An interview with Faculty member Robert Boswell on, among other topics, his new book, Tumbledown, appears online on the TIn House blog:
Robert Boswell is a patient man. The facts surrounding this interview support this claim.
Our conversation began in Telluride, where he and his wife, the writer Antonya Nelson, have a home. This was a year ago and I should mention that our weekend together began with me flying into the wrong airport some 90 miles north of where he was waiting to pick me up. He stoically stayed up until a shuttle service dropped me off at his home around 1:00am. We spent the next few hours catching up and talking about Alice Munro.
Over the course of the ensuing weekend we must have watched 100 hours of baseball. That might be an exaggeration but it was the playoffs and I don’t think we missed an at-bat. It makes sense that Boswell would love our nation’s pastime; a four-hour, one-run pitching duel is the perfect requiescence for a man who often writes over fifty drafts of a novel. The same sort of patience that goes into his writing can be seen when you are heading home from the bar after the game and you encounter an enormous bear foraging in a nearby trashcan. “We should probably walk a bit faster,” he said.” “But not too fast. Now getting back to Wise Blood.”
And so a year has passed and the baseball playoffs are about to start again (without Boswell’s beloved Astros) and the bears of Telluride are hoping for another autumn book recommendation. The season has brought with it a bit of a relief, for after ten years we have finally gotten another Robert Boswell novel to immerse ourselves in.
A few years ago, in an introductory fiction workshop, my students and I witnessed a young man make relentless awkward attempts to get to know a young woman in the class. He was passionate and clumsy and his efforts were wholly transparent. When the time came for him to turn in his story, he submitted a piece about a young man much like himself who is hopelessly in love with a young woman much like the young woman in the class, and the two characters are in a creative writing workshop together. One night the male character shows up tipsy at the young woman’s house to ask if she will stroll with him in the warm night air and hold his hand, but the door is opened by her boyfriend, who answers for her with a punch to the jaw, sending the character flying and leaving a scrape on his chin—much like the scrape on the chin of the young man in my workshop.
Undaunted, the character retreats to his dorm to write a story about yet another character who is much like the first character who is much like the author, with the idea that a female character who is much like the first female character who is much like the girl in the workshop will read the story and understand that this literary version of himself represents his real self and that he is in love with her.
In the final scene, the girl suddenly understands—during workshop, no less—that the boy is in love with her, and she is powerfully moved by this knowledge. Everyone in the real workshop knows that the real girl would have to be blind and deaf and witless not to understand that this boy was in love with her, but this public declaration—this tender, ridiculous, marginally grammatical, potentially humiliating public declaration—nonetheless moves us.
Robert is the author of Tumbledown: A Novel (2013, Graywolf).
The Houston Press Blog recently featured faculty member Robert Boswell as part of its “100 Creatives” series:
University of Houston professor Robert Boswell always wanted to write, but took some sideways paths along the way to his present acclaim as author of 11 books and the writer of the cyber-punk novel, Virtual Death.
He graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in both psychology and creative writing. But he went on to earn his graduate degree in rehabilitation counseling. He practiced counseling in both Tucson and later in San Diego for two years.
As time went on, he only became more convinced that he wanted to pursue his writing career. So returning to the University Arizona, he earned his MFA in Creative Writing. He accepted a teaching position at Northwestern University just north of Chicago and then another at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, where he worked for 20 years...[Keep Reading]…
Robert is the author of The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards (2010, Graywolf).
Next Week: “Robert Boswell Interviews Tony Hoagland”
The Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers’ 35th anniversary gala on June 29, 2011 began with a series of three conversations between pairs of veteran faculty and longtime friends. What follows is the full text of the first of those conversations between Robert Boswell and Tony Hoagland; both frequent faculty members over the past couple of decades.
Boz: I’ll go first, because I have a question about influence, and I think that’s a good place to start… Every now and then I’ll read a poem in a magazine and I’ll think that poem’s been influenced by you, so I thought I would have you talk about what that feels like—But first, I thought I’d just credit you for the way I’ve been influenced by you. Some very specific examples: I remember once—right after graduate school, I think it was in Yuma—you read one of my stories, and you said, “Fathers. We’ll be writing about them for the rest of our lives.” And that terrified me so much that I didn’t put a father in a story for the next three years. There were a lot of orphans.
And then there was another time— I had a brand-new used sports car, and I drove over to pick you up, and you walked out into the driveway, and you said, “Dat ist not a car, dat ist a penis.” So I got rid of that car—
Tony: —It wasn’t that fast.