Oronte

John Griswold, who uses the pen name Oronte Churm at Inside Higher Ed and elsewhere, was born in Vietnam and raised in coal country in Southern Illinois. His stories, poems, and essays have appeared in War, Literature and the Arts; Brevity; Natural Bridge;  and Ninth Letter. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, listed as notable in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009, and included in The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 3 (WW Norton).

His most recent book is a collection of essays, Pirates You Don't Know, and Other Adventures in the Examined Life (University of Georgia Press 2014), now available for pre-order. He is also the author of a novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, and a nonfiction book, Herrin: The Brief History of an Infamous American City.

He teaches in the MFA program at McNeese State University, Lake Charles, Louisiana.

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Most Recent Articles

May 31, 2007
No, not with childcare; I have that under control. When Mrs. Churm left Sunday for the NAFSA conference in the Twin Cities, which will last a week, I blew my bosun’s whistle to call my two little boys away from the window, where they were sadly waving goodbye to their mother. They fell in. I blew it again, and they snapped to attention. “Rule One!” I said. “Daddy’s number-one job is to keep us safe!” Starbuck shouted. His little brother, Wolfie, said, “Bye,” and started biting my cell phone. “Rule Two!” I said. “Daddies always win,” Starbuck shouted.
May 31, 2007
Near the end of each semester a student inevitably asks, “Why is literature always about bad stuff?” Even if we’re not reading, say, Titus Andronicus (dismemberment, cannibalism, it’s got it all), cummings (“his rectum wickedly to tease / by means of skilfully applied / bayonets roasted hot with heat”), or Erdrich’s “Red Convertible” (suicide, students suspect, maybe), it’s a fair enough question. Do you know a literary work in which everything turns out great?
May 25, 2007
But another kind of teacher, the artist, shows us how to see, and some of the most interesting are those who model growth of consciousness over time, using developing craft to expand ambition. These career arcs offer much pleasure and instruction, especially when combined with letters, memoirs, interviews, and secondary sources. In literature, Joyce’s arc grew toward unintelligibility, as did Henry James’s, in a different way. Twain’s arc grew from high jinks through moral profundity and into prescient bitterness. In painting, J.M.W. Turner and Picasso come to mind.
May 23, 2007
My acquaintance Chaz and I were imagining an ideal teacher. Actually, we’d been talking about the future, when I intend to move my family to some fallow farm and live an idyll of slow food, deep thought, and lazy fun. Chaz plans to quit the academic IT business in a huff and live in a pop-up camper back in the woods on our property.
May 20, 2007
I succumbed this week and created my own MySpace page , largely on the advice of a New York Times article about artistic networking. According to my acquaintance Chaz, a midlevel IT manager at a Big 10 school, this puts me, in terms of technology use, still far behind his two year-old niece but ahead of 90 percent of all other academics in America. Academics may not use MySpace, but the rest of America seems to be there.
May 14, 2007
Oh sure, Sir Isaac Newton wrote the Principia and Opticks and all, and he too was Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge, but he probably never did this: Professor Stephen Hawking rides the Vomit Comet and sings Led Zeppelin
May 11, 2007
May 9, 2007
The end is near: It’s time to grade the stacks of final papers, estimate student participation grades, tabulate everything and record the sums. Yesterday it was also time for my ritual end-of-semester shearing. I dislike getting haircuts intensely, but I couldn’t stand being trapped in this house any longer—not another gottverdammt minute in this lovely old house—and set off to get some sun on my hairy white shins, on the walk of shame.
May 4, 2007
My mother and I were sitting in a booth in a J.C. Penney’s lunchroom, sometime in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s, when the store manager made an announcement on the intercom, and suddenly my mind began to work in a new way. I can still hear the tenor of the man’s voice and the slight echo from speakers at various depths in the store, but his words are gone.

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