Meissner, Bill 1948- (William J. Meissner)

views updated

Meissner, Bill 1948- (William J. Meissner)

PERSONAL:

Born 1948; married; wife's name Christine; children: one son. Education: University of Massachusetts, graduated, 1972. Hobbies and other interests: travel, rock 'n' roll music, sports, baseball, manual typewriters, records, baseball memorabilia, pulp fiction magazines and novels.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Department of English, St. Cloud State University, Riverview 101D, 720 4th Ave. S., St. Cloud, MN 56301-4498. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN, director of creative writing.

AWARDS, HONORS:

National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship; PEN/NEA Syndicated Fiction Award, for "The Last of the Rain," and four other awards; Loft-McKnight Award in Poetry; Loft-McKnight Award of Distinction in Fiction; Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship; Jerome Foundation Fellowship.

WRITINGS:

Learning to Breathe Underwater (poems), Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 1979.

The Sleepwalker's Son, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 1987.

(With Jack Driscoll) Twin Sons of Different Mirrors: Poems in Dialogue, photographs by Nancy Campbell, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 1989.

Hitting into the Wind (short stories), Random House (New York, NY), 1994.

American Compass (poems), University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 2004.

The Road to Cosmos: The Faces of an American Town (short stories), University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals and anthologies.

SIDELIGHTS:

Poet and short-story writer Bill Meissner is a prolific author whose work has appeared in more than two hundred periodicals, journals, and other publications. In his short-story collection Hitting into the Wind, Meissner contributes his unique perspective to the venerable genre of baseball fiction. The stories in the collection combine "moments of heroic grandeur with a few pop flies, strikeouts, and those odd, unsettling glimpses of players doing things that we would rather not see heroes do," observed Bill Kent in the New York Times Book Review. Meissner uses baseball as a metaphor to examine a variety of emotions and relationships, particularly between fathers and sons. He also looks at baseball as a possible means for once-idealistic men who dreamed of careers in the majors to escape the vicissitudes of age and regain a measure of lost youth. "For Meissner, baseball is a bulwark against change, against the painful, even tragic evanescence of life itself," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. For example, in the story "Things Are Always So Close," an emotionally troubled minor league umpire finds his wife unable to cope with his problems as the couple rapidly drifts apart. "What about the World" reveals what happens when the wife of a baseball-obsessed, middle-aged man reaches the limits of her tolerance for his interest in sports. "Ancient Fires" reveals the space between a father and son within the boundaries of a simple game of catch. Meissner "has a feel for both baseball's appeal and the people to whom it appeals," observed Booklist contributor Wes Lukowsky.

A more recent short-story collection, The Road to Cosmos: The Faces of an American Town, "explores the consciousness" of Cosmos, Minnesota, a small town "that is anything but ordinary," according to a reviewer in the University of Massachusetts Magazine. Combining character sketches and memory pieces, Meissner examines the unique little town and resident Skip Carrigan, a local prodigal son whose vivid childhood memories of his relationship with his father serve as metaphors for the changes wrought by time on Cosmos and the world around it. Other characters emerge from Meissner's focus on small-town life: Minnie, a fortune-teller at a carnival, inexplicably quits her job; sixteen-year-old Molly decides to leave home, though without a coherent reason why; Kerri, chafing under the blandness and boredom of existence in small-town Cosmos, threatens to leave her husband, though her threat is hollow. In another character profile, old friendships are tested as former football-team colleagues Norm, a success by Cosmos standards, and Johnny, an unpleasant alcoholic, continue to interact in adulthood. Using the newfound wisdom earned through Skip Carrigan's travels outside Cosmos, Meissner "artfully comments on the growth and change of America itself," remarked the University of Massachusetts Magazine contributor.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature, spring, 2000, review of Hitting into the Wind, p. 170; fall, 2005, Thomas Reynolds, review of American Compass, p. 199.

Booklist, January 1, 1994, Wes Lukowsky, review of Hitting into the Wind, p. 807.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1993, review of Hitting into the Wind, p. 1350; August 15, 2006, review of The Road to Cosmos: The Faces of an American Town, p. 805.

New York Times Book Review, April 10, 1994, Bill Kent, review of Hitting into the Wind, p. 24.

North American Review, March-April, 2005, Vince Gotera, review of American Compass, p. 53.

Pioneer Press (Twin Cities, MN), November 1, 2006, Mary Ann Grossman, "Writer Spins Cosmic Tales from a Small Minnesota Town," review of The Road to Cosmos.

Publishers Weekly, October 25, 1993, review of Hitting into the Wind, p. 44.

St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, MN), January 28, 2007, Adam Hammer, "His Stories Hit Close to Home," review of The Road to Cosmos.

Studies in Short Fiction, spring, 1996, David Dougherty, review of Hitting into the Wind, p. 293.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), March 30, 1997, review of Hitting into the Wind, p. 3.

University of Massachusetts Magazine, winter, 2007, review of The Road to Cosmos.

ONLINE

St. Cloud State University Web site,http://www.stcloudstate.edu/ (March 4, 2007), biography of Bill Meissner.

About this article

Meissner, Bill 1948- (William J. Meissner)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article