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Steven Church


Steven Church is the author of The Guinness Book of Me: a Memoir of Record, Theoretical Killings: Essays and Accidents, The Day After The Day After: My Atomic AngstUltrasonic: Essays and a forthcoming fifth book of nonfiction, One with the Tiger: Sublime and Violent Encounters between Humans and Animals, which will be released in Fall 2016 by Soft Skull Press. His essays have been published in Passages North, DIAGRAM, Brevity, River Teeth, The Rumpus, AGNI, The Pedestrian, Colorado Review, Creative Nonfiction, Terrain.org, and many others. He is a Founding Editor and Nonfiction Editor for the nationally recognized literary magazine, The Normal School; and he teaches for the residential MFA Program at Fresno State and for low-residency MFA Programs at Sierra Nevada College and Carlow University. 

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Steven Church


Steven Church is the author of The Guinness Book of Me: a Memoir of Record, Theoretical Killings: Essays and Accidents, The Day After The Day After: My Atomic AngstUltrasonic: Essays and a forthcoming fifth book of nonfiction, One with the Tiger: Sublime and Violent Encounters between Humans and Animals, which will be released in Fall 2016 by Soft Skull Press. His essays have been published in Passages North, DIAGRAM, Brevity, River Teeth, The Rumpus, AGNI, The Pedestrian, Colorado Review, Creative Nonfiction, Terrain.org, and many others. He is a Founding Editor and Nonfiction Editor for the nationally recognized literary magazine, The Normal School; and he teaches for the residential MFA Program at Fresno State and for low-residency MFA Programs at Sierra Nevada College and Carlow University. 

Advance Praise for One with the Tiger

“A powerfully written attention-grabber.”  —Kirkus

"What is it that we see when we look into the eyes of something wild? Where some find a sense of deep connection, others see hostility or, perhaps even worse, thoughtless indifference. It is these wildly differing interpretations of animal encounters that essayist Church (The Day after The Day After, 2010) explores in his new collection. Church begins with the story of David Villalobos, a young man who jumped into a tiger pen at the Bronx Zoo, saying only that he wanted to be “at one with the tiger.” Though understanding Villalobos’ true motivation ultimately eludes Church, the story obsesses him and leads into larger questions of how we relate to wildness, both in animals and within ourselves. With a style that is both friendly and penetrating, Church takes his exploration of animal nature beyond animal encounters; his essays weave together everything from Mike Tyson to 1970s pop culture. At his best, Church combines the thoughtfulness of Rebecca Solnit with the sharpness of Chuck Klosterman, producing a collection of essays that is as insightful as it is entertaining." —Booklist

The idea of being attacked by wild animals has long been an area for exploration in popular culture. Church (Ultrasonic; The Guinness Book of Me) begins his latest book by introducing the story of David Villalobos, who in 2012 jumped into a Siberian tiger enclosure at the Bronx Zoo. Villalobos later called the event a "spiritual thing." There is a powerful experience that many humans seek out in placing themselves in situations that get them closer to apex predators. Documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog calls it the "gaze at moral indifference," in which the animal is merely one choice away from "making you into a meal." The author examines his own animal instincts and curiosity, purposely placing himself in bear country and discussing circumstances in which he has become "animal like" in his response to perceived physical threats. Church does well in connecting the human fascination with apex predator behavior and its potential relation to our own animal instincts. A thought-provoking argument is made as to why people seek contact with these creatures. VERDICT Those with a general interest in this topic would benefit the most from reading this captivating study.—Gary Medina, El Camino Coll., Torrance, CA, for Library Journal

“Church has written a funny, smart, and terrifying book that explores the invisible boundaries between human and animal. This sensitive and thoughtful writer allows the reader to hear the siren call of the wild and step deep into the existential anxiety of what it means to be human.” —Jennifer Percy, author of Demon Camp

“From the iron of a zoo cage’s bars to the expanse of our nation’s national parks, One With the Tiger examines the spaces in which humans contain animals, and how those acts of containment often fail. Church is a classically essayistic observer—curious, haunted, self-deprecating—and it’s through this lens that we’re confronted with stories of infamous animal attacks, pop culture icons, and the author’s own longing to inch forward as a bear approaches. In this marvelous collection, Church seems to write his consciousness directly onto the page, and in it we can see an entire civilization’s clumsy, sometimes desperate, attempts to understand our relationship to the wild.” —Kristen Radtke, author of Imagine Wanting Only This

One With the Tiger explores the deep human need to participate in an atavistic ecstasy; to be, as Church puts it “absorbed but not destroyed.” Church’s approach is not clinical, moralizing, or gee-whiz superficial; it is, to our benefit, essayistic. By circling rather than simplifying, he illuminates the taboo, ever-shifting boundaries between man and animal. Church is the rare author who knows what’s interesting— which is to say, uncomfortable—about his chosen subject.” —Kerry Howley, author of Thrown.

“One with the Tiger is a meditation on animality and the space between suburbs and savanna, citizenship and savagery. Church is as close to the teeth of the beast as he is to escape. This is his love letter to animal magnetism, primal fear, and the wilderness of human imagination. The genius of this book is how it questions who is in captivity: the tiger in its cage or you.” – Benjamin Busch, author of Dust to Dust

"In One with the Tiger, Steven Church stalks the entire genre of nature writing, rips it down to the raw bone, then reassembles the parts into something totally new and utterly compelling. 

- Justin Hocking, author of The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld 

Through scenes devastating, inspiring, and at times, difficult to watch (read), we cannot turn away as Church imagines that space between the leap and the landing, human and animal, villain and victim. When there are no explanations, Church finds satisfaction in narrative speculation, yet he also proves that when reality is too much to bear, we’ll fight to escape the cage of an old story and scramble like hell to get back over the ledge.”

—Jill Talbot, author of The Way We Weren’t: A Memoir and editor of Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction

“The further Church leads us through the explorations in One with the Tiger, the richer they become. His own excitement is contagious and you soon find yourself as obsessed as the author himself. Truly intoxicating." —Taylor Goldsmith, lead singer/songwriter of Dawes

 

Steven Church's new book, One with the tiger will be released on Nov. 15, 2016

"Muscular, vulnerable, twitchy, and relentlessly curious, Steven Church’s awesome One with the Tiger stalks some of our most absurd, sometimes-violent, and uncontainable compulsions for communion and self-destruction, and finds, lurking within them, such a fragile, funny, and heartbreaking humanity that it’s all we can do as readers to leap and leap into the exhilarating zoo pit of this book." - Matthew Gavin Frank, author of Preparing the Ghost and The Mad Feast. 

You can read a selection from, One with the Tiger here, where Steven talks about Mike Tyson, severed ears, and intimacy; published originally in the magazine, Creative Nonfiction and reprinted in Salon.com

 

 

 

 

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One with the Tiger


On September 21, 2012, twenty-five year old David Villalobos purchased a pass for the Bronx Zoo and a ticket for a ride on the Bengali Express Monorail. Biding his time, he waited until the monorail was just near the enclosure of a four hundred pound Siberian tiger named Bashuta before leaping into it. They spent ten long minutes together in the tiger’s cage before nature took its course, with one exception: The tiger did not kill him. David’s only response: “It’s a spiritual thing. I wanted to be at one with the tiger.”

One with The Tiger: On Savagery and Intimacy uses David’s story, and other moments of violent encounters between humans and predators, to explore the line between human and animal. Exposing what the author defines as the “shared liminal space between peace and violence,” Church posits that the animal is always encroaching on the civilization —and those seeking its wildness are in fact searching for an ecstatic moment that can define what it means to be human. Using examples from Timothy Treadwell to Mike Tyson, or such television icons as Grizzly Adams and The Incredible Hulk, Church shows how this ecstasy can seep its way into the less natural world of popular culture, proving time and again that each of us can be our own worst predator.

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One with the Tiger


On September 21, 2012, twenty-five year old David Villalobos purchased a pass for the Bronx Zoo and a ticket for a ride on the Bengali Express Monorail. Biding his time, he waited until the monorail was just near the enclosure of a four hundred pound Siberian tiger named Bashuta before leaping into it. They spent ten long minutes together in the tiger’s cage before nature took its course, with one exception: The tiger did not kill him. David’s only response: “It’s a spiritual thing. I wanted to be at one with the tiger.”

One with The Tiger: On Savagery and Intimacy uses David’s story, and other moments of violent encounters between humans and predators, to explore the line between human and animal. Exposing what the author defines as the “shared liminal space between peace and violence,” Church posits that the animal is always encroaching on the civilization —and those seeking its wildness are in fact searching for an ecstatic moment that can define what it means to be human. Using examples from Timothy Treadwell to Mike Tyson, or such television icons as Grizzly Adams and The Incredible Hulk, Church shows how this ecstasy can seep its way into the less natural world of popular culture, proving time and again that each of us can be our own worst predator.

Press and Appearances for One with the tiger

Sept. 8: For Collins, CO: Long's Peak Room, Lory Student Center, 7:30 pm, at Colorado State University (books only available for pre-order)

Oct. 28: Fresno, CA: Alice Peters Auditorium, 7:30 pm, Fresno State University: MFA Faculty Reading (short preview of the book, only available for pre-order)

Nov. 10: Washington, DC: George Mason University (books WILL be available for purchase)

Dec. 2: Fresno, CA: One with the Tiger Book Launch, Alice Peters Auditorium, 7:30 pm, Fresno State University

Dec. 7: Portland, OR: Reading and Discussion with Justin Hocking, Powells Books (Burnside) 

 

 

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Ultrasonic (essays)


Ultrasonic is a collection of linked essays that explore how sound can be used to search for deeper meaning beneath the surface of everyday life. Delving into questions of identity, family, fear, loss, and the politics of space, the book becomes an idiosyncratic exploration of identity amidst the cultural noise of contemporary life in America. Each chapter operates both as an independent essay and as an echo chamber for larger ideas, and it gazes at our human predicament through such varied lenses as trapped miners, stethoscopes, racquetball, language, loitering, violence, Elvis, and the music of torture. Weaving narrative and thematic threads into a richly layered collage-like tapestry, Ultrasonic functions as a sound map of Church’s consciousness and as a lyrical memoir of fatherhood. 

 

“If you liked Leslie Jamison’s Empathy Exams or Charles D’Ambrosio’s Loitering, try Steven Church’s latest collection, Ultrasonic, a group of essays brought together by the theme of sound. Church at times seems to say, I make noise, therefore I am. He dissects the nature of sound waves in a racquetball court, counts the seconds between lightning and thunder, and listens for signs of life from trapped miners—and his digressions invariably come back around to sucker punch you. Church uses sound to explore notions of masculinity and fatherhood, love and death.”

— The Paris Review

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Ultrasonic (essays)


Ultrasonic is a collection of linked essays that explore how sound can be used to search for deeper meaning beneath the surface of everyday life. Delving into questions of identity, family, fear, loss, and the politics of space, the book becomes an idiosyncratic exploration of identity amidst the cultural noise of contemporary life in America. Each chapter operates both as an independent essay and as an echo chamber for larger ideas, and it gazes at our human predicament through such varied lenses as trapped miners, stethoscopes, racquetball, language, loitering, violence, Elvis, and the music of torture. Weaving narrative and thematic threads into a richly layered collage-like tapestry, Ultrasonic functions as a sound map of Church’s consciousness and as a lyrical memoir of fatherhood. 

 

“If you liked Leslie Jamison’s Empathy Exams or Charles D’Ambrosio’s Loitering, try Steven Church’s latest collection, Ultrasonic, a group of essays brought together by the theme of sound. Church at times seems to say, I make noise, therefore I am. He dissects the nature of sound waves in a racquetball court, counts the seconds between lightning and thunder, and listens for signs of life from trapped miners—and his digressions invariably come back around to sucker punch you. Church uses sound to explore notions of masculinity and fatherhood, love and death.”

— The Paris Review

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I'm Just Getting to the Disturbing Part


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I'm Just Getting to the Disturbing Part


I’m Just Getting to the Disturbing Part follows the author’s time in Arizona and Colorado working as a tour guide at a gold mine and at the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark, as well as his stint as a Maintenance Man in a ski town and eventually his role as a professor and father. Detailing his struggles to make his relationship work and to find a safe place to call home, the book follows Church and his young family through several moves between different houses and different states, chronicling family life and fatherhood in a post-9/11 world filled with new threats and fears, some of which are manufactured and others of seem to arise organically from the constantly shifting landscape. Shaped by odd facts, interesting history, narrative suspense, and tragedy, I’m Just Getting to the Disturbing Part stitches together themes of work, love, fatherhood and fear into a richly patterned, humorous, and emotionally resonant memoir-in-essays.

 


 

The title chapter of the book has been anthologized annually in the textbook, The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Nonfiction, and is taught in writing classrooms across the country. It follows the young married couple down from the mountains to the Front Range of Colorado and to Fort Collins, a place regularly voted one of the best places to live in America. The essay marries form and content in a looping, suspense-filled, emotionally powerful consideration of loss and tragedy through the lens of a drowning that the author witnessed. 

Transient

The Parkfield Project


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The Parkfield Project


The "Parkfield Project" is a book project focused on the small town of Parkfield, California, the self-proclaimed, Earthquake Capital of the World. Located in the Cholame Valley, and on the boundary between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates, Parkfield is home to the USGS's Parkfield Experiment, a long-running experiment in earthquake prediction, and of more seismic sensing technology than anywhere in North America. Home to firefighters and artists, entrepreneurs and eccentrics, the Cholame is owned in large part by two families, the Hearsts and the Varians, each with their own indelible imprint on the history of California and of the country. 

Please check out the page, "Online Publications," for some selections from this project.