Jaimy Gordon

Herbert H. & Sofia P. Reuner Library Writers Series
Fall 2011

Author of the 2010 National Book Award-winning novel Lord of Misrule Jaimy Gordon graduated from Antioch College, and received her Doctor of Arts from Brown University. Gordon's second novel, She Drove Without Stopping, brought her an Academy-Institute Award. Her third novel, Bogeywoman, made the Los Angeles Times Best Books List for 2000. Gordon currently teaches at Western Michigan University and in the Prague Summer Program for Writers.

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Jaimy Gordon

National Book Award-Winning Author Jaimy Gordon to Read at SUNY Ulster .. McPherson & Co. of Kingston Published Lord of Misrule ... With her reading on Nov. 9, 2011 at SUNY Ulster, 2010 National Book Award winner Jaimy Gordon will come full circle with a local publisher who helped launch her writing career and encouraged her for years to complete her surprise winning novel, Lord of Misrule.

The Kalamazoo, Michigan author and writing professor at Western Michigan University went from being virtually unknown in the mainstream literary world to win one of the highest honors in American fiction with her sixth novel that depicts an entire world of run-down second-rate racetracks with vivid descriptions of horses.

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Photo: Jaimy Gordon by Alan Ritch

"People in our country are fascinated with fame and celebrity and radical turns of luck like mine," she says. "In our culture, the average person identifies with the underdog who has had a huge stroke of luck, even if it's deserved."

Gordon's local appearance comes through a long-time friendship with Bruce McPherson of McPherson & Co. of Kingston who published her first underground fantasy classic, Shamp of the City-Solo, when she was still a graduate student, after the two met while taking a poetry class together at Brown in Providence, R.I.

"Jaimy has an extraordinary command of language and metaphors, and her ability to paint a scene is breathtaking," Bruce McPherson said. "She can capture character in a voice like very few writers. She has both comic and tragic sensibility and can work both sides of the road."

Seeing its potential for mainstream literary acclaim, McPherson pushed Gordon every summer for nearly 10 years, after first reading Lord of Misrule in 1999, to finish it and then entered it into the National Book Award competition.

"Bruce McPherson was there at the very beginning of my career when I had no career, and then again, partly by chance, partly by his own unaccountable expectations, last year, when my career seemed to be slumping towards its end," she says. "He just about trapped me into finishing Lord of Misrule."

Winning the National Book Award for the horse racing novel was a complete long shot. As McPherson recalls, "No one expected her to win. When she was shortlisted, we were astounded and overjoyed. It was unprecedented. To actually win was out of the question."

Gordon is candid about her lack of savvy in managing her writing career, being easily distracted from her writing by her outside interests, such as opera and classical music, and not working as hard as she should have to stay in front of the public.

She offers this advice to young writers and others on finding happiness in the arts, whether or not they find fame: "Keep at it. Practice pays off. You do get to be a better writer and others will see that. Do things you are genuinely interested in and be generous to other people."

Gordon's second novel, She Drove Without Stopping, brought her an Academy-Institute Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her third novel, Bogeywoman, made the Los Angeles Times Best Books List for 2000. She is currently working on a novel to be published by Pantheon Books Pantheon Books about a young American Jewish food writer married to a German photographer who discovers six Jews hiding in a cave since they never came back from a picnic in 1936.

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