecture itself brings it into coherence. It's also in the playful post-modern tradition, but I also wanted it to be deeply human."

After the reading, White answered questions from the audience, including questions about his others books "Memories of My Father Watching TV" and "Requiem."

"All of my work has been a balancing act between the playfulness and humor of the story and the grim realities the book is trying to address," he said. "Most people say my books are very funny and disturbing."

Other books by White include "The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don't Think for Themselves" and more recently "The Barbaric Heart: Faith, Money and the Crisis of Nature." His essays have appeared in Harper's Magazine, Playboy, Orion and The Village Voice.

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