Reading series explores climate change, exploitation


Michigan-born author Matt Bell shared passages from his novel ‘Appleseed’ as a part of the English department’s reading series on April 5. (Rebeca Mertins Chiodini)

MacKenzie Rogers, Staff Writer

As a part of its Reading Series program, the creative writing   program hosted Arizona State University creative writing Professor and The New York Times Notable Book author Matt Bell on April 5.

Bell is the author of novels “Appleseed”; “Scrapper”; “In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods”; a nonfiction novel, “Baldur’s Gate II”; a short story collection, “A Tree or a Person or a Wall”; and a craft book, “Refuse to Be Done.”

His publications have appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, Tin House, Fairy Tale Review, American Short Fiction and Orion.

At the event, Bell read three sections from his most recently published novel, “Appleseed,” which covers themes of climate change, manifest destiny, exploitation of natural resources and the magic contained inside every apple. “Appleseed” was named the best book of the summer by The New York Times and received the Indies Next List Pick and Amazon’s Book of the Month.

The novel travels through three storylines.

The first takes place in the 18th century and tells the story of two brothers seeking to gain large profits from planting an apple orchard.

The second storyline takes place in the 20th century with a scientist who seeks to destroy the corrupt, environmentally damaging company he once helped build.

The third storyline takes place a thousand years into the future with a lonely sentient being who takes on a seemingly impossible quest to follow a homing beacon across the now-ice-covered North American continent in search of discovering the last remains of civilization.

Assistant Professor of English T.J. Martinson said he has been a long-time fan of Bell’s work.

“The entire English and Philosophy Department was thrilled, but I was especially excited,” Martinson said. “Selfishly, I was just looking forward to getting to talk to him about books, writing processes and all that other dorky stuff writers talk about when they get together.”

Bell is currently working on a new trilogy series, though no other information was revealed.

In addition to the evening reading, Bell also gave a lecture to the novel writing and short fiction classes. During the lecture, Bell explained the significance of sentence structure in acoustics, syntax and style.

“He’s one of the best sentence-level writers I’ve ever read,” Martinson said. “I frequently assign his novels and short stories to my students because his writing is a great example of how a story can have both an excellent plot and stunning lyricism.”

Martinson said there were a few lessons from Bell’s visit he hoped others would take away.

“Matt Bell exemplifies two very important things related to creative writing,” Martinson said. “You can and should write whatever you want to write, and you should treat your writing with the seriousness and care that it deserves.”

For more information about the future Reading Series events, visit @murraystatecreativewriting on Instagram or the Murray State Creative Writing Program and Reading Series page on Facebook.