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). 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

June 20, 2011
At a party, Dr. S, a Chinese neurologist practicing in the Midwest on exchange. Young, funny, has also worked in New York. Says family doctors aren’t aware of the latest technologies and still think there’s a possibility of MS when his MRI shows no brain plaque—what he calls “old CAT-Scan ideas.” “I can’t guarantee there’s not a single cell of cancer, though,” he laughs. He mocks hypochondriacal American university types: The cellist with the “tight” arm, the healthy administrator who calls him every two weeks and has had three MRIs so far.
June 16, 2011
D, a married man: "I'm sick at home today, sniffing magazine perfume ads and pretending I'm with another woman."
June 15, 2011
One of the central problems of art--what to see and how to frame it--defined by three very different artists. Note that James, who works in the form requiring the most volume (prose), also expresses the greatest anxiety about the ability to capture something significant. Henri Cartier-Bresson (The Decisive Moment): "[A photograph is] the simultaneous recognition in a fraction of a second of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms.”
June 15, 2011
Young woman arguing angrily with her mother in a grocery store in rural West Virginia, just last year: "Mom! Get with it! It's the 20th century!"
June 14, 2011
A teenager and his siblings make a list of the common sayings of their parents: “Let me tell you…”; “When I was your age…”; “What you need to do is…”; etc. They write them on individual slips of paper, shuffle them and hand them out. At dinner, the parents hold forth; someone suddenly but quietly mutters, “Bingo.”
June 13, 2011
“If you don’t know any better, then what you got is the best there is.”--Frenchy, on how my son loved his Cub Scout den meetings, where they ate sweets, discussed daytime TV, and thrashed in the floor.
June 10, 2011
Walking Wolfie in to preschool, hand-in-hand. He asks me to go with him down the hall to the classroom. Then, precise routine of goodbye, three kisses each—left cheek, right cheek, forehead. His are wet. He lingers at the door in his red baseball cap and fleece-lined corduroy jacket, waves again. I walk up the sidewalk to the car, a cold fall morning, my cheeks tingling where he kissed me. Love.
June 9, 2011
First Words of Lines in an Academic Consent Form: A Found Poem For Emily R.You are freeYou are invitedYou are welcomeYou are under no obligationYou may withdrawYou were selected(No compensation will be made)You will be recorded(The recording will last)You might therefore feel uncomfortableYou are making a decision Your signature indicates you have read and understood:There are no known risks in this study beyond those of ordinary life.
June 8, 2011
Walking down the block, a nice day. A bird’s entire wing lying on the sidewalk, not a feather missing from the pattern, unruffled. Only a spot of dried blood at the head of the humerus where it once attached to the body. The wing the size of a robin’s, probably a victim of one of the huge crows or the occasional hawk in the neighborhood. The sense that life is modular, meant to come apart and recombine.
June 7, 2011
Intermediate undergrad who writes short stories about a violent, retributive pedophile-killer named Thornhead. Never mind the student’s own anger, fears or fantasies; he doesn’t see connotations of the name, says he doesn’t even know where he got it. Angrily insists it and the story are meaningless; he just wanted a bunch of things strung together with no purpose.

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