Art Beat: Michigan Salvage
It’s a good guess that anyone in greater Kalamazoo who enjoys reading fiction has encountered the work of local author Bonnie Jo Campbell. Campbell’s work has won critical and popular acclaim nationwide and beyond. Lisa DuRose, an English faculty member at Inver Hills Community College in Minnesota, is one of three editors of Michigan Salvage: The Fiction of Bonnie Jo Campbell. She’s also working on a biography about Campbell.
“How our paths crossed: I was attending graduate school at Western Michigan University, and I was enrolled in the PhD literature program,” DuRose says. “About three years into that program, Bonnie Jo Campbell showed up one day outside my office door. She had just come over from the math department and was going to take a class from Jaimy Gordon. After that, she kind of hooked into the MFA program, and Bonnie and I were pretty good friends throughout that program.”
The friendship blossomed into a professional relationship as DuRose took an interest in Campbell’s work. She is managing editor of Michigan Salvage, along with co-editors Ross K. Tangedal and Andy Oler. In her research for the biography she is also writing, DuRose has made multiple visits to Campbell’s home as she has followed her work and life for more than 20 years.
DuRose says, “Really, it’s something I had been wanting to do for several years. I joked with her early in her career that I wanted to be her literary biographer. Last year on my sabbatical, I’ve been coming into town a couple times and interviewing her and childhood neighbors and her teachers and professors and anybody I can speak to about Bonnie as a child and Bonnie in high school. And I’ve been able to spend some time at a place she calls ‘H-house,’ which was her mom Suzanna’s home.”
DuRose also visited Campbell’s writing cabin, and the barn where she houses her donkeys, gaining an inside understanding of what makes the author tick and what her environment means to her—the rural Comstock area she so often writes about.
Michigan Salvage is the first scholarly collection on the work of Campbell. It features essays and lesson plans from several contributors. DuRose, along with other editors and contributors as well as Campbell will mark the book launch at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, at the Kalamazoo Public Library’s Central Branch downtown. DuRose will moderate the event in which Campbell will read excerpts from her upcoming novel Waters, and answers questions from editors, contributors, and audience members. The event is free and open to the public.
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