03/31/2012

Writer In Residence, April 2012

Before he’d published a book, I knew of Will Buckingham as a blogger, both on his own site and at thinkBuddha. The questions he explored in those venues never ceased to fascinate me, and when he began publishing books — first his novel Cargo Fever and his philosophy book Finding Our Sea Legs, followed by others — I was eager to read them, and have yet to be disappointed. We’ve been honored to share some of Will’s writing here at Necessary Fiction in the past, and we’re very pleased he’ll be joining us as Writer In Residence for the month of April.

The appeal of his work is caught by this review at Approaching Aro:

Finding our Sea-Legs also uses the ocean as a metaphor for the unbounded, tangled dimension of stories. Stories do not exist in isolation, but always in relationship to other stories, and to their hearers and tellers. Likewise, we — who are hearers and tellers — do not exist other than in relationship to stories. We navigate the sea of stories as a way to make sense of experience — as a way of finding meanings.

It’s that interconnection of stories, that unbound entanglement, that so fascinates me in Will’s work, whether its the simultaneously active and interpretive clash of cultures in Cargo Fever, the landscape of text in “How The Revolution Began,” or a recasting of Orpheus in his forthcoming novel The Descent of the Lyre. He never lets us forget that stories are negotiations, with ourselves and with others, and with other stories — even between disciplines, as he straddles philosophy and fiction at once — which for me is what’s urgent and vital and alive about stories whether in print or through oral traditions. These stories do something, they’re for something, but not in the simplified manner of delivering morals or messages. These are stories for making us think.

About his recent book Introducing Happiness: A Practical Guide, Will writes,

And this, finally, leads to the other aspect of the book, which is that it tries to encourage readers to look at the wider political issues that are necessarily a part of any talk about happiness. It seems to me that too many happiness books treat happiness as if it were exclusively a matter of working on your own inner life; but there are always broader political questions at stake, and so in the book I wanted to give readers a few ways in to exploring these questions. Because if this is a practical guide, then — as Aristotle knew — practical philosophy is not just a matter of ethics, but also of politics.

Not to put too fine a point on it or draw too easy a parallel, but to me this passage applies to stories as well: they aren’t only about themselves, or about the language that delivers them, but are made powerful by the broader questions they put at stake. And I can’t wait to find out what those questions will be during this month Will Buckingham spends with us here.

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