Gordon Lish would have expelled Henry–Christine Schutt’s loquacious cat–from the workshops he headed in the author’s apartment, in the very parlour from which Christine delivers her HENRY reading. Myth attests that Lish, sensei to Raymond Carver among select others, refused his pupils bathroom breaks while he held forth, caterwauling be damned!
Although sweetly tolerant of her feline’s capers, Christine is uncompromising in her prose. She insists on the same astral standard for both Narrative and Style, as evidenced in this excerpt from her debut novel, 2005’s Florida. Told through revolving perspectives reminiscent of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Florida tracks the lonesome adolescence of Alice Fivey, who is wrested from her unbalanced mother and circulated among family members into adulthood.
Dwelling in multiple consciousnesses, Schutt perfects an economical lyricism endemic of her literary school, and demonstrates a sensitivity vital to effective pedagogy. She teaches at Manhattan’s Nightingale-Bamford School, as well as in Columbia University’s MFA program, and published her newest novel–Prosperous Friends–this past November through Grove Press.
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