On Thursday, March 28, students and staff were invited to hear the unique works of David Gessner, writer, blogger, and essayist, in a VOICES reading held in Daugherty-Palmer Commons (DPC). Gessner has written eight books and several essays about his experiences in nature and on his redefinition of naturist writing. Currently, he is a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
The event began with an introduction by Associate Professor of English Kate Chandler, a long time fan of Gessner’s work and his ability to travel.
“His articles and essays have appeared in a really interesting and diverse range of journals, magazines, and newspapers. He’s all over the place – and that’s part of the joy of his writing. Not that it’s all over the place but that he can be all over the place,” said Chandler. “It’s really interesting that he has a book called Sick of Nature, and still provides advice on how to write the perfect nature essay.”
Gessner began by reading a humorous non-nature related piece about his father’s reaction to his son playing Ultimate Frisbee in college; a story he felt would resonate with the St. Mary’s community. He described Frisbee from the point of view of his father, a man who considered it a sport for “long-hairs and druggies.” The piece was well received by the audience, particularly the description of Nathan, a player depicted as a “wild man” and “hunter from another clan” when playing the game.
The second piece in the reading was from Gessner’s book, My Green Manifesto, although it was originally written for the radio show “This I Believe.” The narrative was about Gessner’s definition of wildness.
“I have traveled all over the world to experience the wild, but some of my wildest moments have been closer to home,” he read. “Wildness is unplanned and unpredictable.” He stated that the two most wild moments in his life were when he held the hand of his dying father, and when he held his newborn daughter for the first time.
Gessner also read a piece about literary envy and jealousy, specifically about his competition with another more famous naturist writer in the 90’s; Sebastian Junger (author of The Perfect Storm).
The reading continued with a piece on Ospreys, considering the prominent presence of this bird in St. Mary’s County, and Gessner’s appreciation of our school’s mascot, Solomon the Seahawk. Gessner described his obsession with seeing these majestic birds dive. “There are times that I feel perfectly content, consumed by the process of hunting for the hunt, fishing for fish,” Gessner read. “There’s a primitive satisfaction in reducing life to one goal.”
Gessner concluded with two short readings. The first was his “declaration of independence” from his book, Sick of Nature, and the second piece was a short section of My Green Manifesto.
“Books are still important and the natural world is still important. And we need to construct a life where these are things that we still value” said Gessner. “To me, thats what these books were all about.”