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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Prof Michael Pearson Looks Inward for Seventh Book

To write his first book, "Imagined Places; Journeys into Literary America," in 1991, Old Dominion English professor Michael Pearson tried to better understand influential writers such as Mark Twain and Flannery O'Connor by traveling to their homes.

In "Reading Life; On Books, Memory and Travel," a memoir to be published by Mercer University Press in March, Pearson tries to better understand himself through revisiting the books that most influenced him.

"It has come full circle," said Pearson, who teaches creative writing and American literature. "With this book, the emphasis is reversed. I trace my life through given books in given times and where those books led me."

A Bronx, N.Y. native, Pearson focuses chapters on nine authors, and includes three abbreviated "interlude" chapters. In linear fashion, Pearson details how and why works by Willa Cather, Cervantes, E.B. White, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Walker Percy, John Barth, Henry David Thoreau, John McPhee and James Joyce impacted his global journeys from New Mexico to Morocco.

Pearson, who has written six other books, likens his literary reflections to music that indelibly marks a person's life. "We all have songs we attach to certain moments," he said. "They are songs you track your life with."

Willie Morris, the late writer and Harper's Magazine editor, called Pearson "one of our nation's finest memoirists." And best-selling author Claire Dederer, who wrote "Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses," writes of "Reading Life:" "(It is) a vivid love letter to the places and books - and above all, people - that have sustained one writer. Pearson . . . makes for a genial guide through landscapes both real and imaginary."

Pearson has scheduled two signings for "Reading Life:"

  • Tuesday, April 7 at the University Village Bookstore (4417 Monarch Way) at noon
  • Saturday, April 18 at Prince Books (109 E. Main St., Norfolk) at 4 p.m.

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