Dave Madden

recorded in Tuscaloosa, AL

 

Dave Madden

My name is Dave Madden and I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.


The Knox Writers’ House

How did you get here?


Madden

I came he just this past August, so I guess five or six months ago, when I got a job at the University of Alabama.


KWH

Where are you from?


Madden

I grew up in the D.C. of Virginia, in Fairfax County. I went to the University of Pittsburg for my undergraduate work. I hung out there for a few years, and then went to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln for my graduate work, and then I graduated there in May, and then got this job.


KWH

What’s it like, so far to be a writer in Tuscaloosa, Alabama?


Madden

It’s great to be a writer here, as you have probably known. There are so many writers here, which you’re going to find in any college town, but particularly this one. The MFA program being so strong, you have really great graduate writers too. I think there’s four different reading series that come out of this program—the undergraduate, the graduate, there’s one called Pure Products, and there’s the official Bankhead reading series, so there’s always writers coming in. We also have what’s called a Coal Royalty Chair, which is we can bring writers in for a whole semester to teach a workshop. So you constantly have these writers coming in. It’s a great environment to be in.


KWH

Does your work ever deal with the social or the political, or do you feel an obligation to do so?


Madden

Yeah, I think that I do. [Laughs]. Can I speak more to that?


KWH

Or do you feel writers in general have a responsibility to tackle those issues?


Madden

Well, yeah. I have ideas about this that fluctuate. I read somewhere, I think it was in Carol Bly’s book Beyond the Writers’ Workshop, which is a book on chiefly the teaching of creative writing, creative nonfiction, particularly. And she says that the aesthetic art for arts sake has never appeared in oppressed cultures, the implication being it is a kind of bourgeois luxury to make art to make art. In oppressed cultures, you make art to say things that otherwise can’t be said. I like that idea a lot. I try not to just make art for its own sake; I try to say something. With this book on taxidermy, very, very early on in the process, I moved beyond any ideas of “Taxidermy is weird and quirky! Let me show you all the cool, weird things about it,” and very, very quickly got to “What does taxidermy mean? Why do we do this to animals? What does this have to say about human/animal relationships?” And that became the much more interesting subject for me, rather than taxidermy itself. So to that end, yes. I think that as a writer, I’ve never really been engaged in my work if I don’t see it connecting to something outside of itself.

from The Death of Justina by John Cheever

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