Author of 'The Good Echo' to give reading Oct. 24 at CSB

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October 10, 2019

Shena McAuliffe

Shena McAuliffe

Authors usually write about topics that interest them. Historians write about world wars. Former police officers cover crime and mysteries.

Shena McAuliffe – who will give a public reading from her 2018 novel “The Good Echo” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at room 204, Gorecki Center, College of Saint Benedict – has a little different approach.

“When people ask me what I write about, I sometimes tell them that I am drawn to visionaries with blind spots, especially would-be scientists or artists, or especially figures in history whose ideas were progressive for their time, but are now regarded as absurd, or as pseudoscience,” McAuliffe wrote in the North American Review in 2018.

McAuliffe’s appearance at CSB, sponsored by the Literary Arts Institute, is free and open to the public.

“The Good Echo” received The Big Moose Prize from Black Lawrence Press for an unpublished novel in 2017. The award was open to new, emerging and established writers, and by winning the prize, Black Lawrence Press published “The Good Echo.”

“The Good Echo” is set in the 1930s and is the story of a marriage between a controversial nutritionist and dentist Clifford Bell, and his quietly courageous wife Frances. After their young son dies from an infected root canal Clifford performs, the couple seek to escape their grief through unconventional means and substantiate a theory of which Clifford’s colleagues are skeptical.

The book celebrates the healing that can arise through sustained curiosity, and how the deepest sadness sometimes initiates the boldest adventures.

It turns out that Clifford Bell’s story was based on a real-life “visionary with a blind spot.”

“The story (called ‘The Skin of a Rabbit’) … was inspired by the life of and work of Weston Price, a dentist and nutritionist with unconventional theories about dental health nutrition, and how they shaped our bodies and minds,” McAuliffe wrote in the North American Journal. 

“Many of Price’s ideas seem like common sense to us now – namely that whole food, local diets are good for us – but in the 1930s, when Price was writing and researching, he had fallen out of favor with the National Dental Association, a professional organization that he founded, because he was so committed to focal infection theory, the theory Clifford Bell, my fictionized version of Weston Price, is busily developing in ‘The Skin of a Rabbit.’ ‘’

McAuliffe is an assistant professor of fiction at Union College in Schenectady, New York. Her stories and essays have appeared in Conjunctions, Alaska Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, Black Warrior Review, Copper Nickel, True Story and Better: Culture and Lit.

Her essay “Endnotes to a Seizure” was the winner of the 2012 Black Warrior Review Nonfiction Prize. McAuliffe’s stories have been twice named as notable in the “Best American Short Stories” in 2008 and 2010, and in the “Best American Nonrequired Reading Series” in 2007.

McAuliffe holds a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University, a master’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis and a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Utah.

The Literary Arts Institute (LAI) was founded in 1997 to foster creative writing, publishing and interaction between students and writers.

The LAI brings nationally recognized authors to the college for a visiting writers series, promotes literary events, holds conferences, supports publications (S. Mariella Gable Prize) and encourages the artistry of fine letterpress (Welle Book Arts Studio). With local and national partners, such as the Manitou Fund and Graywolf Press, the LAI is able to bring writers and their work together with readers on campus, in Minnesota and beyond.