White, Curtis 1951-
WHITE, Curtis 1951-
PERSONAL: Born January 24, 1951, in Oakland, CA; son of Earl and Wilma White. Education: University of San Francisco, B.A. (cum laude), 1973; Johns Hopkins University, M.A., 1974; University of Iowa, Ph.D., 1979.
ADDRESSES: Home—317 East Chestnut, No. 3, Bloomington, IL 61701.
CAREER: Illinois State University, Normal, associate professor of English, 1979—.
Heretical Songs (stories), Fiction Collective (New York, NY), 1981.
Metaphysics in the Midwest (stories), Sun and Moon Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1988.
The Idea of Home, Sun and Moon Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1992.
Memories of My Father Watching TV: A Novel, Dalkey Archive Press (Normal, IL), 1998.
Monstrous Possibility: An Invitation to Literary Politics, Dalkey Archive Press (Normal, IL), 1998.
Requiem, Dalkey Archive Press (Chicago, IL), 2001.
(With Mark Leyner and Thomas Glynn) AmericanMade (stories), Fiction Collective (New York, NY), 1986.
An Illuminated History of the Future, Illinois State University (Normal, IL), 1989.
(With Ronald Sukenick) In the Slipstream: An FC2Reader, FC2 (Normal, IL), 1999.
Contributor to magazines, including San Francisco Quarterly, Southwest Review, Cimarron Review, Fiction International, and Epoch.
SIDELIGHTS: With Memories of My Father Watching TV, Curtis White "establishes himself as a writer's writer whose postmodern prose dances through various literary tropes with grace and ease," wrote John Green in Booklist. Focusing on an impressionistic examination of father-son relationships as seen through the lens of the ubiquitous 1950s icon, the television set, the book "combines personal introspection with large scale explorations," wrote Robert L. McLaughlin in Review of Contemporary Fiction. Main character Chris White must compete with the television for his father's notice and affections. "In a prologue Chris White remembers his childhood family situation, in which he and his siblings tried desperately to catch their father's attention so as to come to know him and establish a relationship with him," McLaughlin remarked. "All their efforts are thwarted by the presence of the unofficial but most important family member, the television." Instead, Chris attempts to get to know his father indirectly, by studying and trying to understand the object of his father's greater attention.
However, the father is more interested in, or perhaps more deranged by, the TV. White's "witty collection does revolve around a night of TV viewing," wrote a reviewer in Publishers Weekly, "but these 1950s serials have never been seen on prime time—thanks to their adult content, their black humor, and their tendency to trap the narrator's father inside them." While watching the shows, Chris's father can appear as anything in them—an endangered diver on Sea Hunt, an uncivilized mountain man on Bonanza, even a German pontoon bridge on Combat. Against this backdrop, "the narrator's grip on reality gets progressively looser," wrote David Cline in Booklist. However, "The results here, for the patient, are quite good, in fact rather hypnotic," Cline remarked. "The book itself seems written in the cacophonous language of pixels dancing in dead air." Jim Dwyer, writing in Library Journal, commented that the book "is of inconsistent quality, but it's often insightful and delightful."
White's 2001 novel, Requiem, presents an amalgam of styles and techniques in which "Philosophy and pornography mingle and mangle each other," wrote a reviewer in Kirkus Reviews. Arranged in six sections to mimic the similar structure of Mozart's unfinished Requiem, White's novel "deals in pattern and frequency rather than character and plot," remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The story is made up of bits and pieces, apparently random notes, short plays, letters to the editor, correspondence, interviews, and other distinct styles of writing. Brief biographies of classical composers coexist with confessions from pornographers, while soul-searching commingles with the practice of deep perversions. "White is deliberately trying to shock the reader with his misogyny, his hatred of children and his Manichean view of copulation," the Publishers Weekly critic observed. The Kirkus Reviews critic remarked, "The result is indisputably clever. . . but the whole is more a patchwork of diffuse effects than a sustaining piece of fiction." Requiem, "probably White's most ambitious, difficult book to date, may confound many" Green said, "but it won't disappoint his fans."
As a writer, "White is able to create fiction that recognizes the poststructural challenges to the ability of narrative to function as a meaning-conveying vehicle," McLaughlin remarked, "and at the same time gives the inescapable impression that its author cares deeply about many things and believes in fiction's ability to have an impact on the world."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Book Review, November, 1989, review of Metaphysics in the Midwest, p. 21; September, 1990, review of An Illuminated History of the Future, p. 20; February, 1994, review of The Idea of Home, p. 9; January, 1999, review of Memories of My Father Watching TV, p. 16; May, 1999, review of Monstrous Possibility, p. 11.
Booklist, November 1, 1989, review of An IlluminatedHistory of the Future, p. 525; May 15, 1998, David Cline, review of Memories of My Father Watching TV, pp. 1597-1598; November 1, 2001, John Green, review of Requiem, p. 461.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1989, review of An Illuminated History of the Future, p. 1359; October 15, 1992, review of The Idea of Home, p. 1280; May 15, 1998, review of Memories of My Father Watching TV, p. 687; September 15, 2001, review of Requiem, p. 1323.
Library Journal, November 15, 1989, review of An Illuminated History of the Future, p. 105; December, 1992, Brack Stovall, review of The Idea of Home, p. 189; June 1, 1998, Jim Dwyer, review of Memories of My Father Watching TV, p. 162.
New York Times Book Review, December 20, 1992, Leslie Brenner, review of The Idea of Home, p. 18; August 30, 1998, William Ferguson, review of Memories of My Father Watching TV, p. 17.
Publishers Weekly, October 20, 1989, review of An Illuminated History of the Future, p. 49; November 30, 1992, review of The Idea of Home, p. 48; May 4, 1998, review of Memories of My Father Watching TV, p. 205; October 8, 2001, review of Requiem, p. 44.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring, 1990, review of Metaphysics in the Midwest, p. 306; spring, 1993, Carl Solomon, review of The Idea of Home, pp. 256-257; summer, 1998, Robert L. McLaughlin, critical essay on Curtis White, p. 7; summer, 1998, Mark Amerika, "Hippies, Madness, and the Revolution of Everyday Life: An E-Mail Conversation," interview with Curtis White, p. 26.
Small Press, October, 1990, review of An IlluminatedHistory of the Future, p. 78.
Times Literary Supplement, March 24, 2000, Keith Martin, review of In the Slipstream: An FC2 Reader, p. 26.
Philadelphia City Paper Web site,http://www.citypaper.net/ (January 6, 2002), Justin Bauer, review of Requiem.*