Wolf Relates Titanic's Story in New Way
BY FAYE M. DASEN
The great ship Titanic’s story has been told many times since its sinking almost 100 years ago, but never in the way Allan Wolf tells it in “The Watch That Ends the Night.”
“I’m fascinated by the story of the doomed Titanic just like everyone else,” says Wolf. “Five or six years ago I learned that the 100th anniversary of the Titanic was coming up in 2012. And as a writer, I’m always looking for topics that will be in the news.”
Wolf will be at The Country Bookshop Thursday, March 1, at 5 p.m. to read from and sign copies of his book.
Wolf relates the story using the voices of everyone from the iceberg to a ship’s rat to Capt. William Smith himself.
“I’ve been toying with this multi-voice format for three or four books now,” says Wolf. “I first gave it a shot in ‘New Found Land,’ which is a multi-voice novel in verse narrated by 12 members of the Lewis and Clark expedition. I call the approach ‘narrative pointillism.’ I’m not sure if I invented that term or not, but it fits.
“The idea is that history only exists in the collective minds of those who witness it. If 10 different people experience an event, then you are bound to get 10 different versions of what happened. Each of these individual stories is like dots on a painting by Seurat: Individually they have no particular significance, but if you view them from a distance (and in the context of all the surrounding dots), suddenly the truth emerges.”
Wolf put in a tremendous amount of research for the book.
“It took me an entire year just to sift through more than 2,000 potential passengers to choose who my characters would be,” he says. “All told it took me about four years.”
The response to the book has been overwhelming, according to Wolf.
“The book has received five starred reviews and landed on three or four of the major Best Books of the Year list,” he says. “I’m on my way to New York tomorrow, where Bank Street College will honor the book with their prestigious Claudia Lewis Poetry Award. I’ve just learned that the audiobook version has been nominated for an Audie Award. That’s sort of like the Oscars for audio books.”
Wolf’s first book for kids, “The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems About Our Parts,” was inspired by a sixth-grade life science class project he saw while working as an artist-in-residence at a school in Seoul, Korea.
“The kids created an anatomy chart of the human body by writing poems about all the various parts,” says Wolf. “On the long plane trip back to the U.S., I began writing.”
Other books are “New Found Land: Lewis and Clark’s Voyage of Discovery,” a novel in verse chosen as a School Library Journal Best Book, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and an IRA Children’s Book Award Notable; and “Immersed in Verse: An Informative, Slightly Irreverent and Totally Tremendous Guide to Living the Poet’s Life.”
Wolf, an educator, author, poet and performer, became the educational director for Poetry Alive! — a national touring company that presents theatrical poetry shows for all ages. He is also a founding member of The Dead Poets, a unique band that transforms classic poetry into toe-tapping tunes.
Wolf, who celebrates his 49th birthday today, lives in Asheville with his wife, three children, four chickens, two turtles and a bearded dragon.
Wolf is currently working on an illustrated novella in verse.
“It’s a spinoff of my Lewis and Clark novel that includes everything from Sacagawea to zombie mules to Mormons,” he says. “I have contracts on two other books after that, but I guess I’d better not say too much about those just yet — except ‘murder’ and ‘cannibalism.’ Other than ‘murder’ and ‘cannibalism’ my lips are sealed.”
For information, call The Country Bookshop at (910) 692-3211
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