Rene Steinke and Bret Anthony Johnston
Thursday September 18, 2014
|Photo Credit: Michele Ocampo (Steinke) and Nina Subin (Johnston|
René Steinke (Friendswood) and Bret Anthony Johnston (Remember Me Like This) read from their latest work and discussed past and
contemporary literature from Texas.
Inspired by the town where she grew up, Friendswood is an emotionally complex story about a small Texas town and the interconnected lives of its inhabitants. When the town’s legacy of tragedy—a toxic leak that sickened and killed dozens a decade earlier—begins to rear its head again, the community unravels. Steinke imbues her characters with a warm, vibrant humanity—a mother coping with her teenage daughter’s death, high school adolescents entangled in a sexual assault cover up, a politician balancing big money interests against the health of the town’s residents—and she has an unerring ear for the rhythms of small town life.
Exploring how politics, sex, and religion are inextricably knotted together, Friendswood is a brave, challenging, and inspiring novel, that ultimately shows how the decisions of a few can change the lives of many.
René Steinke is the author of the novels The Fires, Holy Skirts, which was a finalist for the 2005 National Book Award, and Friendswood. She is the Director of the MFA program in creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She lives in Brooklyn.
About Remember Me Like This
Four years have passed since Justin Campbell’s disappearance, a tragedy that rocked the small town of Southport, Texas. Did he run away? Was he kidnapped? Did he drown in the bay? As the Campbells search for answers, they struggle to hold what’s left of their family together.
Then, one afternoon, the impossible happens. The police call to report that Justin has been found only miles away, in the neighboring town, and, most important, he appears to be fine. Though the reunion is a miracle, Justin’s homecoming exposes the deep rifts that have diminished his family, the wounds they all carry that may never fully heal. Trying to return to normal, his parents do their best to ease Justin back into his old life. But as thick summer heat takes hold, violent storms churn in the Gulf and in the Campbells’ hearts.
A gripping novel with the pace of a thriller but the nuanced characterization and deep empathy of some of the literary cannon’s most beloved novels, Remember Me Like This affirms Johnston as one of the most gifted storytellers writing today.
Bret Anthony Johnston is the author of the award-winning Corpus Christi: Stories, which was named a best book of the year by The Independent (London) and The Irish Times, and the editor of Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer. His work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, The Paris Review, The Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship and a 5 Under 35 honor from the National Book Foundation. He teaches in the Bennington Writing Seminars and at Harvard University, where he is the Director of Creative Writing.