Former Shows & Episodes

Word Patriots

Mark Seinfelt

Word Patriots – Paul West Early Years

Some writers are known primarily for a single work. Others for the totality of their oeuvre. British-American author Paul West has produced as prolific a canon as any living writer: twenty-five novels, three volumes of poetry, and eighteen works of nonfiction. He is a writer of great distinction and originality and a veritable sorcerer of language. One of the most intrepid and stylistically dazzling practitioners of the craft living today, he has shaped and fashioned so many books that readers making their way book by book through his long list will no doubt develop favorites and pet peeves as they go: there is such a plentitude of West that it is not surprising that his partisans sometimes disagree sharply over which titles constitute his best work and variously award the palm to his experimental novels, his historical and realist fictions, or his more personal, autobiographic books. Over the course of the next few months, we will be devoting several episodes of Word Patriots to examining various facets of Paul’s work with a variety of guests and experts. Today we will be taking a look at West’s early novels and exploring the “poetics of violence” throughout his fiction. My guests this week are Ed Desautels, Jason Charnesky and Donald Anderson. Ed and Jason are no strangers to Word Patriots. Ed is the author of the novel “Flicker in the Porthole Glass,” which was published by Mammoth Books in 2002 and drew favorable notice in “The Review of Contemporary Fiction.” Jason Charnesky has written the lyrics and librettos for many works by composer Bruce Trinkley and is a poet and instructor of English. Ed, Jason and I all had the privilege to study with West in the 1980s and 1990s. In the first segment of the show we will discuss certain key West novels of the 1960s and 70s—“Tenement of Clay,” the Alley Jaggers trilogy, “Caliban’s Filibuster” and “Gala”—and how they stood as harbingers of things to come. Donald Anderson will then come on to discuss Paul’s preoccupation with war and his vividly rendered depictions of carnage and battle—how Paul constantly seeks to give beautiful expression to the ugly and horrific. Donald directs the creative writing program at the United States Air Force Academy. His story “Fire Road” was awarded First Place in the Society for the Study of the Short Story 2000 Contest, and the collection “Fire Road” won Iowa’s 2001 John Simmons Short Fiction award. If you would like to know more about my books, please visit my website: Also be sure to take a look at the Amazon pages for Paul’s “Tenement of Clay”: and “Words For A Deaf Daughter and Gala”: and