Still in Love
Published by: Counterpoint
Release Date: January 2019
Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, iBooks
Downing’s witty follow-up to Perfect Agreement satisfyingly transports readers. . . Downing poignantly illustrates the dynamics of the college classroom as well as its potential for lasting lessons, making for a resonant campus novel.--Publishers Weekly
Brilliantly sly and ferociously precise. Still in Love is a joy.--Jennifer Dubois, author of Cartwheel and A Partial History of Lost Causes
This novel is a treasure--a subtle, exquisite love letter to teaching, students, and the sacred space of the classroom.--Alexandra Zapruder, author of Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal History of the Zapruder Film
By means both wry and warm, Michael Downing elucidates the meaning of the classroom. Still in Love reminds me why he was one of my favorite professors ever.--Melissa Broder, author of The Pisces and So Sad Today
Still in Love is a rare occurrence in the book world, a lyrical and compassionate novel that is whip-smart and laugh-out-loud funny. Anyone who teaches anything should read this. (And for those in the business, the writing exercises included here are the best I’ve ever found.) But so should anyone who cares about young people, and learning, and love.--Michelle Blake, creative-writing professor and author of the acclaimed Lily Connor mysteries
OVERVIEW: The story of Still in Love
What could possibly be more impractical, more unwarranted, more unnecessary than a Creative Writing course? Why would any student hoping to acquire the skills and knowledge valued by potential employers squander fifteen weeks writing made-up stories? How can a parent be expected to pay as much for a semester of Creative Writing as Organic Chemistry or Accounting? Why should any school or university continue to fund these workshops for a dozen students instead of more 500-seat lecture classes or unlimited-enrollment online courses?
Still in Love is the story of one semester in a Creative Writing classroom and, I hope, a timely and compelling reminder of why we desperately need classrooms, especially those small, sealed-off-from-the-world sanctuaries that serve no purpose—except the Platonic Ideal of education.
This is no standard story of trial and triumph. This is the story of a brief interlude in the lives of twelve talented and ambitious undergraduates as they are forced to recognize their limits, to accept those limits, and, finally, to learn to love their limits.
And every reader is invited to enroll in this unlikely and unnerving and Creative Writing class. The arena for almost all the action is the classroom, and the novel is an opportunity for readers to take up the challenge of responding to original, engaging writing exercises, harsh criticism, and contrarian advice.
This is your chance to see how you would fare as a student at New England’s highly rated Hellman College.
At the front of this classroom is Mark Sternum, the veteran teacher who found himself at the center of a national controversy after he flunked an African-American student on a basic-skills test in my novel Perfect Agreement. Twenty years older, separated for six months from his longtime lover, this time Mark is saddled with an assignment to critique higher education at private colleges. And the loopy politics of the liberal arts. And he is desperate to duck the overtures of double-dealing deans above him and disgruntled adjunct faculty below him.
Mark Sternum has a simple, singular ambition every day he is on campus—to close the classroom door and leave the world behind. Which he does—until he runs into the Professor, the contentious tenured faculty member with whom Mark has co-taught Creative Writing workshop for ten years.
The Professor is a formidable foe—a merciless critic of the stories Mark writes to fulfill the assignments they give to students; an imperious purveyor of rules and regulations that are reliably at odds with Mark’s attempts to cultivate an atmosphere of ease and experimentation; and, unlike Mark, he has absolutely no interest whatsoever in the lives of their students outside the classroom.
It is the spectacle of Mark’s complicated wrestling-match of a relationship with the Professor that I hope provides a chance for students—and for all readers—to come to see what an amazing arena the classroom can be.