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Jeffrey Lent

Photo  Marion Ettlinger

(from the Grove Atlantic website)

Author Biography and Assorted Notes

This material is not only provided by myself but also gleaned from media interviews, which revealed otherwise unknown revelations, distortions and outright lies. Therefore, in the interest of fairness, I shall refer to myself in the third person.

Jeffrey Lent was born in Vermont in 1958 and grew up there and in western New York State. His education began at home where he learned to read at an early age and began writing shortly thereafter. Formal education began in a one-room school in North Pomfret, Vermont and continued in public schools until the eight grade when he enrolled at Glen Springs Academy in Lakemont, New York. Glen Springs was one of the many schools in the alternative education movement of the late 1960's and 1970's and is now defunct. Likewise his higher education began at Franconia College in New Hampshire where he studied Literature and Psychology and took part in the Great Race for Space. When that college closed in 1978, he took a year off from school and chased his first love from the White Mountains to the Florida Keys and back again to New Hampshire but failed utterly to convince her she was his soul-mate. During this time he composed reams of bad poetry and began forays into long fiction. He returned briefly to institutional education, enrolling for a year at the State University of New York's College at Purchase where he focused entirely on writing and the study of Literature but did not complete undergraduate studies. With the supreme moronic certainty of the twenty-one year old he left school, confident he would be published to great acclaim by, at the time, what seemed a conservative guess of twenty-five.

It took almost fifteen years, five failed novels and a tremendous level of creative lifestyle (read- miserable poverty) to attain that initial goal. During this time he learned serious and helpful lessons in perseverance, focus, and humility on what Jim Harrison so aptly refers to as "this bloody journey". He was fortunate during this time to have the support of many friends and family members, as well as a slender thread of connections with a variety of encouraging editors and agents. One of those agents, who shall remain unnamed, provided an unintentional but worthy boost when, after reading the 2nd of the failed novels suggested that Lent seriously (re)consider his life goals. This shit kept him going for a long time. There is, as has been noted before, no revenge so sweet as success.

But the true key and bedrock throughout those years was and remains, Marion Walton Lent, whom he met in Asheville, North Carolina in 1985 and married in 1988. First reader, best critic, staunch and steadfast in her belief, loyalty and love. Even the winter when they were washing their clothes in the bathtub because they could not afford a laundromat, she never faltered, never doubted. They now make their home on a fifty acre farm in central Vermont and have two daughters, Esther and Clara.

Lent never attended writing workshops, writing groups or anything of the like- determined that, fail or flourish, it would be done solely on his own. This is offered not as a recommendation for aspiring writers but simply as a measure of personality.

He is an outdoorsman, bird-hunter, student of the woods and fields, horseman, shepherd and half-assed Taoist.

Major literary influences include the Russians- Tolstoy, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, among others,- Stendhal, Flaubert, Faulkner and Frost. Chaucer. Beckett. And, of course, Chekov. Contemporary writers admired include Harrison, Ondaatje, Sebald, Hannah, McCarthy, the Irish writer Dermot Healy, Nancy Huston, and the Poets- Donald Hall, Galway Kinnell, Anne Carson and the extraordinary Jack Gilbert. Also all those old drunk Chinese guys. The best unknown writer in America may be Charles Portis.

Currently in the CD rotation are Bill Evans, Charlie Hayden, Bob Dylan, Junior Kimbrough and Emmylou Harris. Old Jazz on vinyl- King Oliver, Bennie Moten, McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Bix, and Sidney Bechet. When the soul goes dark the best relief is Mstislav Rostropovich performing the Bach cello suites. The Rolling Stones made 2 or 3 great rock and roll records. Love em or hate em, Grateful Dead consistently made the most interesting American music of the last 30 years. As somebody said,

" They're not the best at what they do- they're the only ones who do what they do".

The music we call classical runs the range from `early music' to the bizarre Symphonie No. 2 by Dutilleux.

Varietal wines are boring- thank god for the French. Anyone wishing to send wine should consider the Grand Cru Burgundies or Bordeaux. The big old thumpy wines from the Rhone Valley are favorites also. Single-malt Scotch is for people who smoke cigars. Bushmills is a perfectly lovely whiskey and, as the feller said, cranks the tractor just fine.

No internet contact here. Sorry. A central tenet of writing is to remove distractions. With that said, correspondence, care of Grove/Atlantic, is welcome and will be promptly answered.

The new novel, Lost Nation, will be published in April or May of 2002. ARC's should be available by the time this website is up and running. A new novel will be started in January of 02, following nearly a year of travel and research. This will be a big book, set in Nova Scotia, New York and Amsterdam. The range of story could be as great as three hundred years, with the coordinating time frame being the late 1920's. The only teasers are a trans-Atlantic liner crossing, an improbable woman and a cello. Works in progress are not discussed- this is not a conceit but rather a necessity- while a rough framework is needed, it is in the actual writing that the story is found. Too much talk or even thought beforehand is death.

Final thoughts:- A writer locks himself away in a room for two or three or ten years with a group of imaginary people. Clinically speaking, is this not a pathological condition?

-Samuel Johnson said Only a blockhead does not write for money. But recall, it was that little maniac James Boswell that truly delivered Johnson to us.

-The journey may well be bloody, but it is a life, not a job. Although some run dry, writers don't retire. They die.

-Reading is the original and ultimate interactive experience. The person who reads retains the agility of imagination that propel children so buoyantly through the world.

Best wishes to all and be of good cheer.

Jeffrey Lent

Cedar Hill Farm

November 2001

Titles by Jeffrey Lent

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