'Alone Here' no more: Professor Orner a finalist for National Book Critics Circle Award

The bright red cover of "Am I Alone Here" appears on the left, author Peter Orner on the right

Creative Writing Professor Peter Orner and his book “Am I Alone Here? Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live”

Creative Writing Professor Peter Orner is one of 30 writers nationwide named finalists for the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award. His acclaimed collection “Am I Alone Here? Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live” is among five books nominated in the criticism category. On the book sleeve, however, author Dave Eggers says, “This book, thank god, defies any category.”

“Am I Alone Here?” (Catapult Press) is Orner’s “book of unlearned criticism that stumbles into memoir,” as he describes it. In the book’s essays, he analyzes the struggles in his own chaotic life, such as divorce and the death of his father, in comparison to the world’s literary greats. In the introduction, for example, Orner — writing from the San Francisco General Hospital cafeteria — reflects on Anton Chekhov’s realism while contemplating the isolating process of dying.

“The underlying force of “Am I Alone Here” is the desire to recover the ‘weight of what’s vanished’ and fiction’s alchemical ability to do so,” The New Yorker writes. A review in The New York Times states: “This is an ideal moment to appreciate a master of his form.”

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