A National Book Critics Circle Award finalist in Criticism
“Stories, both my own and those I’ve taken to heart, make up whoever it is that I’ve become,” Peter Orner writes in this collection of essays about reading, writing, and living. Orner reads—and writes—everywhere he finds himself: a hospital cafeteria, a coffee shop in Albania, or a crowded bus in Haiti. The result is “a book of unlearned meditations that stumbles into memoir.” Among the many writers Orner addresses are Isaac Babel and Zora Neale Hurston, both of whom told their truths and were silenced; Franz Kafka, who professed loneliness but craved connection; Robert Walser, who spent the last twenty-three years of his life in a Swiss insane asylum, “working” at being crazy; and Juan Rulfo, who practiced the difficult art of silence. Virginia Woolf, Eudora Welty, Yasunari Kawabata, Saul Bellow, Mavis Gallant, John Edgar Wideman, William Trevor, and Václav Havel make appearances, as well as the poet Herbert Morris—about whom almost nothing is known.
An elegy for an eccentric late father, and the end of a marriage, Am I Alone Here? is also a celebration of the possibility of renewal. At once personal and panoramic, this book will inspire readers to return to the essential stories of their own lives.
About the Author
Peter Orner is an American writer. He is the author of two novels, two story collections and a book of essays. Orner holds the Professorship of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College and was formerly a Professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University. He spent 2016 and 2017 on a Fulbright in Namibia teaching at the University of Namibia. Orner has published fiction in the Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, McSweeney's, The Southern Review, and various other publications. Stories have been anthologized in Best American Stories and the Pushcart Prize Annual. Orner has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim and Lannan Foundations.
Orner has taught at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop (Visiting Professor, 2011), University of Montana (William Kittredge Visting Writer, 2009), the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College (2009) Washington University (Visiting Hurst Professor, 2008), Bard College (Bard Fiction Prize Fellowship, 2007), Miami University (Visting Professor, 2002), Charles University in Prague (Visting Law Faculty, 2000). He would like to divide his time between a lot of places, especially San Francisco and Chicago.