Steven Barthelme, professor of English at The University of Southern Mississippi, recently published a new book that features 35 of his essays from The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Oxford American, Texas Observer and other newspapers and magazines.
The book titled, “The Early Posthumous Work” is a diverse collection including pieces about Louisiana and Mississippi and a four-part consideration on teaching writing in a university setting. One section suggests that teaching assistants are often undervalued, and another titled, “First Class” offers advice to a first-time teacher with the subhead: “Letter to a Friend.”
“That was an actual letter originally,” Barthelme said. “I was a sort of EMT (emergency medical technician) for someone drowning in anxiety.”
“The Early Posthumous Work” includes shorter reminiscences about Barthelme’s childhood in Houston, Texas, articles about highways and cars -- which he calls “a man’s second best friend,” meditations on sophistication and marriage, an essay which claims the $2 bill can buy happiness, a parody of newsmagazine writing and another which argues the superiority of cats over children.
Many of these essays were written when Barthelme was a freelance writer, which he says, “is a nice way of saying ‘unemployed’.” Published by Red Hen Press in Los Angeles, Calif., the book is now available online and in stores.
Barthelme, who came to Southern Miss in 1986, works in the distinguished Center for Writers teaching courses in fiction and non-fiction writing. His work in the classroom has been recognized in 1996 by Who’s Who Among American Teachers. Principally a writer of fiction, with one published short story collection and another completed seeking publication, Barthelme has also written poems and plays as well as doing commercial writing in advertising and public relations.
His short stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Esquire online, the Yale Review, the Transatlantic Review, and several other journals. He has been awarded the Mississippi Arts Commission Artists fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, a Hemingway Short Story Award and Texas Institute of Letters Awards in fiction and non-fiction.
When asked about the odd title of “The Early Posthumous Work,” Barthelme said he intended it as a joke, but has since grown superstitious about it. “Recently,” he says, “I’ve found myself being very careful about lightning, ladders, and sharks.”
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.