The World Split Open: Great Authors on How and Why We Write

Since 1984, Literary Arts has welcomed many of the world’s most renowned authors and storytellers to its stage for one of the country’s largest lectures series. Sold-out crowds congregate at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall to hear these writers’ discuss their work and their thoughts on the trajectory of contemporary literature and culture. In celebration of Literary Arts’ thirty-year anniversary, Tin House Books has collected highlights from the series in a single volume. Whether it’s Wallace Stegner exploring how we use fiction to make sense of life or Ursula K. Le Guin on where ideas come from, Margaret Atwood on the need for complex female characters or Robert Stone on morality and truth in literature, Edward P. Jones on the role of imagination in historical novels or Marilynne Robinson on the nature of beauty, these essays illuminate not just the world of letters but the world at large.

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  • Page Count: 272
  • Direct Price: $15.95
  • List Price: $18.95
  • 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
  • November 2014
  • 978-1-935639-96-1
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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria. She is the author of Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. The Thing Around Your Neck, her collection of stories, was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book in Africa. The recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she was named by the New Yorker as one of the twenty most important fiction writers today under forty years old. Her most recent novel, Americanah, won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction and the Heartland Prize, and was named one of the New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of the Year.

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. Her newest novel, MaddAddam (2013), is the follow-up to The Year of the Flood (2009) and her Giller Prize winner, Oryx and Crake (2009). Other recent publications include The Door, a volume of poetry (2007), Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth (2008), and In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination (2011). Additional titles include the 2000 Booker Prize–winning The Blind Assassin, Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, The Robber Bride, Cat’s Eye, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Penelopiad. Atwood lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson.

Russell Banks is the prize-winning author of seventeen books of fiction, including the novels Continental Drift and Cloudsplitter, both finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. Two of his novels, Affliction and The Sweet Hereafter, have been made into critically acclaimed, prize-winning films. He has published six collections of short stories, most recently A Permanent Member of the Family. His work is widely translated, and in 2010 he was made an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Minister of Culture of France. He is the former president of the International Parliament of Writers and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was the New York State Author, 2004–2008, and in 2014 was inducted into the New York Writers Hall of Fame. He resides in upstate New York and Miami Beach, Florida.

E. L. Doctorow’s work has been published in thirty-two languages. His novels include Andrew’s Brain, The March, City of God, Welcome to Hard Times, The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, Loon Lake, World’s Fair, Billy Bathgate, The Waterworks, and Homer and Langley. He has published three volumes of short fiction, Lives of the Poets, Sweet Land Stories, and All the Time in the World, and three collections of essays, Creationists, Reporting the Universe (The Harvard-Massey Lectures in the History of American Civilization), and Jack London, Hemingway and the Constitution. There have been five film adaptations of his work. Among his honors are the National Book Award, two Pen/Faulkner Awards, three National Book Critics Circle Awards, the PEN Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, the Gold Medal for fiction of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal.

Edward P. Jones, a New York Times best-selling author, has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the National Book Critics Circle award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the Lannan Literary Award for The Known World. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born in 1929 in Berkeley, California, and lives in Portland, Oregon. As of 2014, she has published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many honors and awards including Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud. Her most recent publications are Finding My Elegy (New and Selected Poems, 1960–2010) and The Unreal and the Real (Selected Short Stories), which received the 2012 Oregon Book Award for fiction.

Marilynne Robinson is the recipient of a 2012 National Humanities Medal, awarded by President Barack Obama for “her grace and intelligence in writing.” She is the author of Gilead, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Home, winner of the Orange Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a finalist for the National Book Award. Her first novel, Housekeeping, won the PEN/Hemingway Award. Robinson’s nonfiction books include When I Was a Child I Read Books, Absence of Mind, The Death of Adam, and Mother Country, which was nominated for a National Book Award. She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives in Iowa City.

Wallace Stegner wrote thirty-five books over a sixty-year career. Among the novels are The Big Rock Candy Mountain (1943), All The Little Live Things (Commonwealth Club Gold Medal, 1967), Angle of Repose (Pulitzer Prize, 1972), The Spectator Bird (National Book Award, 1977), and Crossing to Safety (1987.) His nonfiction includes Beyond the Hundredth Meridian (1954), Wolf Willow (A History, A Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier) (1962), The Sound of Mountain Water (1969), and Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: Living and Writing in the West (1992), which earned him a nomination for the National Book Critics Circle award. In 1946 Stegner started the Creative Writing Program at Stanford University, where he served on the faculty until 1971. He was twice a Guggenheim Fellow and a Senior Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the National Academy of Arts and Letters. He died at eighty-four, on April 13, 1993.

Robert Stone’s novel Dog Soldiers won the National Book Award. His other novels include A Flag for Sunrise, which was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award, Children of Light, and Bay of Souls. He also published a memoir, Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties. His latest novel, Death of the Black-Haired Girl, was published in fall of 2013. He lives in Key West, Florida.

Jeanette Winterson’s first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, won the 1985 Whitbread Prize for a First Novel and was adapted for television by Winterson in 1990. She won the 1987 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for The Passion. Her stage adaptation of The PowerBook in 2002 opened at the Royal National Theatre, London. Winterson was made an officer of Order of the British Empire (OBE) at the 2006 New Year Honours "For services to literature." She is a two-time winner of the Lambda Literary Awards: Written on the Body won in the category of Lesbian Fiction in 1994, and Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? won in the category of Lesbian Memoir or Biography in 2013. Sexing the Cherry won the 1989 E. M. Forster Award. Her latest novel, The Daylight Gate, was published in fall of 2013.

Jonathan Raymond is an American writer living in Portland, Oregon. He is best known for writing the novels The Half-Life and Rain Dragon, and for writing the short stories and screenplays for the films Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy (both directed by Kelly Reichardt). He also wrote the screenplays for Meek's Cutoff and Night Moves, and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for his teleplay writing on the HBO miniseries, Mildred Pierce.

Margaret Atwood, Russell Banks, Ursula K. Le Guin, Marilynne Robinson, Wallace Stegner, Robert Stone, and Jeanette Winterson.

"Far more than a compendium of dreary 'this is how and why I write' essays, these force readers to re-examine the ways they interact with words. The rhythm of syllables as they play against each other on the page and the way fiction, in particular, can transport us out of the here and now helps readers gain perspective and aids in our understanding of the world. . . With eloquence and grace, highly acclaimed authors ponder the complexities of the writer's life and art form."
Kirkus

Introduction by Jonathan Raymond
Margaret Atwood, “Spotty-Handed Villainesses: Problems of Female Bad Behavior in the Creation of Literature"
Russell Banks, "No, But I Saw the Movie"
Ursula K. Le Guin, “Where Do You Get Your Ideas From: Fantasy as Literature, not Genre"
Marilynne Robinson, "On Beauty"
Robert Stone, "Morality and Truth in Literature”
Wallace Stegner, “Fiction to Make Sense of Life"
Jeanette Winterson, “What Is Art For?"
Additional Essays by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, E.L. Doctorow, and Edward P. Jones.