A Manner of Being

A Manner of Being

What do the punk singer Henry Rollins, the Guatemalan writer Rodrigo Rey Rosa, the American authors Tobias Wolff, Tayari Jones, and George Saunders, the Canadian writer Sheila Heti, and the Russian poet Polina Barskova have in common? At some point, they all studied the art of writing deeply with someone.

The nearly seventy short essays in A Manner of Being, by some of the best contemporary writers from around the world, pay homage to mentors–the writers, teachers, nannies, and sages–who enlighten, push, encourage, and sometimes hurt, fail, and limit their protégés. There are mentors encountered in the schoolhouse and on farms, in NYC and in MFA programs; mentors who show up exactly when needed, offering comfort, a steadying hand, a commiseration, a dose of tough love. This collection is rich with anecdotes from the heartfelt to the salacious, gems of writing advice, and guidance for how to live the writing life in a world that all too often doesn’t care whether you write or not.

Each contribution is intimate and distinct–yet a common theme is that mentors model a manner of being.


“My Writing Education” by George Saunders in The New Yorker‘s Page-Turner

Padgett Powell on Donald Barthelme in Tin House‘s The Open Bar


“In this inspiring anthology…what the writers share of their mentors, and what their mentors shared with them, makes for a fascinating work on writing and the student-teacher relationship.” —Publishers Weekly

“Editors Liontas and Parker have produced a marvelous book for authors, readers, and teachers of all stripes…Funny, tender, illuminating, and with a vast reach (e.g., “Pam Houston on Martha Washington,” “James Franco on School”), this collection is splendid in every way.” —Eloise KinneyBooklist

“A collection of snapshots from the past few decades documenting how a variety of writers have found or been given guidance from other writers, both in and out of writing programs. Many different approaches are represented here, from line editors to more mystic sages, from teachers turned life coaches to teachers who did most of their work in the classroom or campus office. In gathering these tributes to mentors, this volume gives us some idea not so much of what students look for in a teacher, but of what they remember, and why it’s important to them.” —Peter Turchi, author of A Muse and A Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic


Publishers Weekly

Publisher Page:

University of Massachusetts Press

Full Table of Contents:

Jeff Parker

Lineage I
Tobias Wolff on John L’Heureux
Douglas Unger on Raymond Carver, John Irving, and Richard Stern
George Saunders on Douglas Unger and Tobias Wolff
Adam Levin on George Saunders

Aimee Bender on Judith Grossman and Geoffrey Wolff
Mary Caponegro on John Hawkes
James Franco on School
Lee Montgomery on Five Mentors
Carmen Maria Machado on Kevin Brockmeier and Michelle Huneven
Leonid Kostyukov on Anatoly Kim
Scott Laughlin on Alberto de Lacerda
Davy Rothbart on Charles Baxter
Jedediah Berry on William Weaver
C. Dale Young on Donald Justice
Maya Lang on Ron DeMaio
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan on Amy
Peter Meinke on Robert “Bobo” Rudd and Mrs. Maureen Vanderbilt
Stefan Kiesbye on Irving Feldman
Michael Martone on John Barth

Richard Poplak on Fabian Cancellara’s Legs
Diane Cook on Ira Glass
Mary Gaitskill on the Old Guy
Kevin Canty on Harry Crews
Rodrigo Rey Rosa on Paul Bowles
Ken Babstock on Three Builders
Aleksandr Skidan on Boris Ostanin
Tony D’Souza on the Exquisite Lady
Byron Case on L.
Henry Rollins on Hubert Selby, Jr.
Sheila Heti on Susan Roxborough
Mikhail Iossel on Gilbert Sorrentino
Edie Meidav on Peter Matthiessen
Megan Mayhew Bergman on Tammy White
Polina Barskova on the Teacher
Rosemary Sullivan on Leonora Carrington and P. K. Page

Lineage II
Padgett Powell on Donald Barthelme
Mike Spry on Padgett Powell
Sam Lipsyte on Gordon Lish
Noy Holland on Gordon Lish
Christine Schutt on Elizabeth Hardwick

Tough Love
Deb Olin Unferth on John Probes
Erica Dawson on Mary Jo Salter
Nick Flynn on Philip Levine
Roy Kesey on Robert Day
Sabina Murray on Valerie Martin
Rui Zink on Alberto Pimenta
Anya Groner on Beth Ann Fennelly
Dawn Raffel on Her Grandmother
Pam Houston on Martha Washington

No Mentor Here
Paisley Rekdal on No One
Christine Hume on Some Teachers
Tibor Fischer on a Mentor Missed
Tony Hoagland on Rejecting Your Mentors

Stephen Elliott on Surrounding Yourself with the People You Most Wish to Become
Josip Novakovich on Terrence Malick
Maaza Mengiste on Breyten Breytenbach
Alissa Nutting on Kate Bernheimer
Jon Paul Fiorentino on Robert Kroetsch
Nathan Deuel on William T. Vollmann
Peter Trachtenberg on James McCourt
George Singleton on Fred Chappell
Jay Parini on Gore Vidal
Frank X. Gaspar on Donald Drury

Lineage III
Tayari Jones on Ron Carlson
Ron Carlson on David Kranes
Arthur Flowers on John O. Killens
Annie Liontas on Arthur Flowers