Chestertown, MD, January 18, 2007 — Have you ever stopped to ponder that there are fringe benefits to nearsightedness, that there are, ironically, insights to be derived from a blurred view? This intriguing premise is explored in "What I See: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Astigmatism," a new essay from acclaimed author Joshua Wolf Shenk. Shenk, Director of the Rose O'Neill Literary House, will present the work in a reading at Washington College on Thursday, January 25, at 4:30 p.m. The reading is being presented jointly by the Sophie Kerr Committee and O'Neill House.
Shenk is the author of Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness, a New York Times Notable Book of 2005. In addition to the coveted New York Times accolade, Lincoln's Melancholy was named one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatchand the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and won citations from the Abraham Lincoln Institute and the National Mental Health Association. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews hailed Shenk's book as "a significant contribution to the study of Lincoln ... an inspirational tale."
In his thought-provoking new essay, Shenk describes how he came not only to accept his nearsightedness, but rather to value it. He philosophizes about "learning to appreciate the way I see the world without my glasses, with my vision uncorrected." About five years ago he found himself in a situation that involved being deprived of his spectacles for several hours. Frustration and disorientation gave way to acceptance and, ultimately, gratitude for an alternative perspective. "I was amazed at the depth and oddities of seeing the world that way," said Shenk. His "uncorrected" vision, he came to realize, "had its own positive value."
In addition to authoring Lincoln's Melancholy, Shenk has contributed to The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Magazine, The Economist, and many other journals. Before joining Washington College in July 2006, he taught creative writing at the New School University and New York University. Shenk's other honors include a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship in Mental Health Journalism from the Carter Center, a Fellowship in Nonfiction Literature from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and a scholarship at the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference.
Along with his role as Director of the Rose O'Neill Literary House, Shenk is also a lecturer in the Washington College English Department, focusing on creative nonfiction.
"What I See" will be presented in the Sophie Kerr Room at Miller Library. Admission is free and open to the public. A reception will follow at O'Neill House. For more information, call 410-778-2800.