Saturday, April 1, 2017

Open Doerr, Open Eyes

It is evident from his first short story collection, The Shell Collector, that Anthony Doerr clearly wants us to see (and see clearly) the natural world around us and to reconnect ourselves to it. In a 2010 interview discussing the intersections between the arts and the sciences, Doerr states, "What draws me toward the intersections? Everything! Everything around us right now, the bacteria in our guts, the tiny radio in our cell phones, the combustion engines rumbling out the window. Go look at the nearest, humblest tree and try to really see it: messages radiate between its cells along vast networks of cytoplasm; the leaves are fending off pests and pathogens, rootlets are prowling the soil, photoreceptors are monitoring the amount of daylight, water is coursing up through xylem; sugars and nutrients are dribbling down through phloem—every weed in your yard takes part in a whirling, staggering ballet; it’s making the air we breathe, making food out of photons that have come flying 93 million miles through the crushing, cold vacuum of space—that alone is enough to make a person want to kneel down." 

And how does he bring the reader along with him to that intersection, in this case, where the arts can speak for the sciences, where the writer can use the natural sciences as a subject to engage our imagination and give us a better understanding of human behavior?  In this same interview, Doerr responds that the short story medium is an excellent way to accomplish that goal. "And I believe the magic of a good short story, in particular, comes from the compression of so many days of thought into a space that can be experienced by a reader in an hour or so. So for me it comes from spending a lot of time in the language of whatever subject I’m interested in at the moment, shells or snow or radio or violin making or whatever, and working slowly, backtracking out of lots of dead-ends, toward a concerted and unified vision."

Learn more about this award-winning (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, O. Henry Prize, Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction) author on his website:

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