The Inventors: A Memoir

(Author) (Introduction by)

Product Details

$18.95  $17.62
Hawthorne Books
Publish Date
5.5 X 9.0 X 1.3 inches | 1.1 pounds

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About the Author

Peter Selgin is the author of Drowning Lessons, winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Fiction, a novel, two books on fiction writing, and several children's books. Confessions of a Left-Handed Man, his memoir-in-essays, was short-listed for the William Saroyan International Prize. His novel, The Water Master, won the Wisdom/Faulkner Society Prize for Best Novel. His essays have won many awards and honors, including six citations and two selections for the Best American anthologies, in which the title essay of his collection appears.

Selgin's drama, A God in the House, based on Dr. Kevorkian and his suicide machine, was staged at the Eugene O'Neill National Playwright's Conference in 1991. Other plays of his have won the Charlotte Repertory New Play Festival Competition, the Mill Mountain New Plays Competition, and the Stage 3 Theater Festival of New Plays. His paintings have been featured in The New Yorker, Gourmet, Outside, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal, and exhibited nationally.

Selgin is the prose editor of Alimentum: The Literature of Food, and nonfiction editor and art director of Arts & Letters. He is Assistant Professor of English at Georgia College and an associate faculty member of Antioch University's Creative Writing MFA program in Los Angeles.

Lidia Yuknavitch is the National Bestselling author of the novels The Small Backs of Children, Dora: A Headcase, and the memoir The Chronology of Water. Her writing has appeared in publications including Guernica Magazine, Ms., The Iowa Review, Zyzzyva, Another Chicago Magazine, The Sun, Exquisite Corpse, and TANK. She writes, teaches and lives in Portland, OR.


OLIVER SACKS "Peter Selgin is a born writer, capable of taking any subject and exploring it from a new angle, with wit, grace, and erudition."

PRAISE FOR The Inventors
Finalist: Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize
Finalist: Graywolf Press Prize for Nonfiction
Finalist: AWP Award Series for Creative Nonfiction

[The Inventors] is a book destined to become a modern classic... A remarkable model of the art of the memoir, this book will satisfy all readers. Highly recommended.
Library Journal

A reflective investigation of the self, memory, and invention.

What is refreshing about literary memoirs like Peter Selgin's is how they transform the reader through writing and self-invention. The Inventors is a sensitive examination of how friends and family are responsible for inventing a person.
Jacob Singer, Fiction Advocate

The twin dynamic of father/teacher is used here so masterfully, it's as if Selgin has created a new kind of memoir...a page-turner of the first order. I couldn't put this memoir down. I highly recommend The Inventors.
Robert Morgan Fisher, The Rumpus

The Inventors is a philosophical memoir that grapples with some of the questions regarding how we invent ourselves and how we in turn are invented by others, particularly our mentors. Thanks to Selgin's autobiographical candor and the vivid details of his telling, these puzzles of identity seem as fresh, engaging, and befuddling as they were when they first bubbled to the surface of our thinking. A smart, tender, compelling book.
Billy Collins, author of Aimless Love

Peter Selgin's intricately woven memoir, The Inventors, offers a unique, engaging, and occasionally startling examination of how childhood influences bend and shape us into being. Selgin's candor and intimacy bring to vivid life the Zen koan of how we become the people we become and how we somehow never really know who we are.
Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic & Desire

Only a writer as gifted and insightful as Peter Selgin could have produced this deeply compelling story of two brilliant but extraordinarily deceitful men and the complicated relationships he shared with them. A superb work of memory that unfolds like a great suspense novel.
Sigrid Nunez author of Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag

Peter Selgin's The Inventors is brilliant, brave and compelling and inventive all at once. This is an intimately intimate rendering not just of Selgin's coming of age, but indeed his rebirth into a new life of cognitive thought, of making sense of a perplexing world, of inventing out of blood and abstract ideas and hidden histories who, exactly, he is. This is an intelligent and moving book, a gorgeous book, an important book.
Bret Lott, author of Dead Low Tide

This story is about what we make and how we make it. Selves, lives, love stories, life stories, death stories. It is also the story of how creation and destruction are always the other side of each other. And like the lyric language so gorgeously invented in this book that it nearly killed me, its meanings are endlessly in us. Writers live within language, and so in some ways, you might say we are at the epicenter.
Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water and The Small Backs of Children

In The Inventors, Peter Selgin unrolls the blueprint of his life, investigating how two men--his father and a charismatic middle school teacher--helped create the man he is today. Lyrical, honest and (dare I say?) inventive, The Inventors is a deeply compelling meditation on how we make and remake ourselves throughout our lives--choice by choice, action by action, word by glorious, slippery word.
Gayle Brandeis, author of The Book of Dead Birds

Peter Selgin's The Inventors is a remarkable study in remembering, in empathy, and most of all in reckoning."
Kyle Minor, author of Praying Drunk

I have never read anything like The Inventors, Peter Selgin's incomparable, brilliant, and achingly human memoir. With this deceptively simple story of the author's relationships with two self-invented figures--his father, and an influential teacher--and with his own younger self--Selgin has produced a deep core sample of the human condition. Like William Blake, he finds a whole world in a few grains of sand. He has shown, in language remarkably beautiful and accessible, how we are invented, by the people who profess to love and care for us, and by our complicit selves. I was profoundly moved reading this book, by its deep intelligence, its constant sweet, knowing humor, and the recognition in it of myself and everyone I have ever loved.
Peter Nichols, author of The Rocks and A Voyage for Madmen

Peter Selgin writes brilliantly about our mindfulness and forgetting - the necessary inventions and reinventions that help us live. The lies of his father and his eighth grade teacher inevitably enter into this intricate portrait of inner and outer selves. As he inhabits their action, talk, and thought, he teaches and fathers himself. In language most rare for its transparency, Mr. Selgin reminds his readers of the difference between artifice and the genuine. In these remarkable pages, he has become one of the truest of our writers.
Carol Frost, author of Honeycomb

PRAISE FOR Drowning Lessons
University of Georgia Press, 2008
Winner, 2007 Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction
Finalist: Iowa Short Fiction Award
Finalist: Jefferson Press Prize
Finalist: Ohio State University Press Prize

A wine-dark blood rushes through the pages of Drowning Lessons. Tap a vein and drink deeply and taste the best and the worst kind of love. In these pages you will experience lust, spite, jealousy, fidelity, rose-flavored romance, and doe-eyed affection, sometimes all in the same story. Thank goodness for Peter Selgin, who shares with us the mysteries of the human heart in this electric, revealing collection.
Benjamin Percy, author of Refresh, Refresh

A stellar collection deserving recognition. Selgin possesses a mature, complex voice and is able to conceptualize, compose, and perfect stories of brilliant diversity and tone. High emotional intelligence, empathy, courage, and intellectual curiosity fuel this collection, giving it a rare narrative fire beyond the obvious and admirable excellence of craft.
Melissa Pritchard, author of Late Bloomer

Peter Selgin's stories are mordantly funny, at times desperately sad, but always full of hard-earned wisdom and subversive irony. His collection ranges across time and space in a way few other writers have. Drowning Lessons is a book that deserves serious attention from all lovers of American short fiction.
Jess Row, author of The Train to Lo Wu

Water flows through these stories, giving Peter Selgin's characters moments of grace from their lives and also propelling them forward, as they try to swim through the problems that face them. Drowning Lessons is an extraordinary book; Selgin's writing creates a current that will carry readers farther than they would ever have expected, and leave them on a new shore.
Hannah Tinti, author of Animal Crackers

PRAISE FOR Life Goes to the Movies
Finalist: AWP Award Series for the Novel
Finalist: James Jones First Novel Fellowship

At the center of Life Goes to the Movies is Dwaine Fitzgibbon, a young filmmaker whit a wild imagination and inexhaustible ambition. For Dwaine, every experience is potential material for the great film he's going to make, and everyone he meets becomes a part of his supporting cast. Swept up into the performance that is Dwaine's life, the novel's narrator, Nigel DePoli, describes their fraught friendship as it intensifies and evolves through the years. It's a riveting story, artfully constructed and told with wit, precision, and sensitivity.
Joanna Scott, author of Everybody Loves Somebody

Wonderfully innovative and elegantly crafted, Life Goes to the Movies brims with exuberance and wit. Both a celebration and something of an elegy for the golden age of Hollywood, this novel reeled me in with its propulsive energy and won me over before I had finished chapter one.
Frederick Reiken, author of The Lost Legends of New Jersey

Life Goes to the Movies is the irresistible account of a passionate friendship between two young men, both star-struck by art. Selgin's vivid account of New York in the 1970s, his richly complex characters, his encyclopedic knowledge of film and his sense of how small the gap is between good luck and bad make this an utterly absorbing novel. A wonderful read.
Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street

With Life Goes to the Movies, Peter Selgin aims far higher than most of us poor storytellers ever dare. From beginning to end, I kept imagining the funnels of smoke that surely must have risen from his keyboard as he wrote this potent, superbly crafted, and wonderfully ambitious novel.
Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff

PRAISE FOR Confessions of a Left-Handed Man
University of Iowa Press / Sightline Books 2011
Finalist, William Saroyan International Prize
"Confessions of a Left-Handed Man" included in Best American Essays 2006; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Lauren Slater, Editor; Robert Atwan, Series Editor

Peter Selgin is a born writer, capable of taking any subject and exploring it from a new angle, with wit, grace, and erudition. He has a keen eye for the telling detail, and a voice that is deeply personal, appealing, and wholly original. Fans of Selgin's fiction will know they are in for a treat, and those who are new to his work would do well to start with this marvelous memoir in essays, his finest writing yet.
Oliver Sacks

In this witty collection of autobiographical essays, Selgin (Drowning Lessons) clambers atop the building blocks of an artistic life to survey its attendant struggles and epiphanies. . . . Selgin deftly balances humor and tenderness throughout these life-affirming confessions.
Publishers Weekly Review

Tawdry as [his] first love affair with literature may have been, how glad we are that Peter Selgin was tempted into it-- and fell head over heels. Without such an addictive beginning, that boy may never have grown up to become a writer of such great substance.
NY Journal of Books Review

The quirky, intelligent memoir of an artist and fiction writer . . . An engaging, original modern-day picaresque.

A remarkable piece of work, one that held me fast throughout. The Inventors is bound to leave its mark on the mind and the heart.

VIVIAN GORNICK, author of The Odd Woman and the City

A memoir that is both beautiful and disturbing-- a meditation on life, love, truth and fiction.

Peter Selgin shines a bright, probing light on the invention of self. He has delivered in The Inventors one home run after another, each giving us a deeper understanding of ourselves by attempting to understand others.

[S]mart, quirky, and insightful memoir...In addition to its architecture, The Inventors' approach to textual material is a rich layering of authorial modes that include sweeping reverie, crisp snapshots of memory, philosophical musing, epistemological ephemera, and a mix of second and first-person narration. Selgin moves between these modes with grace.