Sunday, March 16, 2008

Beach and Teach

Took a long Santa Cruz beach walk today. Sure feels like spring...which, by the way, is just three days away.

Am re-reading Peter Nathaniel Malae's story collection Teach the Free Man, since I'm teaching it in my fiction writing class. Peter (who is currently a Steinbeck Fellow on campus)will be visiting my class to talk to my students about writing.

Peter's a force of nature. He's intense. He writes every day from midnight to 4 a.m., or something like that (I'll get the details when he comes to class, I'm sure). He's now working on his second novel, while the first is being seriously considered by a big publisher.

As I was re-reading the stories, I found myself getting tense, even though I'd read them before and knew what happens. He's excellent at building tension through crafting a creeping-up of external and internal conflict.

All of these stories center on California prison inmates or parolees. In the first story, "Turning Point" (which originally appeared in Cimarron Review), you can feel the painful contrast between the outside world and what's going on inside the main character's head. The whole thing simmers, and you're just waiting for the explosion. Fitting, given that violence is integral to prison life.

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