ABR author looks for emotional honesty in storytelling

Sept. 8, 2016 at midnight

Sam Lipsyte

Sam Lipsyte   Contributed Photo for The Victoria Advocate

When Sam Lipsyte sits down to write, he doesn't always have a clear plan for his story; he's responding to an itch.

"I get a deep desire to follow the language and see where it leads me," he said. "I tend to deal with characters in bad situations because it's so interesting to see how people behave when the pressure is on."

The novelist, short story writer and associate professor in the Columbia University School of Arts in New York City will be the next speaker in the University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review Fall Reading Series.

He will talk at noon Sept. 22 in the UHV University West Alcorn Auditorium, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St.

The event is free and open to the public.

He is the author of the short story collections "Venus Drive" and "The Fun Parts," as well as the novels "The Subject Steve," "Home Land" and "The Ask."

Lipsyte won the Believer Book Award and was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

"Sam Lipsyte is a master at blending wit with the grim reality of life," said Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts and Sciences and ABR editor and publisher.

"His gripping style combined with an unflinching look at the darker side of things will inspire attendees in all walks of life."

Lipsyte began writing at an early age. Recently, his daughter rediscovered one of his third-grade writing notebooks, and the stories it contained were even grimmer than his current work.

"There were stories about people who were shipwrecked and died on a deserted island or animal crackers that came alive and terrorized a small town," Lipsyte said. "The animal crackers story actually recaptured my imagination, and I'm thinking about exploring that further."

Even though his stories often are dark in tone, there usually is humor interwoven with the grimness. The comedic side touches on emotional honesty and showcases the important part of being alive, Lipsyte said.

"Creating a fascinating story relies on how the writer tells it and creates emotional truth," he said.

"A good story should end in a surprising but inevitable way. I want to be astounded by what I read, and I'm always keen to see someone doing something in a different way."

Lipsyte still is choosing what he plans to share during his presentation at UHV, and he is considering reading something new.

Although he has written stories all his life, the process of writing is not easy, Lipsyte said.

While it's easy to rehash elements that others have done before, it's hard to find something new.

Several of his students at Columbia University have come to him saying they didn't realize writing could be so difficult.

"The most difficult part about writing is living with it while writing, but that's also the best part," he said. "Good writing can be hard won. Some passages come out freely, but mostly it's hard work."

For more information about the UHV/ABR Reading Series, call the ABR office at 361-570-4101 or go to americanbookreview.org.



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