Office of Public Affairs
Sept. 11, 2002
CONTACT: Dr. Chris Lalonde, 312-2150
ENGLISH PROFESSOR PUBLISHES STUDY OF CONTEMPORARY NOVELIST
OSWEGO -- Dr. Chris Lalonde, associate professor and chair of
the English department at SUNY Oswego, is the author of the first book
devoted to the work of Louis Owens, a novelist and literary scholar who
died this summer.
The University of Oklahoma Press published Lalonde's "Grave
Concerns, Trickster Turns: The Novels of Louis Owens" in May. The book
is part of the publisher's American Indian Literature and Critical
Studies Series, which also includes several of Owens' books.
How people -- especially Americans, more especially Native
Americans -- identify and classify themselves and others is a
persistent concern in Owens' works, Lalonde said. The writer's themes
included home and displacement from it, stereotypes and how to overcome
Owens' ancestry was Choctaw, Cherokee and Irish, and he
identified himself as "a mixed blood American."
"Louis tried to imagine that in-between space as a place of
possibility and opportunity," Lalonde said. Owens rejected the cliche
of the tragic half-breed, he noted.
"He looked not just at native identity but at American national
identity," Lalonde said.
To illustrate his book, Lalonde traveled the West photographing
places that play roles in Owens' novels.
A professor of American literature at the University of
California at Davis at the time of his death, Owens wrote his first two
books in the 1980s about John Steinbeck's fiction before turning to
fiction himself in 1991's "Wolfsong."
"I was immediately taken by Louis' use of language, by the
complex way in which the text articulated issues of mixed blood
identity . . . and the possibilities of activism -- literary activism,"
Lalonde said. "Plus it was a darn good read."
Owens went on to publish four more novels and was working on a
sixth at the time of his apparent suicide in July at age 54.
"It's an incalculable loss," Lalonde said. His book, described
in testimonials on the jacket as a "groundbreaking" and "comprehensive
study," is, it turns out, a more complete examination of Owens' novels
than anyone could have predicted.
Lalonde taught at North Carolina Wesleyan College from 1986
until 1999, when he came to Oswego. He was a Fulbright lecturer in
American and Native American literature in Finland in 1997-98 and
completed a draft of his book on Owens there. He is also the author of
the 1996 book "William Faulkner and the Rites of Passage."
"Grave Concerns, Trickster Turns" costs $34.95 from the
publisher and is also available from Amazon.com.
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