Unferth is Your New Che

This past Saturday’s edition of the New York Times Book Review contains a fascinating treatment of English professor Deb Olin Unferth‘s latest work, a memoir entitled Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War (Henry Holt).  Unferth is perhaps best known for her fiction, which has graced the renowned pages of Harper’s, NOON, Agni, and The Boston Review, among others. Her limpid, glowing sentences and beautifully unmoored narration have attracted such followers as Diane Williams, Aimee Bender, Sam Lipsyte, and Gary Shteyngart, all of whom lauded her debut novel Vacation as a remarkable work.

If such high esteem was insufficient, Unferth was also a 2011 Pushcart Prize recipient. Her story “Pet”, which she debuted at a Russell House reading in the fall semester of ’09, was published in NOON and then anthologized in the Pushcart Press’s latest installment of the series (it can be purchased here).

With Revolution (you can scope an excerpt in The Believer), Unferth has proven herself to an equally capable memoirist; her powers of self-examination work to jarring introspective effect, catapulting the reader to a position of philosophical and emotional fragility. The jump from fiction to memoir was no mean feat; Unferth’s accomplishment testifies not only to her adroitness as a writer but as a tremendously insightful reader of the form—she evinces as much in a recent piece written for Guernica, whose last issue she guest-edited. You can also get your Unferth fix from the ever-fascinating HTMLGIANT; the noted litblog posted an interview with Unferth earlier this year.

This latest addition to Unferth’s burgeoning oeuvre has established her as an eminent figure in the world of contemporary letters. Wesleyan will be lucky indeed to welcome her back next fall.