The Wink of the Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer's Life
University of Nebraska Press, Cloth - 2008, Paper - 2011, 256 pp
Winner of a 2009 Pushcart Prize for the essay, "The Voice of the Past."
Named one of the Top 10 Northwest Books of 2008 by The Oregonian.
Named one of the Best Western Books of 2008 by NewWest Magazine: "Oregon's Floyd Skloot reconstructs his early life in spite of a virus that left him with memory impairment in his latest memoir, the poignant The Wink of the Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer's Life. Skloot did extensive detective work to piece together his childhood, listening to old songs, watching old movies, rereading books, and re-experiencing everything he could that might spark a memory. Through these essays, which are honest, funny, self-deprecating, and deeply introspective without being egocentric, he emerges as an endearing character."
Shortlisted for the 2009 Pacific NW Booksellers Association Book Awards.
Finalist for the 2009 Oregon Book Award in Creative Nonfiction.
From the Publisher:
In his two previous memoirs, Floyd Skloot grappled with the brain-ravaging virus that struck him at forty-one. He was, as the San Francisco Chronicle noted, "shaping the experience of crippling illness into dazzling literature." How such alchemy is performed—where, in fact, the magic comes from—is the subject of Skloot's new book, a memoir of the making of a writer. Sifting through memories and observations to discover how circumstance and nature conspired to make him the writer he is, Skloot in this book enacts the very process he describes, the shaping of a writer's life. Among the influences of family and close friendship, experience and popular culture, he finds a unique and telling perspective on the forging of a writer's individual sensibility. At the same time, his book explores fundamental questions about how life shapes the creative spirit—and how, in turn, the writer, making sense of it all, gives life a new and meaningful shape in the form of literature.
Quotes from reviews of the book:
"Remarkable portrait of a remarkable artist." —Askold Melnyczuk, Boston Globe
"Skloot's masterful new collection, The Wink of the Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer's Life, contains 16 exquisitely interconnected essays. . . . From shards of memory collected in various file folders, Skloot has fashioned essays that never fail to touch the universal. . . . Often funny, delightful, always rich with humanity. The Wink of the Zenith is a book to be savored, not gulped down but tasted, essay by essay, allowing time to be amazed at how Skloot's insights beam directly into our souls." —Penny Allen, The Oregonian
"Zenith is much more solidly written than most writers' memoirs... I found it a relief to read here about a real person with real-life issues, rather than the clichéd hyperbole found in most writers. . . . Skloot seems to adopt a take-me-for-what-I-am mentality that makes him come across as a likable guy. This matter-of-fact approach and lack of self-pity not only benefit his character, but help shape the narrative as well." —Jessica Schneider, Philadelphia Inquirer
"An illuminating memoir." —Seattle Post-Intelligencer
*Starred Review* "Skloot is such a fine writer that he can - and does - write about eating 'baloney and eggs' and makes it seem fascinating. Writers at any stage of their careers will treasure this volume of clean, expressive prose that delights without ever showing off." —Publishers Weekly
"The essays collected here - including his Pushcart Prize-winning 'The Voice of the Past' and others that originally appeared in various literary journals, sometimes in different versions - are funny, sad, and inspiring. Skloot has done a remarkable job of re-creating his life and showing readers how writing is therapeutic." —Susan McClellan, Library Journal
"Skloot's newest is wise, thoughtful, and gently humorous." —Booklist
"Once in a while a memoir comes along that, in bending the rules of narrative realism, becomes truer both to life and to art. The Wink of the Zenith is one of them. . . . In trusting the rhythm and form of stories, the author writes himself back into being, from his fantasy-rich childhood, to the banalities of growing up, to discovering and fighting for his own creative voice. Like fragmented memory, each chapter both stands on its own and strengthens the foundations of the larger whole. In this way, Skloot unravels the tangled thread of his own life story with a sense of urgency often missing from linear memoir; and in so doing, he shows us that while truth and fact may be intimately connected, meaning itself is in the telling." —Courtney Arnold, ForeWord Magazine
"Skloot crafts sentence-length gems on almost every page. What a talent he possesses. . . . It is difficult to imagine any worthy writer remaining unaffected upon reaching the final page." —Steve Weinberg, The Writer
"Even better than the tales is the pitch in which Skloot sings them. His sensibility is stoic and gentle. The style is clear, supple, expressive, and, one can't help but get the feeling, wise as well. Skloot's work has been unjustly neglected for years; this volume yet again insists that a little more recognition come his way." —New Haven Review
"A poignant, vivid collection of essays that tell the story of Skloot's formation as a writer. Through these essays, which are honest, funny, self-deprecating, and deeply introspective without being egocentric, Skloot emerges as an endearing character. . . . The essays are seamless, teeming with convincing detail. . . . It moves together grandly, creating for the reader a full-color portrait of Skloot's boyhood that rings with authenticity. "—Jenny Shank, New West Book Review
"For aspiring authors, writing seems like a mystical art. Beginners often look to more established writers, trying to figure out just how the magic is wrought. Those beginners should consider picking up Floyd Skloot's The Wink of the Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer's Life. A poet and memoirist, Skloot not only connects the dots between his early experience and his art, but also shows how he has been able to go on working after a devastating illness. . . . Skloot's essays are deeply touching. His reflections about his parents, in particular, walk a tightrope between longing for what might have been and a realism about the way things were. . . . He is sensitive to human fragility, acutely aware of the ways life can abruptly change. It's that kind of sensitivity, in addition to a facility with language and tenacious working habits, that beginning writers should learn to cultivate." —Katie Schneider, The Jewish Review
"Like James Joyce before him, Floyd Skloot aims in his latest memoir to lay bare the making of a writer. Unlike the famous Dubliner, he attempts this literary feat while trying to gauge the effects of an unexpected brain-ravaging virus on his creative spirit. In The Wink of the Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer's Life, Skloot digs deep into his own personal experience and searches - through meditation, humor, and love - the unlimited bounds of artistic expression and individual sensibility." —Portland Monthly Magazine
"This collection of 17 essays is the fourth in a series of memoirs poet and novelist Floyd Skloot has written. . . . But it's the first that unearths the roots of his writing life, providing a moving, humorous and thoroughly delightful exposition of that subject. . . . Skloot's recollections range widely, from his childhood in Brooklyn, through an unlikely stint as an analyst in the Illinois Bureau of the Budget, to an often-comical recent trip to France. There are many highlights in the collection, but two essays that focus on Skloot's college years stand out. . . . It's impossible to know whether, with this volume, Skloot finally has reassembled all the 'shards of memory' scattered by his illness. If it is, we can be grateful for the hard and sometimes painful work it took to gather them and share them in such an eloquent and affecting form. An elegant and stimulating collection of essays that describe the diverse formative influences shaping one writer's life." —Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf-Awareness.com
Featured in Fall Books Roundup: "Skloot, formerly prolific author whose brain disease made fiction-writing impossible, presents his third elegant memoir." —Chicago Tribune
"This is a great mind at work examining itself. This is where literature comes from." —Katharine Weber, author of Triangle and The Music Lesson
"Floyd Skloot hits it just right, taking Life seriously and the comically, poignantly evolving self with just a pinch of necessary salt. The Wink of the Zenith gives us an American coming-of-age that is completely unique but at the same time packed with the recognition force of archetypes." —Sven Birkerts, author of My Sky Blue Trades: Growing Up Counter in a Contrary Time
"Like the Hardy Boys, the literary sleuths of his boyhood, Floyd Skloot, has put together and followed clues into his past after a terrifying brain virus impaired his memories. The remarkable rediscoveries recorded in these essays, told with a prime storyteller's art, relocates these lost histories, freshens their artifacts and brings back to life their personae and dominions. The Wink of the Zenith is a triumph on several levels." —Hilary Masters, author of Last Stands: Notes from Memory