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Letter from the Director


Dear Students, Faculty and Alumni,

For this month’s letter, a survey of the faculty.

What are you reading?


Merle Drown: Now and then I like to disturb the dust of a book sitting on my shelves. Sometimes after 20 pages I donate it to the local library, but Robertson Davies' novel “What's Bred in the Bone” has kept my attention. He tells the story of a seemingly ordinary Canadian of the 20th century, who turns out to have been art forger, spy, etc. The tale is double-framed and has a clever ongoing dialogue between the Angel of Biography and the daemon in charge of the hero's life. At once a social satire, a "fat" novel full of richly drawn characters and a take on the role of art in life, it's a fine blend, like good brew. You don't have to be a Canadian or even married to one to enjoy it.
 
Craig Childs: “Brown” by Richard Rodriguez, “Nine Horses” by Billy Collins, “The Early Settlement of North America” by Gary Haynes and about a thousand pages of scientific journal articles about rock flakes and mammoth bones.
 
Leslie Jamison: I just finished reading “On Immunity” by Eula Biss, an investigation of the notion of immunization from so many angles: literature, public health, her own experience as a mother. It's a fascinating example of how nonfiction can blur the boundaries between memoir and cultural studies in really provocative ways.
 
Mark Sundeen: I’m reading “The End of Vandalism” by Tom Drury, which has many amazing lines. “The Greens had the sort of house that would have been better off had there been fewer construction materials available when it was built.”
 
I just finished “Christine Falls” by Benjamin Black, a sort of Raymond Chandler/Ross Macdonald thriller set in 1950s Dublin, where instead of a private investigator we have a coroner. It devolved into a slightly silly ending, but had so many physical descriptions I wanted to steal that I made a list: “a thatch of hair,” “skirls of snow," “he knocked the top off a beer bottle,” “she shucked off her dress.”  And this rendering of lust: “his tongue throbbed at the root.”
 
Ann Garvin: I'm reading “Sea Creatures” by Susanna Daniel because she is a fantastic writer and we just went to see the musician Gregory Alan Isakov together and she gave it to me. I was embarrassed that I hadn't read it yet.
 
And “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future” by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters because I'm writing a book with a startup in it.
 
My own answer: “Can’t and Won’t,” an occasionally brutal and consistently lovely short story collection by Lydia Davis. She’s a master of the horrifying narrator. “The Dreadful Mucamas” consists of complaints about two servants who “came with the apartment.” A “Dreadful Mucamas” sampler:
   
I have told them: Please, do not make the toast until we ask for breakfast. We do not like very crisp toast the way the English do.

I said: Luisa, you cannot refer to my instructions as ‘capricious and illogical.’
We do not believe they are sincerely trying to please us.
 

Sincerely,

Benjamin Nugent

Director, Low-Residency MFA in Fiction & Nonfiction

Southern New Hampshire University