Nebraska author's memoir One Book, One Nebraska choice—November 7, 2008
I confess that without a nudge, I probably wouldn’t have been drawn to a memoir based on its curious title, “Restoring the Burnt Child.” But it is hard to ignore the phenomenal praise this book and its Nebraska author, William Kloefkorn, have been garnering from readers and literary organizations across the state and beyond.
The memoir was named One Book One Nebraska 2008 by a coalition including the Nebraska Center for the Book, the Nebraska Humanities Council, the Nebraska Library Association, the Nebraska Library Commission and the University of Nebraska Press. It also is the winner of a 2004 Nebraska Book Award.
Kloefkorn actually captured attention of the literary world years ago, his beloved poetry earning him the distinction of being named the Nebraska State Poet in 1982. He authored 12 books of poetry, two collections of short stories, three memoirs and a book of children's Christmas stories. Kloefkorn lives and writes in Lincoln, where he is emeritus professor of English at Nebraska Wesleyan.
“Restoring the Burnt Child” is the second volume in Kloefkorn’s four-part memoir, which when completed will cleverly cover the four elements: water, fire, earth and air. It is the memoir of a small-town boy’s life in 1940’s Kansas, continuing the story Kloefkorn began in his highly regarded volume, “This Death by Drowning.”
With characteristic humor and in prose as lyrical as his poetry, Kloefkorn brings to life the world of a boy and of a poet coming of age in mid-century middle America.
A “firefly” stunt that nearly burns down his home and the distant firestorms of WW II are among a range of fire-themed subtle and surprising lessons for the boy.
I’ve especially enjoyed Kloefkorn’s playful use of words: “My favorite comic characters were the Torch and Toro, though Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Batman, Superman, and a dozen others were not far behind. Consider this: a fresh copy of the Torch and Toro in your hands as you sit on the green bench in Urie’s barber shop on a Saturday afternoon, reading, or pretending to, as you watch Urie shave a man’s Adam’s apple as he bemoans Pistol Pete’s current batting average. The shop is rife with clippings and tonic, tobacco and lather, and warm June air that a white fan not much larger than a dime is trying to circulate.”
Hastings Public Library has multiple copies of the book, both in regular and large print type and on CD, in addition to Kloefkorn’s other poetry collections and memoirs.
The library also is participating in One Book, One Nebraska events and will welcome a visit by Koefkorn, Nov. 18 when he will present a program at 7:30 at the library. His presentation is funded through the Nebraska Humanities Council and the Friends of Hastings Public Library.
“Restoring the Burnt Child” will be the focus of a book discussion, 10 a.m., November 20. The discussion is part of HPL’s “Morning Glories” book club which is open to the public and always welcomes new participants.
Read the book, hear the author and join in the discussion at Hastings Public Library.