Randall Silvis

Randall Silvis

Randall Silvis is the internationally acclaimed author of over a dozen novels, one story collection, and one book of narrative nonfiction. Also a prize-winning playwright, a produced screenwriter, and a prolific essayist, he has been published and produced in virtually every field and genre of creative writing. His numerous essays, articles, poems and short stories have appeared in the Discovery Channel magazines, The Writer, Prism International, Short Story International, Manoa, and numerous other online and print magazines. His work has been translated into 10 languages. Silvis's many literary awards include two writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the prestigious Drue Heinz Literature Prize, a Fulbright Senior Scholar Research Award, six fellowships for his fiction, drama, and screenwriting from the Pennsylvania Council On the Arts, and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree awarded for "distinguished literary achievement." From Randall: For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to life's oddities, human and otherwise. Maybe that's why the first book of fiction to make a lasting claim on my attention was Ray Bradbury's October Country. That story collection presented life as a series of carnival sideshows, and that was exactly how the pre-adolescent me viewed life, and how I view it still--life as a temporary village of tattered, wind-vulnerable tents pegged into the mud and sawdust, each holding a tantalizing secret, the three-breasted woman, the dog-faced boy, each with its story of wretchedness and woe, each startling sight producing its own particular tingle of love and revulsion. A sensitive, creative boy cannot grow up in the coalfields of Pennsylvania without also seeing himself as freakish. If he is lucky he can hide the freakishness behind his athleticism, but sooner or later he must embrace what he is or climb into the bottle or merely go mad. At nineteen I chose the first option. I stopped studying to become an accountant and drove across the country in a 1958 Thunderbird, pausing to rest only when something sufficiently freakish called my name. Along the way I discovered a kinship with the Native American culture, and on subsequent trips I swung south to soak up the mysticism and supernatural elements of the Hispanic cultures. My mother's family has Scottish roots, my father's has Portuguese, so it isn't hard to discern how an affinity for the numinous got twisted up with the otherwise freaky strands of my DNA. My first book was labeled as magic realism, and rightfully so. I was living in San Diego when I wrote those stories, reading One Hundred Years of Solitude and Leaf Storm and most of Carlos Castaneda's books between trips into Tijuana and Ensenada and the low desert beyond California's El Cajon. But I was also reading Steinbeck's The Log from the Sea of Cortez and The Grapes of Wrath, Knut Hamsum's Hunger and Growth of the Soil, all of Hemingway and Faulkner, John Fante, Irwin Shaw, Harvey Swados, Thomas Pynchon, Eudora Welty, James Lee Burke, Flannery O'Connor, Umberto Eco, Henry Miller, Stanley Elkin, Isaac Singer, Lewis Nordan, Borges, Barth, Ondaatje, Goyen, Beckett, Robbins, Brautigan, and just about anything else I could lay my hands on. Then, in the slow blink of an increasingly farsighted eye, another twelve books followed, all about characters who, at least subcutaneously, are as weird and full of wondering as me. Call them mysteries, mainstream, literary, slipstream, fabulism, fantasy, dirty magic realism, whatever you feel like calling them. Each is just one more tattered tent along the muddy midway of life.

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