Feature

Author of the week: Daniel Woodrell

Daniel Woodrell has made the most of his hardscrabble upbringing.

Daniel Woodrell has made the most of his hardscrabble upbringing, said Noah Charney in TheDailyBeast.com. Like many of the characters in his novels, the author of Winter’s Bone was born and raised in southern Missouri’s Ozark Mountains, where his family has lived since the 1830s. Woodrell, now 60, at one point wanted out. At 16, he dropped out of high school—because he “just felt eager for some form of adventure”—and soon joined the Marines. Years later, in the mid-1980s, his peripatetic ways nearly cost him his first book deal. He’d sent the manuscript for Under the Bright Lights to an agent, but he and his wife were too busy dodging bill collectors to worry about providing a solid return address. “In the Arkansas Delta,” he says, “a telegram finally found me, saying, If this is you, good news—call New York.”

Woodrell’s latest novel cuts closer to home than usual, said Allen Barra in The Wall Street Journal. The Maid’s Version marks, he says, “the closest I’ve come to writing about my own family.” Its heroine, a maid who tries to discover the cause of a catastrophic fire in 1920s Missouri, is partly based on a grandmother who, Woodrell says, was the person “most responsible for my becoming a writer.” He lives today within walking distance of the house where his mother was born. The Ozarks is “where I learned my values,” he says. “It’s better to be poor than to be beholden. Wealth is not the object of life. You should be polite as long as possible and, when you can’t be polite anymore, don’t run.”

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