Publications

“Hell and Reason” (Essay) 

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“In February 1943, as a boy just shy of his eighteenth birthday, Charles Fisk wrote home to his parents in Massachusetts: ‘The work I am doing means nothing to me. That is, I don’t understand what the object of it is. Of course the principle of the whole thing is secrecy, and I am just as much in the dark about the project as you are. My official status is “lab helper in the Metallurgical Lab of the University of Chicago.” Metallurgy and the University of Chicago have about as much to do with the project as a baby elephant.'” So begins this essay about the development of the first atomic bomb, which examines the reasons and means by which it was created and used at the end of World War II, and the impact of it, decades later–by tracing the involvement and the subsequent life of the technician, Charles Fisk, who would go on to become a pre-eminent pipe organ builder, and whose association with the bomb would be regarded as a defining element of his life’s work.


“Pursuing the Great Bad Novelist” (Essay)

BCNFv2GRfall07“On a cold spring day in 2002, I found a damp and crumpled piece of paper on a beach near Reykjavík, Iceland.” This essay recounts the quest that began when I stumbled upon a rather awful romance novel, washed up amidst the seaweed that day. I made a surprising discovery about the author of the novel, Charles Garvice. The piece evolves into a biography of him, and a reflection on his dubious yet compelling literary contributions to the world.

  • First published in The Georgia Review Vol. LXI, No. 3 (Fall 2007)
  • Anthologized in Best Creative Nonfiction (W.W. Norton, 2008)
  • Winner of a GAMMA Award from the Magazine Association of the Southeast.
  • Nominated for a National Magazine Award by the editors of The Georgia Review.
  • FULL TEXT (pdf)

“Franz Schubert Dreamt of Indians” (Essay)

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Franz Schubert’s deathbed fixation on the terrible novels of James Fenimore Cooper was a mystery to me, in light of my own fixation on Schubert’s beautiful and transcendent last piano sonata. This essay examines the lives of both Schubert and Fenimore Cooper, and the sometime ineffable, sometimes inscrutable allure of their work. (What I am most proud of about this essay, actually, is just that it landed in a journal alongside the work of a Nobel Laureate and two Pulitzer Prize-winners, one of whom happened to be the living poet whose work I most love and revere: Stephen Dunn.)


“The Long Run” (Essay)

laugavegurinngranslosOnce upon a time (in the year 2000, to be exact), an American ultramarathon runner named Charles Hubbard began a string of victories–and an inadvertent, lopsided rivalry with a bunch of Icelanders named Siggi. I came into contact with the parties to this feud as a runner myself. Part profile, part travel essay, part sports writing, part personal narrative–ultimately I suppose I wrote this essay to understand why people run at all.


“The Crab in the Stars” (Flash Memoir)

TombTopperWhen E.B. White was asked why he wrote Charlotte’s Web, he said “a book is a sneeze.” So, too, is this short narrative about the things that transpired on the day, when I was twelve years old, when my grandfather died. It’s the only thing I’ve published that simply issued forth one day without any definite intention at all.


“Power and Glory” (Article)

fisk_stanfordmagCharles Fisk began his professional life as a technician on The Manhattan Project when he was fresh out of high school. He subsequently dropped out of graduate school at Stanford to become a pipe-organ builder, and indeed, he became one of the pre-eminent masters of this discipline in the twentieth century. This short, biographical article is an introduction to his work, and my own connection with it.

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