Sellyn, Nathan 1982–
Sellyn, Nathan 1982–
Born December 6, 1982, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; son of Laurence and Judith Van Haeften Sellyn. Education: Graduated from Princeton University, 2004. Religion: "Jewish."
Home— Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Agent— Anne McDermid, Anne McDermid & Associates, 83 Willcocks St., Toronto, Ontario M5S 1C9, Canada.
Danuta Gleed Literary Award, Writers' Union of Canada, 2007, for Indigenous Beasts; Francis LeMoyne Page Prize, Princeton University, 2004, for Indigenous Beasts.
Indigenous Beasts(stories), Raincoast Books (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2006.
Nathan Sellyn is a Canadian writer. Born on December 6, 1982, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Sellyn left the city at the age of four with his parents, Laurence and Judith Van Haeften Sellyn. He eventually settled on Canada's West Coast in Vancouver, British Columbia. By his mid-twenties, however, Sellyn had already traveled widely. He has additionally lived in Montreal, Quebec, New York, NY, and Chiang Mai, Thailand. Sellyn graduated from Princeton University in 2004 from the Creative Writing Program. That same year he won the university's highly coveted Francis LeMoyne Page Prize for distinctive achievement in writing for stories that later were incorporated into his first book. In 2007 he was awarded the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for Indigenous Beasts, which is given to the best debut fiction collection written by a Canadian.
Two years after completing his studies at Princeton University, Sellyn took his award-winning short stories and packaged them in the form of a collection by adding several more stories to it. In 2006 he published Indigenous Beasts with Raincoast Books, a publisher he previously interned with. The collection is made up of fifteen stories, mostly centering on men coming to terms with the testosterone-driven world they live in. Stories deal with issues of growing up, father-son relationships, life lessons from older brothers, and morality. The majority of the stories deal with violence in the form of spousal abuse, gay-bashing, rape, and even murder.
Reviews for the story collection were mixed. In a Vancouver Sun article, Ian Smith stated: "The fifteen stories in Indigenous Beasts are the type you'd describe with words like ‘taut’ and ‘muscular.’ The action is splashed with violence and sex, and the writing is far more knowing than you'd expect from someone born in 1982." Zoe Whittall, writing in Now Toronto, declared that "the female characters are routinely objectified and definitely lack personality," adding that "most of the men lack complexity" as well. Whittall concluded overall that the book "offers sharp snapshots of characters lacking or seeking a moral core." Fiona Foster, reviewing the collection in a Toronto Globe and Mail article, thought that "the predictability of Sellyn's characters can become tiresome." She conceded that "a possible exception to this … could be the title story, which has a female narrator, but she's given all the personality of a doorstop." Foster did say, however, that the stories are "sharply perceptive" and that "the book contains some exceptionally good writing." John Burns, a contributor to Straight.com wrote that "a few of Sellyn's pieces feel contrived, their premise too look-at-me clever … or their ending off-kilter—either too Hallmark pat … or too slow in coming." Burns remarked, though, that "these fifteen stories are mainly successful." Also writing in the Vancouver Sun, Rebecca Wigod was impressed with Sellyn's capabilities at his age, commenting that his debut book "has originality and flair to spare."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Books in Canada, May 1, 2006, Matt Sturrock, review of Indigenous Beasts, p. 10.
Globe and Mail(Toronto, Ontario, Canada), March 24, 2006, Fiona Foster, review of Indigenous Beasts.
Now Toronto, May 25, 2006, Zoe Whittall, review of Indigenous Beasts.
Sun(Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), March 25, 2006, Rebecca Wigod and Ian Smith, "Ivy League Talent."
Nathan Sellyn MySpace Profile,http://www.myspace.com/nathansellyn (November 29, 2007), author profile.
Torontoist,http://www.torontoist.com/ (March 23, 2006), author interview.
Writers' Union of Canada Web site,http://www.writersunion.ca/ (June 2, 2007), Danuta Gleed Award press release.