Magazine article The World and I

David Guterson's East of the Mountains

Magazine article The World and I

David Guterson's East of the Mountains

Article excerpt

Before his first novel, Snow Falling on Cedars, burst onto the literary scene in 1995, David Guterson taught English at the high school on Bainbridge Island in Washington State. He had published a collection of short stories and a book advocating home schooling. An atmospheric literary thriller set during the 1950s, Cedars centered on the fictional trial of a Japanese-American fisherman accused of murdering a Caucasian. The novel won the prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award and sold around three millions copies--and thus launched the writer into the world of fame and fortune.

Born in 1956 in Seattle, Guterson grew up in the city's north end. Blackberry brambles, deep ravines, and what remained of the local forest drew his attention; he became an Eagle scout. Writing emerged as a calling during his junior year of college. As a graduate student, Guterson studied with Charles Johnson, author of Middle Passage. Johnson recalls, "Some students take classes to see if they're writers. David was different. He just knew; he was serious. He understood that good writing is about specificity."

After the first of their four children was born, Guterson and his wife, Robin, moved to an old bungalow on Bainbridge. A small study off the living room, its walls adorned by children's drawings, became the place where Guterson writes. He follows a daily ritual: Rising just before dawn, he walks two miles with his dog, Sam, and watches the sun come up. Then he returns home and writes, deliberately and precisely, first in pencil, then on the computer, editing all the while. …

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