A conversation with Erik Reece

We are pleased to publish Erik Reece’s latest book Clear Creek: Toward a Natural Philosophy this week. This wide-ranging and boundary-defying work calls us out of our frenzied, digitized world to a slower, more contemplative way of being. Joe Wilkins called Clear Creek, “A wise, rambling book that is equal parts memoir, natural history, and philosophical investigation. . . . Readers of Barry Lopez and Wendell Berry will find much to admire here.” In this Q&A below, Reece talks with Caitlin Solano of Vesto PR.

The book takes place over the course of a year. Did your journals and notebooks come together naturally, or did you have to revise certain aspects?

The journaling down by the creek occurred pretty organically. But though the book takes the form of “a year in the life,” I actually spent ten years writing it! Not continuously, but rather when some observation or idea came to me. So there was time for some pretty extensive revision, editing, shaping.

You’ve written about your religious upbringing and thoughts on Christianity before in your book, An American Gospel. What was different about your approach for writing about it this time?

In American Gospel, I was settling scores, in a way, with family ghosts. Which I don’t really recommend. But I was also working through some mental anguish that I’d carried around for a long time. There’s really none of that in Clear Creek. Though I’m always, in some sense, writing about religion (I guess I’m a God-drunk agnostic, as someone said about Spinoza), I now very much think of Clear Creek as an unroofed church, where I’m a congregation of one.Read More »

An empty road lined with green leafy trees and bushes with a clear blue sky

Midsummer roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

We get to June, and the child in me still feels like we should all get a few months of summer vacation. We get to July and it seems like everyone else is out on vacation. But even while the pace of some things has slowed as the temperature rises, the literary interviews, reviews, and events carry on.

First up, congratulations are in order for Rachel King: Bratwurst Haven is the literary fiction winner of the 2023 Colorado Book Award! The Colorado Sun shows support through an interview with King and publication of a story from the collection, “Strangers.”

Congratulations also goes to Tom Bredehoft, whose debut Foote: A Mystery Novel is a finalist for the Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America in the category of Best First PI Novel. Winners will be announced on September 1.

And another congratulations to Neema Avashia, whose Another Appalachia came in at #9 on libro.fm’s audiobook nonfiction bestseller list for May. Neema also contributes to an Esquire article that explores the notion of writing as a hobby or as a career, and she features as one of GoMag‘s 100 Women We Love.

July is Disability Pride month, and the American Booksellers Association recommends The Wounds That Bind Us, the new memoir by Kelley Shinn (“that’s two Ns and no shins”) as a worthwhile read year-round. The book is hailed as “empowering” by the Southern Review of Books. You can find Kelley at bookstores around North Carolina this summer, including at Downtown Books in Manteo on July 25, in a Zoom book discussion on July 28 hosted by Jacar Press and the Regulator in Durham, and at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill on August 31 with Belle Boggs.

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ASLE 2023 sale: Save 30% on titles on display at the conference

To celebrate the biennial meeting of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, West Virginia University Press’s new and recent works on the environment are 30% off with free shipping through August 31, 2023. This discount applies to paperback and electronic editions.

Display copies are available at the ASLE meeting in the Scholar’s Choice booth, with all sales handled online at our website. Just use code WVUPASLE30 at checkout. This sale is open to all, regardless of whether you’re attending the conference.

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“I hope [readers] walk away with questions—about our world, about themselves”: A conversation with Matthieu Chapman

Matthieu Chapman’s Shattered: Fragments of a Black Life—stories from the life of a black man that offer a riveting and heart-wrenching examination of how antiblackness infiltrates every aspect of black life in America—will be published by West Virginia University Press on August 1. (Available now through our website!) Here Chapman talked with his editor at the press, Sarah Munroe.

I’m going to say up front that Shattered is not an easy read. The prose itself is fluid and accessible, but many of the experiences you relate are difficult and even traumatic, and the slivers of social and structural history and analysis you include, particularly your lens of Afropessimism, will be challenging for some (though your book helped me understand it much better). Some may consider the memoir polemical or too political, and one of the absences quotes a white editor—in an email two days after the murder of George Floyd—calling it “an angry book” that places too much import on “rage and resentment.” What is your response to that? Has it changed over the past three years? Do you see your writing, the telling of your own story, in the context of our nation, as being angry, rageful, resentful? Why is your telling necessary?

My initial response to that email was laughter. I mean, what else can you do? I don’t think the book is angry. I think it’s honest. I think it’s funny at times. I think it’s painful at times. I think it’s happy at times. But I also think it engages with topics and perspectives that white people never have to engage with unless they choose to. So when I got this comment from this white woman editor, I couldn’t help but laugh. Why did she focus on anger?Read More »

What we read over the holidays

WVU’s students returned to classes today, which means the quiet days and easy commutes through town have come to an official end. Suddenly those days of the holiday break—not necessarily easier than the regular routine, but full of possibility—seem far away. To bring us back to thoughts of relaxation and leisure, and to possibly inspire your next cozy-under-the-blankets winter read, WVU Press’s full-time staff have shared some of the books they were gifted with or read over the holiday break. We bring you nonfiction, poetry, and new novels (not to mention bookstore recommendations)—and “dishwasher” comes up in two ways. Happy new year and happy reading from everyone at WVU.

Sara G., Managing Editor

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017)

On a whim at the bookstore one night last year, I bought Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus. I’ve been intrigued by cephalopods, so intelligent and yet so alien, ever since I watched an episode of Nature featuring a deceptive cuttlefish. For several nights in a row, I interrupted my husband every few minutes to share whatever new fact I learned as I was reading. (Did you know that octopuses can regenerate their arms? Did you know they can see and taste with their skin?) My husband gifted me the perfect follow-up, and I’m looking forward to diving into this philosophical treatment of these creatures. Read More »