Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Visit with Chris Offutt

I have a busy day today (meetings, class and a lot of paper to push out the door) so I thought you might enjoy a visit with fiction writer and memoirist Chris Offutt. The Same River Twice is a memoir set in Iowa--written as Offutt and his wife were awaiting the birth of their first child--with sidetrips to New York, Kentucky, the carnival, and elsewhere. It is a wonderful book.

Offutt writes:

The midwestern land has a softly undulating quality, like concentric circles spreading from a rock tossed into a farm pond. Before the giant plowing icebergs, water covered everything here. Often, I see the bottom of an ancient ocean quite clearly––the ripples left by forgotten tides, the gentle upsweeps of a reef––and I imagine that the land is still underwater. I possess gills in the woods and move against the resistance, exploring an abandoned sea.

Cloud shadows are great fish moving swiftly overhead. The prairie disappears into the glare of refracted sunlight fading with the depth, and becomes the living floorboards of an ocean. Jet contrails in the sky are a ships prow, cleaving the surface far away. Breath bubbles around my head as movement slows. Sound drifts into silence. I have slid out of my century and into an undersea past, alone with an uncaring force.

I am an alien here in the city. I don't belong, none of us does. Thumbs and cranium lucked us into our current status and we've traded curiosity for erosion. Dinosaurs evolved until their bodies were too big for their brains and they could not command their limbs. The human mind has outstripped its body––we are as ungainly as the last great lizard.

The rivers of the nation are only water now, no longer rivers in any sense, trickles mostly, filled with poison. In ten million years a stranger will explore this former sea, this former iceberg, this former prairie, and sift through our remains. Instead of spear points and mastadon bones he will find bits of plastic. I should be a rock sculptor, carving a mighty pantheon to rival the debris we left on the moon. The ashes of Alexander's library reveal the fragility of books.

–From Chris Offutt, The Same River Twice (Simon & Schuster, 1993) Prologue, pp. 9-10


Blogger How Now said...

Greg, hey.

Just wanted to let you know I changed the URL to my Blog changed when I put it back up (it was down for a while) - so my name in your Blog roll goes no.where.

How fickle is that?

8:55 AM  
Blogger Chris Offutt said...


Thanks for the support of my work. The boy born in that book is going to college next year.

One small thing. It's "the gentle upsweeps of a reef."

Spring finally sprung down here. Days of sun and birds, budding trees and wildflowers.


3:05 AM  
Blogger greg rappleye said...

Thanks, Chris!

I made the correction.

Stop by anytime!

1:48 PM  

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