|Tony Doerr with then-student Joy Frank-Collins in 2009|
We invited Doerr here after I had read The Shell Collector and recommended it to colleagues and just after he had published Four Seasons In Rome (which I reviewed here). While here, he read portions of the story "Memory Wall," which became the title piece in his second collection of short stories (which I reviewed here). At his reading, he told us that writers try to draw readers into a dream and hope they don't wake up (read about it here).
His acclaimed novel All the Light We Cannot See weaves together the dreams of a young German soldier and a blind French girl during World War II, touching on many themes common to Doerr's work: memory, alienation, human suffering, and the moments of meaning and beauty that bridge the distances between people and across time. The novel well deserves the Pulitzer and I hope it will draw more readers to his other work as well, but I will always think of Tony Doerr as the guy who sat with our students and talked about their writing with an intensity and insight other writers might reserve for their own work.
He treated our students like writers. In my book, there is no greater prize.