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Prof. Tom Chiarella Discusses His Work for Esquire and Teaching at DePauw

June 29, 2008

Tom Chiarella Indy Star.jpgJune 29, 2008, Greencastle, Ind. - DePauw, Tom Chiarella tells the Indianapolis Star, is "a great school. I'm really proud to be part of the English department. I was chair of the department for a while. And my involvement in the school and the community made it seem like a natural place to raise my children, and frankly I don't think I'd leave now." (top photo: Frank Espich/Star)

Chiarella, fiction editor for Esquire magazine and visiting professor of creative writing at DePauw, is the subject of a lengthy Q&A piece published in today's paper. Chiarella's articles often put him in the position of doing something different, such as haggling over prices for three months or working in a butcher shop.

"You have to have a high tolerance for self-humiliation, and then I think you have to be able to see a story inside the moment you're living, which is really I think what most people want to believe, that they're the protagonist of their own story," he tells the Star. So I guess I trick myself into believing that I could be the protagonist of a longer story, and that this was part of a kind of self-development or self-creation, that allowed me to say, 'I went off to do this, this is what I discovered, here's the uptake.' I don't ever turn around and say, 'Here's exactly what you could get out of it,' but I think people sense that. I'm usually doing things that people always want to try, which is pretty fun."

The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a finalist in the National Magazine Awards, Chiarella joined the DePauw faculty in 1988. He says, "the students at DePauw are responsible hard-working students. What they expect is reasonable. I guess I think that's a gift ... They're earnest, they're hard-working. They tend to believe the highest things, they tend to expect the most out of themselves, and expect the most out of you, and they tend to be people who see literature and movies and stories in a way that is not just healing, but it's affirming. It's -- I don't know -- it's fun to talk about great writers with people who are reading them for the first time. It's like leading them to terrific discoveries. And the way we read, the way we think about literature, the way we think about the stories we hear and tell, to me that's the best stuff that all literature and writing has to offer."

Chiarella has authored Foley's Luck, Writing Dialogue and Thursday's Game: Notes from a Golfer with Far to Go. Fall Walk 2007 Tennis Racquet.jpgHis upcoming book, The Proposition: The Memoir to My Future Self, "is an attempt to take a month long sense of a mission -- I'm gonna research and live in the mode of a samurai for a month, for instance ... The sense is, that you take every month of your life, and say, I can change something inside myself. Sometimes it's a little gimmicky. Other times it's like this deeper spiritual change, like a daily reflection. Sometimes it's actually a repetitive action, where you do those things and you do them for a month, and at the end of the month you heavily reflect, it'll lead you to another proposition and another proposition, and my life has always been that way."

Read the interview in its entirety at Indy.com.

Two Tom Chiarella pieces were among the "40 Film Journalism Must-Reads & Sees of 2007," according to ShortEnd magazine. Learn more in this previous story.

Source: Indianapolis Star

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