Thursday, September 11, 2008

What is Peter Trachtenberg reading?

The latest featured contributor to Writers Read: Peter Trachtenberg, author of The Book of Calamities: Five Questions about Suffering and Its Meaning.

His entry begins:
I should preface this by noting that my reading is divided into three categories: the books I’m reading for my next project, the ones I’m assigning to my students at UNC Wilmington, and the ones I read for pleasure. Of course the categories overlap. Probably everything I read gives me some degree of pleasure—I’m one of those people who read the back of cereal boxes—and much of it ends up going into my own writing, either through the ivory gate of research or the horn gate of influence, conscious or unconscious. By now I’ve been writing long enough to have developed a voice that’s not all that amenable to change: Even if I wanted to, I doubt I could imitate A. J. Liebling or Simone Weil. But sometimes I find myself answering them.

Over the last three or four months I’ve read Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering, a book that drops one into the death-haunted psyche of Civil War America, where soldiers were sent into battle with explicit instructions to die and obeyed in such vast numbers as to give birth to the modern funeral industry.[read on]
Peter Trachtenberg's essays and short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, TriQuarterly, Bomb, the Jewish Forward, and Chicago, and have been broadcast on NPR's "All Things Considered." He received the Nelson Algren Award for Short Fiction and the Jerome Lowell DeJur Award for Fiction from the City College of New York.

Louis Bayard, in Salon, on Trachtenberg's newly released The Book of Calamities:
"Searching and often searing .... It would be tempting to see Trachtenberg as a literary ambulance chaser if his treatment of the subject weren't so humane and, at the same time, so unsentimental.... The Book of Calamities is a work of real moral intricacy .... Trachtenberg's readings are uniformly sensitive, and he draws connections between life and art ... that are both surprising and unforced....a beautiful and unsettling book."
Read an excerpt from The Book of Calamities, and learn more about the author and his work at Peter Trachtenberg's website.

Writers Read: Peter Trachtenberg.

--Marshal Zeringue