Wier, Allen 1946–
Wier, Allen 1946–
Surname is pronounced like "wire"; born September 9, 1946, in San Antonio, TX; son of Ralph A. (a flower wholesaler) and George Ann (a social worker) Wier; married, wife's name Dara (a poet and professor), April 2, 1969 (divorced, 1983); married; wife's name Donnie (a watercolor artist), 1985; children: (second marriage) Wesley Allen. Education: Baylor University, B.A., 1968; Louisiana State University, M.A., 1970; Bowling Green State University, M.F. A., 1974. Politics: "Usually Democrat." Religion: United Methodist.
Office—Department of English, 301 McClung Tower, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996. Agent—Virginia Barber, William Morris Literary Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, novelist, short-story writer, and educator. Yard clerk for Kansas City Southern Railroad, 1966-67; All-Tex Ranch Supply, Waco, TX, laborer, 1967-68; Longwood College, Farmville, VA, instructor in English, 1970-72; Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, assistant professor of English, 1974-75; Hollins College, Hollins College, VA, assistant professor of English, beginning 1975; University of Alabama, professor of English and director of M.F.A. program, 1980-94; University of Tennessee, Knoxville, member of English faculty and John C. Hodges Chair for Distinguished Teaching, 2000-03. University of Texas, visiting writer, 1983; Florida International University, visiting writer, 1984-85.
PEN, Associated Writing Programs, Fellowship of Southern Writers (elected to membership, 2001).
Creative writing fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, 1974; fellow, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, 1978; Guggenheim fellow, 1979-80; Dobie-Paisano fellow, University of Texas and Texas Institute of Letters, 1989-90; named Alabama travel writer of the year, 1994; Robert Penn Warren Award for Fiction, Fellowship of Southern Writers, 1997; chancellor's award for outstanding research and creative achievement, University of Tennessee, 1998; Most Outstanding Professor in the Classroom Award, graduate students of University of Tennessee's Department of English, 2005; Texas Institute of Letters Award in Short Fiction.
Things about to Disappear (short stories), Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1978.
Blanco (novel), Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1978.
Departing as Air (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1983.
(Editor, with Don Hendrie, Jr., and author of introduction) Voicelust: Eight Contemporary Fiction Writers on Style, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1985.
A Place for Outlaws (novel), HarperPerennial (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor and author of introduction) Walking on Water and Other Stories, University of Alabama Press (Tuscaloosa, AL), 1996.
Tehano (novel), Southern Methodist University Press (Dallas, TX), 2006.
Contributor to anthologies, including Carry Me Back, Gallimaufry Press (Arlington, VA), 1978; Studies in the Short Story, Holt, Rinehart & Winston (New York, NY), 1984; A Pocketful of Prose, Holt, Rinehart & Winston (New York, NY), 1992; The Wedding Cake in the Middle of the Road, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1992; That's What I Like about the South, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 1993; Best of the West, Peregrine Smith, 1998; The Cry of an Occasion, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 2001; and Knoxville Bound, KWG, 2004.
Contributor of short stories and articles to literary magazines, including Texas Review, Ploughshares, Vanderbilt Review, Idaho Review, New Millennium Writings, Southern Review, Carolina Quarterly, Black Warrior Review, Georgia Review, Window, Shenandoah, Yallobusha Review, Five Points, Metro Pulse, Appalachian Life, Mid-American Review, Sewanee Review, and New River Review.
Allen Wier is a novelist, short-story writer, and educator whose works fall into the category of Southern writing. Born in 1946 in San Antonio, TX, Wier grew up in a world that straddled the relatively conservative mid-twentieth century America and the wilder, less restrained landscape of Mexico. Wier's father, Ralph, was in the wholesale flower business in Mexico, and Wier and his mother George Ann regularly traveled between their home in San Antonio and Ralph's business concerns in Mexico. "What Allen Wier saw, heard, and felt there during those formative years has colored his work since," commented Fred Brown and Jeanne McDonald in Growing up Southern: How the South Shapes Its Writers. With such a vivid atmosphere to inhabit in his formative days, "how could Allen Wier have been anything other than a writer?," Brown and McDonald mused. "Those early years in Mexico plunged him into a constantly evolving fairytale whose dreamlike fascination has played out time and again in his work."
Another early influence, Wier told Brown and McDonald, were the Bible stories that his mother shared with him as he grew up. "Those early biblical stories, Wier says, influenced him through both content and style," Brown and McDonald related. "We read the whole Bible from front to back more than once," Wier stated. "We'd read a section and then talk about it. I loved it; it was never punishment in any way." Though his imagination was thoroughly nourished during his youth and teenage years, Wier did not consider becoming a writer until his junior year at Baylor University, Brown and McDonald noted. With the Vietnam war raging and the draft underway, Wier was concerned about being tapped for military service even as he was confused about which direction he should go in life. While considering his options, and deciding whether or not to contribute to the university's literary contest, Wier's house was burglarized. He wrote about the experience in a short story, then wrote a second story based on his summer job on the railroad. He submitted them both to the Baylor literary contest, and won first and second prize with them. He was only permitted to accept first prize, but both stories were published in the campus literary magazine. A revised version of the second story was sold to Southern Review, and became Wier's first work accepted for professional publication. He continued to pursue writing, though Baylor had no creative writing program at the time, then went on to graduate study at Louisiana State University and Bowling Green State University.
Wier began to associate his work with the rubric of the Southern writer. "Southerners write family histories, histories of towns and communities and, even, hollers," he told Brown and McDonald. "There's a great interest in preserving the past, of making local landscapes and their inhabitants immortal. In some southern town you might be a crazy person or behave badly or be alcoholic or on drugs, but you belong, you are our crazy person or our drunk, so you're okay."
In Tehano, Wier presents a complicated and sprawling story of Texas as it develops through the tumultuous years from 1842 to 1866. Told largely by Gideon Jones, a traveling undertaker, aspiring journalist, and lightning rod salesman, the novel concerns the lives and trials of numerous individuals surviving on the rugged edge of the American frontier, in harsh and inhospitable lands often occupied by menacing Comanches, dangerous Mexican outlaws, runaway slaves, and desperate settlers. Among the characters in the book are Portis "Eye" Goar, a cowboy with murderous tendencies who gets shot in the chest by Knobby Cotton, an escaped slave searching desperately for his wife and son, abducted by Indians; Orten Trainer, a one-armed con artist who takes on someone else's identity; a pair of twin boys who find themselves fighting on opposite sides during the Civil War; and Alexander Wesley, an amputee who still carries his detached arm with him and pays dearly for his attachment to the limb. The characters experience violence and bloodshed, Indian attacks, gunfights, and the harshness of the unforgiving Texas countryside. Some survive, some die, and some go on to settle the wildest parts of the Wild West. Wier knits the varied threads of his narrative into an "epic retelling of a pivotal juncture in American history," remarked Margaret Flanagan in Booklist. "There are surprises and solid payoffs in the twisting plotline, which weaves the stories of many characters" together into "a leisurely, credible recreation of the Lone Star past," remarked a Kirkus Reviews critic. The author offers "a sympathetic picture of Native American life in a time of catastrophic change," commented Ken St. Andre in Library Journal.
Wier once told CA: "I am especially interested in the possibilities of language—images, textures are important in my work. Thematically much of my work deals with ways in which the imagination, magic, can transform our losses, can hold and share all the dreams and visions and events that must disappear."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Brown, Fred, and Jeanne McDonald, Growing up Southern: How the South Shapes Its Writers, Blue Ridge Publishing (Greenville, SC), 1997.
Booklist, August 1, 2006, Margaret Flanagan, review of Tehano, p. 45.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2006, review of Tehano, p. 494.
Library Journal, July 1, 2006, Ken St. Andre, review of Tehano, p. 73.
Publishers Weekly, May 22, 2006, review of Tehano, p. 29.
Texas Monthly, August, 2006, Mike Shea, review of Tehano, p. 60.
Allen Wier Home Page,http://www.allenwier.com (March 10, 2007).
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Web site,http://www.utc.edu/ (March 10, 2007), biography of Allen Wier.
University of Tennessee at Knoxville Web site,http://www.utk.edu/ (March 10, 2007), bibliography of Allen Wier.