The Wink of the Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer's Life

Overview

In his three previous memoirs, Floyd Skloot grappled with the brain-ravaging virus that struck him at forty-one. He was, as the San Francisco Chronicle noted, “shaping the experience of crippling illness into dazzling literature.” Sifting through memories and observations to discover how circumstance and nature conspired to make him the writer he is, Skloot enacts in this book the very process he describes, the shaping of a writer’s life. Among the influences of family and close friendship, experience and popular...

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Overview

In his three previous memoirs, Floyd Skloot grappled with the brain-ravaging virus that struck him at forty-one. He was, as the San Francisco Chronicle noted, “shaping the experience of crippling illness into dazzling literature.” Sifting through memories and observations to discover how circumstance and nature conspired to make him the writer he is, Skloot enacts in this book the very process he describes, the shaping of a writer’s life. Among the influences of family and close friendship, experience and popular culture, he uncovers a unique and telling perspective on the forging of a writer’s individual sensibility. At the same time, his book explores fundamental questions about how life shapes the creative spirit—and how, in turn, the writer makes sense of it all and gives life a new and meaningful shape in the form of literature.

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Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe

“Remarkable portrait of a remarkable artist.”—Askold Melnyczuk, Boston Globe

— Askold Melnyczuk

The Writer

“Skloot crafts sentence-length gems on almost every page. What a talent he possesses. . . . It is difficult to imagine any worthy writer remaining unaffected upon reaching the final page.”—Steve Weinberg, The Writer

— Steve Weinberg

Boston Globe - Askold Melnyczuk
“Remarkable portrait of a remarkable artist.”—Askold Melnyczuk, Boston Globe
The Writer - Steve Weinberg
“Skloot crafts sentence-length gems on almost every page. What a talent he possesses. . . . It is difficult to imagine any worthy writer remaining unaffected upon reaching the final page.”—Steve Weinberg, The Writer
Publishers Weekly

Skloot had been writing poetry for 20 years, short stories for 15, with three novels on the way, when he was struck with a brain disease that ravaged his memory. Fiction became impossible. Only memoir could help him reassemble his past; two he wrote in this phase, In the Shadow of Memory and A World of Light, have received great praise. This latest memoir moves away from the illness theme to explore what has made Skloot a writer, "the sort of person who could only deal with what happened to him by writing about it." He first explores what he calls "external" influences forming him as a writer-the discovery that he could fulfill school writing assignments with his baseball mania, that his television heroes like Peter Gunn were cooler as observers than as doers, even that the rituals of cooking could bring comfort. Then he focuses on how his writerly sensibilities have shaped his life-from how he jogged listening "to hear the hidden cadence" to the way he communicated with his aging, memory-impaired mother through song. Skloot is such a fine writer that he can-and does-write about eating "baloney and eggs" and makes it seem fascinating. Writers at any stage of their careers will treasure this volume of clean, expressive prose that delights without ever showing off. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In Skloot's fourth memoir (after A World of Light) since being struck at 41 with a neurological virus that significantly impaired his memory, the award-winning poet and novelist describes the family influences and cultural experiences that shaped him and focuses on how his upbringing influenced the rest of his career. Throughout his life, he has lived in grief over his father's death, his mother's experience with Alzheimer's, and his own struggles with loneliness and serious health issues. He expresses how if he were fully engaged by a book, it would absorb his body like a virus, yet the story would take place in his world rather than in the imaginary world that occurs while reading. Skloot feels great writing can make time stand still, thus sending writers to another world. The essays collected here-including his Pushcart Prize-winning "The Voice of the Past" and others that originally appeared in various literary journals, sometimes in different versions-are funny, sad, and inspiring. Skloot has done a remarkable job of re-creating his life and showing readers how writing is therapeutic.
—Susan McClellan

ForeWord Magazine

“Skloot unravels the tangled thread of his own life story with a sense of urgency often missing from linear memoir; and in so doing, he shows us that while truth and fact may be intimately connected, meaning itself is in the telling.”—Courtney Arnold, ForeWord Magazine  

— Courtney Arnold

Booklist

“Wise, thoughtful.”—Booklist
 

— Deborah Donovan

Shelf Awareness

“Eloquent and affecting”—Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf Awareness

— Harvey Freedenberg

OregonLive.com

“A book to be savored, not gulped down but tasted, essay by essay, allowing time to be amazed at how Skloot’s insights beam directly into our souls.”—Penny Allen, OregonLive.com

— Penny Allen

New West

"A full-color portrait of Skloot’s boyhood that rings with authenticity."—Jenny Shank, New West

— Jenny Shank

New Haven Review

“Even better than the tales is the pitch in which Skloot sings them. His sensibility is stoic and gentle. The style is clear, supple, expressive, and, one can’t help but get the feeling, wise as well.”—Mordechai Levy-Eichel, New Haven Review come his way."—Mordechai Levy-Eichel, New Haven Review

— Mordechai Levy-Eichel

New Haven Review - Mordechai Levy-Eichel
“Even better than the tales is the pitch in which Skloot sings them. His sensibility is stoic and gentle. The style is clear, supple, expressive, and, one can’t help but get the feeling, wise as well.”—Mordechai Levy-Eichel, New Haven Review come his way."—Mordechai Levy-Eichel, New Haven Review
Shelf Awareness - Harvey Freedenberg

“Eloquent and affecting”—Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf Awareness
OregonLive.com - Penny Allen

“A book to be savored, not gulped down but tasted, essay by essay, allowing time to be amazed at how Skloot’s insights beam directly into our souls.”—Penny Allen, OregonLive.com
New West - Jenny Shank

"A full-color portrait of Skloot's boyhood that rings with authenticity."—Jenny Shank, New West
Booklist - Deborah Donovan

“Wise, thoughtful.”—Booklist
 
ForeWord Magazine - Courtney Arnold

“Skloot unravels the tangled thread of his own life story with a sense of urgency often missing from linear memoir; and in so doing, he shows us that while truth and fact may be intimately connected, meaning itself is in the telling.”—Courtney Arnold, ForeWord Magazine  
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803238459
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Floyd Skloot

Floyd Skloot is the author of five books of fiction, seven collections of poetry, a collection of essays, and three previous memoirs including In the Shadow of Memory and A World of Light, both available in Bison Books editions. He is the winner of three Pushcart Prizes, the most recent for his essay “The Voice of the Past,” which appears in The Wink of the Zenith.

Good To Know

"I live in a small round house in the middle of 20 acres of forest on a hillside in remote western Oregon. My wife, Beverly, built the place before we were together. The silence, the isolation, the beauty all around me, the lack of edges to the space we live in, and the intimacy with which we live are all powerfully inspiring for my work."

"I'm a lifelong baseball fan, having grown up in Brooklyn when the Dodgers were still there, having played through my freshman year in college, having dreamed of covering center field for the Dodgers."

"I delight in reading baseball books and studying stats. I have a growing collection of old-time baseball caps and usually wear one when I write."

"My daughter, Rebecca Skloot, is also a writer. She's published her science writing widely, has been an editor and teacher, and is currently working on a nonfiction book under contract with Crown Books."

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    1. Hometown:
      Amity, Oregon
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 6, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Franklin & Marshall College, 1969; M.A., Southern Illinois University, 1971
    2. Website:

Table of Contents

Pt. 1 Home Economics for Halfbacks

1 Going, Going, Gone 3

2 The Wink of the Zenith 18

3 The Summer of the Vampire 31

4 Cover Stories 44

5 Home Economics for Halfbacks 57

Pt. 2 When the Clock Stops

6 When the Clock Stops 73

7 Into a Maelstrom of Fire: On Having a Feeling for Thomas Hardy 83

8 Echo Lark 99

9 Numbers 113

10 Running After My Father 128

Pt. 3 Travels in Lavender and Light

11 Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered 145

12 The Voice of the Past 158

13 Shine On 169

14 Travels in Lavender and Light 182

15 Jambon Dreams 198

16 Flesh and Fortune: Coming Back to Measure for Measure 212

Epilogue: Silence the Pianos 225

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