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Author Maksik doesn't shy from truth in writing

BY LUCY TRANKINA | SEPTEMBER 19, 2011 7:20 AM

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Alexander Maksik is interested in absolute truths in his writing. Fellow writers say he uses this theme to expose characters.

"[Many] authors shy away from things such as sex scenes and feel uncomfortable," said Anthony Marrow, a peer of Maksik's. "He's not afraid of that. That's what makes his novels so explosive. It gives the writing depth and truth."

At 7 p.m. today, Maksik, the University of Iowa Provost's Postgraduate Writing Fellow, will read from his novel You Deserve Nothing at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., as part of the Iowa Writers' Workshop reading series.

The novel is about an international school in Paris and is told from three different perspectives, that of the teacher and two students.

"I'm interested in numerous viewpoints," Maksik said. "There are always numerous sides to every story."

Characters are the most important aspect of the narrative for him, but, he said, he does not want to dive into the pasts of his characters. Instead, he writes in the present and does not concern himself with what has shaped the characters. He builds on their present viewpoints and how they process the world.

Longtime friend Merritt Tierce believes this idea makes Maksik's writing fascinating.

"The reader is only given the action, and the mystery is left up to you," Tierce said. "It makes the story richer, and I get pleasure thinking about why characters do what they do."

Maksik emailed the manuscript of the novel to Tierce late one night, hoping she could help him edit the work in progress. She only planned on reading the first couple pages but ended up finishing the whole thing at 3 a.m.

"I don't usually read like that, but it was that gripping," Tierce said. "It sucks you in."

The book provides a juxtaposition of public versus private selves and the classroom versus the real world.

"The book's themes are universal," Tierce said. "It displays how you are supposed to live your life, but more than that, it's about why reading matters. It touches you and reminds you that reading is important."

This tale explores a controlled classroom environment and what changes when the people interact outside that space.

Marrow had a similar reading experience to Tierce's when he read You Deserve Nothing. He finished the book in three days while moving across the country.

"Alexander does more with one sentence than is normally done with a paragraph," Marrow said. "He is careful with language, and he has great respect for what words can do."

A relationship between the teacher and one of his students drives the plot in the novel. The racy element is something Maksik's fellow writers admire about the piece.

"I have great respect for that," Tierce said. "Anything that people don't want to talk about needs to be talked about."


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