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Between now and April 13, we will be featuring all of the 2015 Oregon Book Awards finalists.
2015 Oregon Book Awards Finalist
About the book:
One March morning, writer Floyd Skloot was inexplicably struck by an attack of unrelenting vertigo that ended 138 days later as suddenly as it had begun. With body and world askew, everything familiar had transformed. Nothing was ever still. Revertigo is Skloot’s account of that unceasingly vertiginous period, told in an inspired and appropriately off-kilter form.
This intimate memoir—tenuous, shifting, sometimes humorous—demonstrates Skloot’s considerable literary skill honed as an award-winning essayist, memoirist, novelist, and poet. His recollections of a strange, spinning world prompt further musings on the forces of uncertainty, change, and displacement that have shaped him from childhood to late middle age, repeatedly knocking him awry, realigning his hopes and plans, even his perceptions. From the volatile forces of his mercurial, shape-shifting early years to his obsession with reading, acting, and writing, from the attack of vertigo to a trio of postvertigo (but nevertheless dizzying) journeys to Spain and England, and even to a place known only in his mother’s unhinged fantasies, Skloot makes sense of a life’s phantasmagoric unpredictability.
About the author:
Floyd Skloot was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1947 and moved to Long Beach, New York ten years later. He graduated from Franklin & Marshall College with a BA in English, and completed an MA in English at Southern Illinois University, where he studied with the Irish poet Thomas Kinsella. From 1972 until becoming disabled by viral-borne brain damage in 1988, Floyd worked in the field of public policy in Illinois, Washington, and Oregon. He began publishing poetry in 1970, fiction in 1975, and essays in 1990. His work has appeared in many major literary journals in the US and abroad, and he has won three Pushcart Prizes, the PEN USA Literary Award, two Pacific NW Book Awards and two Oregon Book Awards. In 2010, Poets & Writers named him “of 50 of the most inspiring authors in the world.”
Excerpt from Revertigo:
If vertigo came with a soundtrack, it would sometimes be a train or trolley wheels grinding and screeching on tracks as the car turns and almost tips over. Other times it would be a treetop filled with the ruckus of rioting crows in a sudden windstorm. Helpless, untethered, I keep feeling the urge to reach out for something still and stable to steady me, but there’s too much give in everything. I move through my carnival world like the Human Bumper Car while the core sensation recalls the belly’s weightless hollow when a Ferris wheel plunges backward. If I weren’t so out-of-balance, I think, I would walk the line between queasy and nauseous with more authority. Moving my head, changing its plane, sets everything in motion. Discord rules.
Floyd Skloot’s website:
“An elegant meditation on balance, aging, helplessness, dependency and, especially, love. . . . Skloot’s writing here is immediate, simple and vulnerable . . . . Achieves what good memoir ought to. His discomfort is made palpable, and my own seems, for a time, a little less lonely.” —Claire Dederer
“Luckily for readers, when Floyd Skloot had vertigo he wrote about it. InRevertigo: An Off-Kilter Memoir, Skloot, author of many books of creative nonfiction, poetry, and nonfiction, reexamines his entire life through an ordeal most people would rather forget….His essays weave smoothly through pivotal episodes in his life as a son, father, reader, writer, husband, and patient. Skloot’s parents’ volatile marriage, his father’s premature death, his deep love for his wife, Beverly (whom Skloot calls his “spirit level”), his pride in his daughter, Rebecca Skloot (author of the bestseller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), his passion for books, and his fragile health all appear again and again in a series of well-chosen anecdotes. Recollections of resonant moments trigger wider associations and insights in many works of fiction — Proust’s most famously — but Skloot’s focus on “off-kilter” moments, when the world and his place in it seemed most unstable, is unique and fascinating….Skloot’s warmth makes us reluctant to part company with him. He’s wise and humane — and funny, too.” —Suzanne Koven
“The vertigo experience stitches together the stories of the time predating and since his medical crisis in a way that makes the point that we are a composite of our days, even the crooked ones. . . . Skloot’s honest and direct relaying of events and their aftermath highlight some universal themes such as hope and perseverance that show no matter how ‘off-kilter’ life gets, forward momentum somehow steadies its way through . . . . In many ways, this book is a sincere love story. Skloot and Beverly are presented with uncertain and frightening circumstances. But they take it on together and Skloot’s descriptions of Beverly’s responses and presence reflect a vast and grounded connection.”—Kirsten Rian
“While physical balance plays a role in some tales, it is the search for intellectual and emotional equilibrium that drives this work. His efforts to find the connection between such divergent topics as The King and I and his parents’ relationship, or old standards and an MRI exam, create literary adventures that combine analysis and humor which seem destined to spin out of control but never do. With wide-ranging topics such as theater, medicine, travel, and cooking Skloot’s prose jumps from the page. Whether he is describing nature (‘But like an echo of sunlight, otherworldly bright yellow lichen flourished’) or a dream about Nabokov dancing (‘… he moved in waltz time when the music I heard was definitely samba.’), his comparisons are poetic.”
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