Acclaimed writer, UC Irvine professor Ron Carlson publishes ’Five Skies’
Award-winning short-story writer Ron Carlson’s fifth novel, Five Skies, is being released by Viking this month amid positive early reviews. This is Carlson’s first book published since he moved to Southern California to direct UC Irvine’s Master of Fine Arts writing program in fiction.
The story brings together a heartbroken rancher, a drifter and a misfit teen for a summer project in the Rocky Mountains: constructing a ramp to catapult a daredevil motorcyclist across a gorge. Braving the high-desert weather and their painful pasts, the men recover themselves in what Publisher’s Weekly called a “tour de force of grief, atonement and the cost of loyalty.”
“Carlson writes with uncommon precision, and his return to long-form fiction after four well-received story collections is stunning,” PW added in a starred review.
Carlson said he first discovered the characters in Five Skies 10 years ago, when he wrote a scene about two men discussing their work. “There was something about them,” he said. “Though I didn’t know their histories at the time, I knew that to treat that right it would have to be a novel.”
He collected information gradually about the setting and the characters, working on the story between other projects. Like Five Skies, many of Carlson’s stories are set in the rugged outdoors, and he is a long-time resident of the Western U.S. But earlier this year, he relocated to Orange County, Calif., lured by UCI’s creative writing program, where he teaches in addition to pursuing his own writing.
“It’s not a secret that UCI’s writing program in fiction and poetry is one of the best in the country,” said Carlson. “The students here are remarkable. Their work is so varied, and they’re fierce in their attention and their dedication to their projects.”
UCI’s program is known for nurturing writers such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon; bestselling author of The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold; and short-story writer and novelist Aimee Bender. Newsweek has called it the “hottest” creative writing program in the country, and it’s ranked sixth nationally by U.S. News and World Report.
Over the last two decades, Carlson has taught writing at Arizona State University where he was Regents’ Professor of English and, in 2004-05, director of the creative writing program. For Carlson, the call to teach is as strong as the call to write.
“People sometimes think teaching is a secondary issue, but it’s not. It’s a primary issue,” said Carlson. “Teaching is an active investigation, as capturing as the investigation of writing a story,” he said.
Carlson’s short story collections include most recently A Kind of Flying. His work has been published in Esquire, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and anthologies including The Best American Short Stories, The O’Henry Prize Series and The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. He has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, the Cohen Prize at Ploughshares, and a National Society of Arts and Letters Literature Award.
Carlson will read from Five Skies at the UCI Bookstore at 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 17, and sign books immediately following. For more information on the reading, call 949-824-8402.
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