Autobiography and Memoir
“The sound of parenthood is the sigh.” So begins Gravity Hill, written from the perspective of a new father seeking hope, beauty, and meaning in an uncertain world. Many memoirs recount the author’s experiences of growing up and struggling with demons; Werner’s shows how old demons sometimes return on the heels of something as beautiful as children. Werner’s memoir is about growing up, getting older, looking back, and wondering what lies ahead—a process that becomes all the more complicated and intense when parenting is involved. Moving backward and forward between past, present, and future, Gravity Hill does not delineate time so much as collapse it.
Werner narrates his struggle growing up in suburban Utah as anon-Mormon and what it took for him, his siblings, and his friends to feel like they belonged. Bonding in separation, they indulged in each other, in natural and urban landscapes, and sometimes in the destructive behaviors that are the native resort of outsidersincluding promiscuous and occasionally violent sexual behavior—and for some, paths to death and suicide. Gravity Hill is the story of the author’s descent into and eventual emergence from his dysfunction and into a newfound life. Infused with humor, honesty, and reflection, this literary memoir will resonate with readers young and old.
Maximilian Werner earned an MFA in poetry from Arizona State University and is the author of the essay collection Black River Dreams and the novel Crooked Creek. His poems, fiction, creative nonfiction, and essays have appeared in journals and magazines, including Matter Journal: Edward Abbey Edition, The North American Review, ISLE, Weber Studies, Fly Rod & Reel, and Columbia. He lives in Salt Lake City and teaches writing at the University of Utah.
Click here to listen to Maximilian's interview with Tom Williams on Utah Public Radio's "Access Utah"
Table of Contents:
Part I. Trillium
Part II. Heat Monster
Part III. Canine Tableaux
Part IV. Earthshine
Praise and Reviews:
“A captivating, lyrical, multi-layered portrait of the narrator’s adolescence and contemporary parenthood. This story is not that of Terry Tempest Williams’s Refuge, nor is it Amy Irvine’s Trespass; its portrait of the region, the city, the characters and time, are distinctly different, irreverent, darkly funny, the story of coming into manhood in a city whose wild areas are the scenes of wild parties and escapades instead of solitary meditations. The contrast between the narrator and the Mormon culture of the region was something I’d not seen described before.”
—James Barilla, author of West with the Rise: Fly-fishing across America
“In this beautifully written and highly personal memoir, a forty-something father of two small children sorts through a past that includes plenty of fast cars, sex, and drug use. The quality of the prose is strong.”
—Paul Bogard, author of The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light
"Werner traces the Salt Lake City of his youth through the vague but still imposing line that separates Mormon and non-Mormon youth. Life's fleeting nature is the book's lyrical center that leads in to its many metaphors, from one-night stands with young women who wear this make-up, the teenage fondness for newfound intoxicants and, heart the book's center the LDS funeral services for a neighborhood infant Werner witnesses from afar."
—The Salt Lake Tribune
"Werner is an incredible storyteller, deftly drawing in the reader into what could be a mundane retelling but isn't. He will start with one story, then dive into the background and finish the story without the reader feeling like they've been taken down a tangential rabbit trail."
"Werner opens, closes, and paces Gravity Hill in the present, when he is a husband and father, and as fully enrolled in those tasks as any conventional family advocate. The voice shifts with the narrator's age, adopting a conversational tone appropriate to a teenager. At times demotic, soaring , elegiac, street, the shift can be disorienting, as the audible surface of this elegant man-of-letters in his forties suddenly dissolved and the 16-year-old horny, thirsty boy steps forward to continue his story, frequently needing to prove himself by cursing in a rough, but finally harmless way."
"He nests flashbacks within flashbacks, his remarkable prose—at times deeply poetic, at times simple and earthy—turning his poignant, funny, improbably anecdotes into the equivalent of reading a life flashing before the author's eyes, while he also tries to see beyond the 'bend in the road' that will one day separate his life from those of his children. The result is a kind of existential epic, but one full of acid trips, near escapes from tragedy and the haunting realization that 'the more I love, the more I fear death.'"
—Sale Lake City Weekly