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 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.
June 5, 2011
Two professors at a tiny table near the register in a campus coffee shop. Loud and animated as people try to walk past with hot drinks. One flips her shawl dramatically and shouts to the other: “She said, ‘I know you’re a brilliant scholar, but you’re just like my mom!’”
June 2, 2011
Y says he knew a veteran of a French Foreign Legion parachute regiment. The man had a giant tattoo on his torso of Jesus Christ, bloodied and on the cross, suspended under a parachute, with a big banner below it that read: Airborne Motherfucker. I asked if there was a comma between the words, but Y didn’t know.
June 1, 2011
That odd feeling when time comes unstuck in us. To read Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night (1934) and find the name “Miss Television,” or see in his Gatsby (1925) a swastika. Realizing with a start I was born only 18 years after the liberation of the camps, or that I joined the army myself only seven years after Vietnam. My students’ gasps when I tell them my grandfather was born in 1883. How is it possible? A comic hurt at the betrayal by time, become suddenly nonlinear, surprising.
June 1, 2011
N says that G, a dental tech, cast her gold fillings, which she still has 31 years later, good as new. G was a craftsman. When he worked on her bridge appliance he inlaid his name in it, as required by law. But that was long ago, and the dental tech who works for her current dentist engraved his name in her partial and left it a mess. His name the roughness her tongue rubs against and is made constantly sore by.
May 31, 2011
I made that up, I guess, but why not? I love reading journals, diaries, and notebooks, especially of writers I admire. Virginia Woolf, from A Writer's Diary: Being Extracts From The Diary of Virginia Woolf, edited by Leonard Woolf:
May 27, 2011
Ever notice how hard it is sometimes to tell the difference between mastery and a con?
May 20, 2011
Be sure to file your students' final grades today by noon, Central Standard Time, as the online system will lock you out after that point, and the Rapture will occur sometime Saturday.
May 14, 2011
Tim Peters, who graduated from here a couple of years ago, was a philosophy major, as I recall. When he took one of my classes I saw instantly he could also write like hell.

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