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Alexander Chee’s guide to writing, becoming, love and loss

There’s a thing at talks around Seattle. Often enough, you can feel it when the crowd gets restless if the event goes to a certain length. You can see the people looking for a chance to exit. One bolts, and others rush to follow.

There was no restlessness at author Alexander Chee’s reading on Monday night. Even though the room was a tad warm, no one left. They hardly stirred.

Here, Chee discusses his life and work with Seattle-based writer Matillda Bernstein Sycamore. And he reads two pieces from his new book of essays “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel.” The book is part memoir, part writing guide. His readings are personal, revealing and poignant; a sort of aural time capsule of cherished, remarkable lives:

“Why am I telling this story? I am, as I have said, a minor character, out of place in this narrative. But the major characters of all these stories from the first ten years of this epidemic have left. The men I wanted to follow into the future are dead. Finding them had made me want to live, and I did. I do. I feel I owe them my survival.”

Alexander Chee is an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College. His previous works include the novels “Edinburgh” and “The Queen of the Night.” He spoke at Seattle’s Hugo House on April 23, in an event presented by Hugo House and The Elliott Bay Book Company.

Please note: This recording contains unedited language of an adult nature.

Listen to the full version below:

Year started with KUOW: 2006