Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Curtis White  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: January 24, 1951 in Oakland, California

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Illinois Connection

Curtis currently resides in Normal, Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

Curtis White is a professor of English at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. He is a widely acclaimed essayist and author. His work appears regularly in ''Context'' and ''Harper's''. He is the President of the Board of Directors of the Center for Book Culture/Dalkey Archive Press.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Heretical Songs
ISBN: 0914590626

Fiction Collective 2. 1980

Private lives of such luminaries as Mahler, Wordsworth, Rosetti, and Debussy are fancifully reconstituted and transformed into fiction.

Metaphysics in the Midwest: Stories (New American Fiction Series, 18)
ISBN: 1557130469

Sun & Moon Pr. 1989

Idea of Home (American Literature (Dalkey Archive))
ISBN: 1564783707

Dalkey Archive Press. 2004

In Curtis White's first novel, The Idea Of Home, he attempts to imagine "a place in which humans can live." This utopia is definitely not San Lorenzo - a post-war, prefabricated suburb in California - where White grew up and which is the basis for this novel. From the vantage point of anoff-kilter adulthood, White spins recent American history together with personal observations and investigations into the dark heart of American suburbia. Shocking, yet very funny and always learned, The Idea Of Home is a mix of the personal and the philosophical in an energetic collage that would resemble the biographies of Nietzsche and Mark Twain if they had grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1950s and '60s.

Memories of My Father Watching TV (American Literature (Dalkey Archive))
ISBN: 1564781895

Dalkey Archive Press. 1998

"Memories of My Father Watching TV" has as its protagonists television shows, around which the personalities of family members are shaped. The shows have a life of their own and become the arena of shared experience. And in Curtis White's hands, they become a son's projections of what he wants for himself and his father through characters in "Combat, " "Highway Patrol, " "Bonanza, " and other television shows (and one movie) from the 1950s and '60s. Comic in many ways, "Memories" is finally a sad lament of father-son relationship that is painful and tortured, displayed against a background of what they most shared, the watching of television, the universal American experience.

Monstrous Possibility: An Invitation to Literary Politics (American Literature (Dalkey Archive))
ISBN: 1564781909

Dalkey Archive Press. 1998

In Monstrous Possibility Curtis White creates a lucid perspective on what it means to be a writer and a human being in the so-called post-modern moment.

Requiem (American Literature (Dalkey Archive))
ISBN: 1564783081

Dalkey Archive Press. 2001

Requiem is a darkly comic novel about what it means to be human in a culture obsessed with sex and death. With a structure loosely based on the Mass for the Dead, this ambitious novel includes letters-to-the-editor, an e-mail correspondence with a porn queen, scenes from the lives of classical musicians, and retellings of biblical stories. In the process, White charts the rise and fall of the Human from the Bible (pre-human), to the Enlightenment (the invention of the human), to the digital age (post-human). In an America where everyone keeps a secret website, and where a modern Prophet can only weep at the stories he hears, Requiem reveals our past, present and future with wit, sadness, and complete honesty.

The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don't Think for Themselves
ISBN: 0060730595

HarperOne. 2004

Acclaimed social critic Curtis White describes an all-encompassing and little-noticed force taking over our culture and our lives that he calls the Middle Mind: the current failure of the American imagination in the media, politics, education, art, technology, and religion. Irreverent, provocative, and far-reaching, White presents a clear vision of this dangerous mindset that threatens America's intellectual and cultural freedoms, concluding with an imperative to reawaken and unleash the once powerful American imagination.

The Middle Mind is pragmatic, plainspoken, populist, contemptuous of the Right's narrowness, and incredulous before the Left's convolutions. It wants to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and has bought an SUV with the intent of visiting it. It even understands in some indistinct way how that very SUV spells the Arctic's doom.

America's Magic Mountain (Lannan Selection)
ISBN: 1564783693

Dalkey Archive Press. 2004

Filled with many compelling, outrageous, and comic voices, White's novel is disturbing, charming, and biting. Curtis White's new novel begins with Mann's "unassuming young man," Hans Castorp, visiting his cousin at a health retreat. In this book, though, the retreat is a spa for recovering alcoholics, totally unlike all other rehab centres. Rather than encouraging their patients to free themselves from addiction, the directors of The Elixir believe that sobriety isn't for everyone, that you must let alcohol work its way on you. It is about a weird and unlikely world that, nevertheless, is quite recognisable as our own.

Spirit of Disobedience
ISBN: 0981576907

Routledge. 2008

Trained relentlessly to work and consume, we make daily lifestyle decisions that promote corporate profits more than our own well-being. We also find ourselves working more, living in fragmented communities, and neglecting our most basic spiritual and political values. As Curtis White puts it, “In order to live, you will be asked to do what is no good, what is absurd, trivial, demeaning, and soul killing.” Although we belong to the world’s most affluent society, somehow we never have the chance to ask: How shall we live?

With his trademark humor and acerbic wit, White raises this impertinent question. He also debunks the conventional view that liberalism can answer it without drawing on spiritual values. Surveying American popular culture (including Office Space and The Da Vinci Code) to illustrate his points, White urges us to renew our commitment to “human fundamentals” as articulated by Henry David Thoreau-especially free time, home, and food-and to reclaim Thoreau’s spirit of disobedience.

Seeking imaginative answers to his central questions, White also interviews John De Graaf (Affluenza), James Howard Kunstler (The Long Emergency) and Michael Ableman (Fields of Plenty) about their views of the good life in our time.

The Barbaric Heart: Faith, Money, and the Crisis of Nature
ISBN: 0981709125

Routledge. 2009

Smart, funny, and fresh, The Barbaric Heart argues that the present environmental crisis will not be resolved by the same forms of crony capitalism and managerial technocracy that created the crisis in the first place. With his trademark wit, White argues that the solution might very well come from an unexpected quarter: the arts, religion, and the realm of the moral imagination.



Speaking Engagements

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