Sanders, Scott Russell 1945-
SANDERS, Scott Russell 1945-
PERSONAL: Born October 26, 1945, in Memphis, TN; son of Greeley Ray (in farming and industrial relations) and Eva (Solomon) Sanders; married Ruth Ann McClure (a medical researcher), August 27, 1967; children: Eva Rachel, Jesse Solomon. Education: Brown University, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1967; Cambridge University, Ph.D., 1971. Hobbies and other interests: Carpentry, hiking, bicycling, canoeing, gardening.
ADDRESSES: Home—1113 East Wylie St., Bloomington, IN 47401. Office—Department of English, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405; fax: 812-855-3780. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Indiana University, Bloomington, assistant professor, 1971-74, associate professor, 1975-80, professor of English, 1980-96, distinguished professor, 1996—, director of the Wells Scholars Program, 1997—.
MEMBER: Phi Beta Kappa, Land Institute, Orion Society, Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society, Wilderness Society.
AWARDS, HONORS: Marshall scholarship, 1967-71; Bennett fellowship in creative writing, 1974-75; fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, 1983-84; Editor's Choice, Booklist, 1985, for Hear the Wind Blow: American Folksongs Retold; Penrod Award,
1986, for Stone Country; award for creative nonfiction, Associated Writing Programs, 1987, for The Paradise of Bombs; PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, 1988; award for literacy excellence, Kenyon Review, 1991; Frederick Bachman Lieber Award for Distinguished Teaching, Indiana University, 1992; Ohioana Book Award in Nonfiction, 1994, for Staying Put; Lannan Literary Award in Nonfiction, 1995; Great Lakes Book Award, 1996, for Writing from the Center; John Burroughs Award, for best natural history essay, 2000.
D. H. Lawrence: The World of the Major Novels, Viking (New York, NY), 1974.
Wilderness Plots: Tales about the Settlement of the American Land, Morrow (New York, NY), 1983.
Fetching the Dead: Stories, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1984.
Wonders Hidden: Audubon's Early Years, Capra (Santa Barbara, CA), 1984.
Terrarium, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1985.
Stone Country, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1985, revised edition published as In Limestone Country, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1991.
Hear the Wind Blow: American Folksongs Retold, Bradbury Press (Scarsdale, NY), 1985.
Audubon Reader: The Best Writings of John James Audubon, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1986.
Bad Man Ballad, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1986.
The Paradise of Bombs, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1987.
The Engineer of Beasts, Orchard (New York, NY), 1988.
The Invisible Company, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Aurora Means Dawn, Bradbury Press (Scarsdale, NY), 1989.
Secrets of the Universe: Scenes from the Journey Home, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1991.
Warm As Wool, Atheneum/Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.
Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1993.
Here Comes the Mystery Man, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1994.
Writing from the Center, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1995.
The Floating House, Atheneum/Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.
A Place Called Freedom, Atheneum/Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
Meeting Trees, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1997.
Hunting for Hope, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1998.
The Country of Language, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.
Crawdad Creek, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1999.
The Force of Spirit, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2000.
(With Will Counts and James H. Madison) Bloomington Past and Present, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 2002.
Contributor to books, including Openings: Original Essays by Contemporary Soviet and American Writers, edited by Robert Atwan and Valeri Vinokurov, University of Washington Press (Seattle, WA), 1990; Communion: Contemporary Writers Reveal the Bible in Their Lives, edited by David Rosenberg, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1996; Fathering Daughters: Reflections by Men, edited by DeWitt Henry and James Alan McPherson, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1998; Falling toward Grace: Images of Religion and Culture from the Heartland, edited by J. Kent Calder and Susan Neville, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1998; and Our Fathers: Reflections by Sons, edited by Steven L. Shepherd, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2001. Contributor to anthologies. Author of column, "One Man's Fiction," Chicago Sun-Times, 1977-83. Contributor to literary journals and popular magazines, including Audubon, Orion, North American Review, Georgia Review, Omni, Harper's, Kenyon Review, Sewanee Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Seattle Review, Northern Lights, Wild Earth and Utne Reader.
SIDELIGHTS: Scott Russell Sanders is the author of books for children and nonfiction for adults. No matter what the genre, his work evinces a concern for and appreciation of nature. He grew up near the Ravenna Arsenal in northeastern Ohio, "a landscape and community that seem unlikely to produce a nature writer," as an essayist for American Nature Writers stated. Yet it was pondering the weapons of death housed in the arsenal that inspired his love of nature, as Sanders has made clear in his writings. His essays, stories, and novels all seek to understand how mankind created such a violent world, and how it could be transformed into something better. Sanders studied physics at Brown University, then changed his focus to literature, doing graduate work at Cambridge University. He lived in England for four years, writing some short stories that were published in periodicals and later collected in book form, in Fetching the Dead. He also did extensive study of the work of D. H. Lawrence and his writings on love. In 1974, he published D. H. Lawrence: The World of the Major Novels.
His next book, Stone Country, describes the limestone quarries in Indiana, and the men who worked in them. He explores the source of the stone that makes up many of America's most important buildings, including the Empire State Building and the Pentagon. A Paradise of Bombs, published two years later, offers essays "crafted so beautifully that they have been mistaken for short stories," according to an American Nature Writers contributor. "These essays often teeter on the edge of despair, as though Sanders were unsure of finding enough light to counter the darkness he describes."
Secrets of the Universe: Scenes from the Journey Home is a highly personal collection of essays. Sanders's childhood, which was marked with pain and guilt due to his father's alcoholism, is the basis of many of the narratives, yet his recollections lead into larger musings on family relations, neighborhood, region, and the world. It is "an engaging sampling of intellect enlivened by imagination," recommended a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. In Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World, the writer reflects on the necessity of, and difficulty in, finding a sense of community in a world that has become increasingly rootless. He believes that remaining loyal to a place, and trying to learn about it, can awaken a sense of self and of the inherent order in nature. Incorporating biology, physics, poetry, Taoism, and more, it is "a wise and beautifully written book," stated a Publishers Weekly writer. Similar themes were the basis of Writing from the Center.
Sanders has written several books for young readers, incorporating themes of history and nature. In Crawdad Creek, a girl visits a creek near her home in the company of her brother. In her reflections on the water and the land and life around it, "many concrete sensory images help keep the poetic text grounded in reality and accessible to young children," advised Carolyn Phelan in Booklist. In A Place Called Freedom, a young boy named James Starman is freed from slavery in 1832, and then travels to Indiana with his family to start a new life there. James's father travels back to Tennessee whenever he can to bring more freed blacks with him, and eventually a village named Freedom grows up around this little community. The book is "a lyrical intertwining of fact and fiction," according to a Publishers Weekly critic, who further recommended it as a "concise and eloquent story."
Sanders returned to the essay form with The Country of Language and The Force of the Spirit. In The Country of Language, he goes back to his childhood and college years, his involvement in the civil rights and antiwar movements, and the origin of his "determinedly positive way of thinking about our relationship with the world around us," explained Donna Seaman in Booklist. Nancy Patterson Shires, reviewing the book for Library Journal, also recommended it for the author's "usual articulate and well-crafted prose." In The Force of Spirit, Sanders took on what he considered the ultimate questions of life: "the death of parents and marriage of children, the valuable lessons of the natural world, and the sacredness of good work and good writing," stated Shires. The fourteen essays in the book discuss subjects from sustainable agriculture to literature to carpentry, but all are written in "simple, clean prose," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer, in which "Sanders finds his critical truths."
Sanders once told CA: "I have long been divided, in my life and in my work, between science and the arts. Early on, in graduate school, this took the form of choosing literary studies rather than theoretical physics. When I began writing fiction in my late twenties, I wanted to ask, through literature, many of the fundamental questions that scientists ask. In particular, I wanted to understand our place in nature, trace the sources of our violence, and speculate about the future evolution of our species. My writing might seem diverse in form—realistic fiction, science fiction, folktales, stories for children, personal essays, historical novels—yet it is bound together by this web of questions. In all of my work, regardless of period or style, I am concerned with the ways in which human beings come to terms with the practical problems of living on a small planet, in nature and in communities. I am concerned with the life people make together, in marriages and families and towns, more than with the life of isolated individuals.
"I do not much value experimentation in form and style, if it is not inspired by new insights into human experience. I do value clarity of language and vision. Much of my writing deals with the lives of rural people, with children, with the elderly, with outcasts, with figures who are neither literary nor intellectual; and I would like the real-life counterparts of those people to be engaged and moved by my fiction and essays.
"I have worked on several literary magazines, and I feel their health is a good gauge of the health of literature at any given time. I have also worked against the Vietnam War, nuclear weapons, and the militarization of America, and in favor of protecting wild lands, other creatures, and the habitability of earth. Marriage and child-rearing are two of the most important influences on the shaping of my imagination."
Sanders later added: "In recent years, my impulse toward realism and social commentary has been expressed mainly in nonfiction, personal essays and fact-based narratives. My fiction, meanwhile, has become increasingly speculative, playing with our notions of reality, transforming the familiar into the fabulous.
"I believe that a writer should be a servant of language, community, and nature. Language is the creation and sustenance of community; and any community, if it is to be healthy and durable, must be respectful of the natural order which makes life possible. Because there is no true human existence apart from family and community, I feel a deep commitment to my region, to the land, to the people and all other living things with which I share this place. My writing is driven by a deep regard for particular places and voices, persons and tools, plants and animals, for human skills and stories, for the small change of daily life—a regard compounded of grief and curiosity and love. If my writing does not help my neighbors to live more alertly, pleasurably, or wisely, then it is worth little.
"I wish to convey through my work an awareness that existence itself is miraculous, and that the earth is bountiful beyond our deserving or reckoning."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Nature Writers, Scribner (New York, NY), 2002.
Arts Indiana, December, 1987; October, 1993; October, 1995.
Booklist, November 15, 1992, Kathryn Broderick, review of Warm As Wool, p. 611; June 1, 1993, Angus Trimnel, review of Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World, p. 1772; June 1, 1997, Kay Weisman, review of A Place Called Freedom, p. 1721; September 1, 1998, GraceAnne A. De-Candido, review of Hunting for Hope, p. 56; November 15, 1999, Donna Seaman, review of The Country of Language, p. 595; December 1, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Crawdad Creek, p. 714.
Boston Globe, October 6, 1998.
Chronicle of Higher Education, October 2, 1998.
Detroit News, June 14, 1987.
Fourth Genre, spring, 1999.
Georgia Review, winter, 1992; summer, 1994.
Horn Book Magazine, September-October, 1988; September-October, 1989, Mary M. Burns, review of Aurora Means Dawn, p. 616.
Indianapolis Star, October 11, 1998.
Journal of Kentucky Studies, 1994.
Kenyon Review, summer-fall, 1996; winter, 2000.
Library Journal, November 1, 1991, Lynn Randall, review of Secrets of the Universe: Scenes from the Journey Home, p. 99; May 15, 1993, Tim Markus, review of Staying Put, p. 86; September 1, 1995, Nancy Patterson Shires, review of Writing from the Center, p. 177; November 1, 1999, Nancy Patterson Shires, review of The Country of Language, p. 82; October 1, 2000, Nancy Patterson Shires, review of The Force of Spirit, p. 98.
Los Angeles Times, January 10, 1987.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 26, 1985; April 13, 1986; October 29, 1995.
New York Times Book Review, January 26, 1986; November 9, 1986; May 24, 1987; June 27, 1997, Christopher Paul Curtis, review of A Place Called Freedom, p. 22.
Ohioana Quarterly, spring, 1996.
Publishers Weekly, October 14, 1988, review of The Engineer of Beasts, p. 78; June 30, 1989, review of Aurora Means Dawn, p. 104; October 4, 1991, review of Secrets of the Universe, p. 74; April 26, 1993, review of Staying Put, p. 63; July 26, 1993, review of Here Comes the Mystery Man, p. 72; August 21, 1995, review of Writing from the Center, p. 54; May 19, 1997, review of A Place Called Freedom, p. 76; August 10, 1998; January 4, 1999, review of Warm As Wool, p. 92; August 9, 1999, review of Natural Wonders, p. 354; December 13, 1999, review of The Floating House, p. 85; September 11, 2000, review of The Force of Spirit, p. 75; December 18, 2000, review of A Place Called Freedom, p. 80.
School Library Journal, November, 1989, Eleanor K. MacDonald, review of Aurora Means Dawn, p. 93; December, 1992, Patricia Pearl Dole, review of Warm As Wool, p. 90; October, 1993, Beth Tegart, review of Here Comes the Mystery Man, p. 111; February, 1996, Molly Connally, review of Writing from the Center, p. 134; July, 1997, Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, review of Meeting Trees, p. 74; August, 1997, Wendy Lukehart, review of A Place Called Freedom, p. 141.
Southern Review, spring, 1992; Edward Lueders, review of Secrets of the Universe, p. 412.
Sun, February, 2000.
Traces: Indiana Historical Society, spring, 1996.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), July 12, 1987.
Washington Post Book World, April 30, 1989.
Water-Stone, fall, 2000.
Wilson Library Bulletin, September, 1989, Lesley S. J. Farmer, review of The Engineers of the Beasts, p. S5; September, 1993, Patty Campbell, review of Staying Put, p. 106.
Indiana State University,http://www.indiana.edu/ (March 13, 2004), Sanders biography.*