"To me writing takes as much destructive energy as it takes to be a really good professional drunk," fiction author Dan Chaon told The Believer in a recent interview. "It's like going on an all-night bender and then waking up and thinking, 'You know, I think I'll do that again,' and pouring yourself another drink."
Chaon (pronounced "shawn") has been inducing a sort of intoxication in readers at least since his acclaimed story collection Among the Missing, a 2001 National Book Award Finalist. In 2004, he published his first novel, You Remind Me of Me (Ballantine Books). It's about the intertwined lives of two men in small-town Nebraska: a line cook who as a child was mauled by his mother's dog, and a bartender who deals drugs.
Chaon, 42, lives with his wife and sons in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and teaches creative writing at Oberlin College. In interviews he comes off as hip, funny and self-deprecating. But you can judge for yourself when Chaon reads at the University of Pittsburgh's Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series. 8:30 p.m. Wed., Oct. 18. Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, off Schenley Plaza, Oakland. Free. 412-624-6506 or www.english.pitt.edu
"Youth, college is a precipice you pushed me into, where you dropped books full of poems on my head like anvils, where everything stopped making sense." We're not sure whether Kevin Gonzalez's wry, bittersweet poem "Cultural Sitcom: or, Poet Laureate Guest-Stars on The Simpsons" concerns Carnegie Mellon. But Gonzalez will be back at CMU on Wed., Oct. 18, along with two other former students, for the latest installment of an all-alumni reading series sponsored by the school's creative-writing program.
Gonzalez, currently a graduate fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, is among the CMU program's more prominent recent graduates. His verse has been published in McSweeney's, The Progressive and elsewhere, his fiction in such forums as Playboy and Best New American Voices 2007 (Harcourt).
But his fellow readers on Oct. 18 have been getting around, too. Pittsburgh-based Karen Rigby, for instance, is a widely published poet and author of the 2004 collection Festival Bone (Adastra). And Shannon Gibney has been keeping busy as a journalist and social activist as well as a published poet and fiction writer. Gibney, 31, worked a stint as managing editor of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, the state's oldest black newspaper. Gibney still lives in Minnesota; according to her Web site, other projects include a yet-unpublished young-adult novel titled Hank Aaron's Daughter. And when she's not writing, she's a principal dancer with, and executive director of, Ananya Dance Theater. 8 p.m. Adamson Wing, Baker Hall, CMU campus, Oakland. Free. 412-268-2850.