James Lasdun, who’ll be reading for this weekend’s Woodstock Library Forum at 5 p.m. Saturday, October 17, has a way of working his Woodstock life of recent decades deeply into his writing, be it poetry, non-fiction or fiction. Sometimes overtly, sometimes more subtly via a description, a telling observation.
Even now he will, he says, though he’s spending much of his time in Brooklyn, where his youngest child is in high school. So he’s acutely aware of how special his currently foreshortened time in the woods is, where he penned such notable poetry collections as Landscape with Chainsaw, Water Sessions, and the more recent Bluestone: New and Selected Poems; his novels The Horned Man and Seven Lies; two screenplays for indie films with Hudson Valley roots, several celebrated short story collections (including It’s Beginning To Hurt) and the memoir Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked.
“I’m working on a novel, I’m always working on something,” Lasdun said last weekend before hurtling back down the Thruway to a life filled with teaching jobs (that include a continuing stint at the University at Albany’s Writer’s Institute). “It’s more prose than poetry right now. At the library I was assuming I’d be reading poetry but maybe, now that you mention it, I may try out a mixture of things. I’ll have to give it some thought.”
Lasdun’s subject matter involves classic modernist focuses on various aspects of the interior life, with a constant eye to the external draw of life into fated narratives, new understandings, or continuing resignations. Beauty shines through everything, though, as captured by the filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci in his version of one of the man’s short stories, released as the film Besieged almost 20 years ago, where life storms in on a recluse with invigorating results.
We ask how his latest time at his Catskills home has gone and he speaks about “reveling in how lovely it is,” including the surrounding “peace and space.” But then he adds to the equation. “I really love Brooklyn, too,” he corrects himself. “The problem is too much traveling.”
James Lasdun’s reading for the Woodstock Library Forum starts at 5 p.m. at the Woodstock Library this Saturday, October 17. Call 679-8000 or visitulsterpub.staging.wpengine.org for more info.