Connecting the Dots
Acclaimed travel writer and lyric essayist Brad Herzog was the final reader of the academic year in the Writing Program’s Nonfiction Reading Series. Herzog read from his memoir Turn Left at the Trojan Horse, the third in his trilogy of travel memoirs that chronicle his experiences traveling across the continental United States in a RV. All three books are composed of essays that come together to form the narrative arc of an epic journey.
“I examine the big picture by traveling through some of the tiniest dots on the map,” explained Herzog. He described America as “a masterpiece of pointillism,” or a dot painting made up of small towns: “When you look from a distance all the dots blend together and they form an overall image. But if you look up close, each little dot has its own colors, its own size, its own little story to tell . . . I think the best way to understand America is to connect these little dots, these small, tiny little towns where there are authentic people off beaten paths.”
Ivy Kleinbart, Nonfiction reading Series Co-Chair and Professional Writing Instructor, described Herzog’s travel memoirs as volumes that “trace his experiences traveling across the United States in search of the great diversity and complexity of the American experience as well as the common bonds that unite us.” Though Herzog has written in a number of different genres—everything from short stories to poems to children’s books—he says that creative nonfiction is his favorite. But creative nonfiction is difficult to write because it incorporates many elements of other genres: “You have to have the eye for detail of a biographer; you have to have the character development of a novelist . . . you have to have the ego of an essayist . . . and you have to have the soul of a poet.”
The Nonfiction Reading Series, which began in 2008, features local, national, and international writers of all types of nonfiction: memoir and autobiography, the personal essay, political essays, and historical narrative, among others. Recent participants include Jim Johnson, Mary Karr, Arthur Flowers, Stephen Kuusisto, Harriet Brown, and Minnie Bruce Pratt.
—story by Emily Dressing