Ben Fountain: Wikipedia Commons

Ben Fountain: Wikipedia Commons

Skip Hollandsworth isn’t the only neighborhood resident writer lauded by literature groupies …

Monday I wrote about the nationally acclaimed but Texas-based Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference and shared my admiration for neighborhood resident Skip Hollandsworth, co-writer of the screenplay for Bernie, and his ability to hold captive an auditorium-full of hungover conference attendees and colleagues early-ish on a Sunday.

But Hollandsworth isn’t the only neighborhood resident venerated by literature groupies.

Ben Fountain lives a stones throw away from Laura and George Bush in Preston Hollow, someone at some point noted and he later confirmed, and his writing credits go something like this: author of collection, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara … novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk… finalist for National Book Award, National Book Critics’ Circle Award … received PEN/Hemingway Award, the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, Barnes & Noble Discover Award … Whiting Writers Award,  O. Henry Prize … two Pushcart Prizes … published in Harper’s, The Paris Review, Zoetrope: All-Story and New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best … The Wall Street Journal, Texas Monthly, The New York Times …  New York Times Sunday Magazine … his reporting on post-earthquake Haiti was nationally broadcast on the radio show This American Life.

The manifest is impressive, no doubt, but it’s really nothing beyond the accomplishments of many Mayborn headliners.

His story gets good and unique when you go back to the late 80s.

Ben Fountain, Hugh Aynesworthy and Dave Tarrant: Christina Hughes Babb

Ben Fountain, Hugh Aynesworth and Dave Tarrant: Christina Hughes Babb

Fountain was an attorney at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Field when he developed an undesirable urge to write. He’d taken a class or two in college. He started writing after work. That was unacceptable and counterproductive, so he quit. His job at the firm, that is.

Malcom Gladwell, author of the book, Outliers (with which I have been obsessed for a couple of years now) wrote about Fountain in the New Yorker.

“I was tremendously apprehensive … like I’d stepped off a cliff not knowing if the parachute would open,” Fountain told Gladwell.

In the first year, he developed a strict writing regimen for himself and did not stall. He worked hard. Sold a couple of stories. Received excellent reviews from esteemed critics. Kept plugging away.

Even so, he told Gladwell, for every magazine piece or story he was able to sell, he received at least 30 rejections.

Some 18 years after he first decided to write, Fountain finally Arrived.

“The ‘young’ writer from the provinces took the literary world by storm at the age of forty-eight.”

This past weekend, Fountain, whose stage presence is slightly more understated than his neighbor Skip Hollandsworth’s, sat on a panel, along with Hugh Aynesworth, Morning News’ Tom Huang and Dave Tarrant, discussing storytelling/reporting around a nation’s trauma, namely the JFK assassination. He also moderated a discussion about melding memoir with war coverage.

Last weekend the Morning News also ran a Q&A with Fountain about his recent novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, about a soldier returning from war and faced with the gross commercialism at Texas Stadium.His attempts at reconciling the multiple gaps between the war and the American way,” the News explains, “animate these pages.”

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 12.20.45 AM

Fountain will host a forum in Dallas Aug. 15. More details to come. Or call 214.977.8152.or email rwatkins@dallasnews.com


WANT MORE?
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.