We wanted to lead off with our own handsomely crafted description of Larry Woiwode’s genius as a writer, but we’re going to step aside for a moment and quote what John Vernon once wrote in the New York Times: “Woiwode is an American original. He writes with a sense of both the quicksilver movement of language on the run and the reflective inner drag and furrowing of thought. The scarred beauty of his sentences and his eye and ear for metaphor are nowhere more evident than in his own description of how he struggles with words: ‘I keep at it on and off until the day I hear the auditory echo exerting pressure on my eardrums from the inside as camshafts of phrases turn within the whole of a sentence revolving along its length to a point where no iron can so pierce the heart (to paraphrase Babel) as a period put in the right place.’” Indeed, Woiwode is a powerful stylist, but sometimes writers can be pigeonholed by that sort of praise. The truth is that Woidwode’s subject matter, which spans just about every genre, is of equal richness and mystery: from his unforgettable stories of rural family life in the upper Midwest (Beyond the Bedroom Wall, Born Brothers) to searing, unflinching memoirs (What I Think I Did, A Step from Death) to thought-provoking essays on Shakespeare, Bob Dylan, guns, and much more (Words Made Fresh). Looking at the whole sweep of Woiwode’s achievement over nearly five decades is awe-inducing, and if you haven’t yet experienced his work, a feast awaits.
You can see Larry’s work in IMAGE issue 71 here.
Larry recently finished his second book of poetry, after a span of thirty years; has a story collection that is nearly done; and when he has time he tries to get a recalcitrant novel going right. He’s also currently employed as writer in residence at Jamestown College and from last semester he has approximately one thousand pages of student memoirs to line edit. In 2013, Crossway will be publishing a new book of Larry's essays entitled Words for Readers and Writers: Spirit-Pooled Dialogues.
Larry Woiwode was designated Poet Laureate of North Dakota by the Legislative Assembly in 1995: Senate CR No 4039, the House unanimously concurring, the office conferred by Governor Schafer in a ceremony on March 29, 1995. He served as Writer in Residence at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1973-74; and from 1983-88 was a tenured professor at the State University of New York, Binghamton, and director of its Creative Writing Program.
Larry Woiwode’s fiction has appeared in Antaeus, Antioch Review, Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Harpers, The New Yorker, Paris Review, Partisan Review, and many other publications; his poetry has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, The New Yorker, Mademoiselle, Poetry North, Tar River Poetry, Transatlantic Review, Works in Progress, and other publications and venues, including broadsides and anthologies.
His novels and his memoirs are widely acclaimed and his writings have been translated into a dozen languages and earned him international recognition: he is the recipient of the William Faulkner Foundation Award, 1969; has been a Guggenheim Fellow, 1971-72; a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award, 1975; chosen by the American Association of Publishers for a novel to present to the White House Library, 1976; is recipient of an Award in Literature from the National Institute and American Academy of Arts & Letters, 1980; of the John Dos Passos Prize (for a diverse body of work), 1991; and of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, 2001. He has also received North Dakota’s highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Roughrider Award, conferred by Governor Sinner, in 1992; and in 2011 received the Emeritus Award from the High Plains Awards Committee, for “A Body of Work as Vast as the West.” His recent publications include Words Made Fresh, and The Invention of Lefse, published in 2011 by Crossway Books. His new novel Blackburn Bay is nearly ready to be viewed by agents and publishers, and in 2010 he completed a new book of short stories.