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Peter Rock on Survival

"Survival is the theme that runs through my favorite books," says novelist Peter Rock, and he leans toward books that show young protagonists surviving in an unpredictable world. 

"Without even trying, many of my books have taken up an exploration of this topic, because feeling overwhelmed, uncertain and full of wonder is not a feeling I’ve yet escaped and don’t hope to escape," says Rock, the author of six novels and a short story collection. 

His best-known book, My Abandonment, is based on the true story of a father and his 13-year-old daughter who lived in an urban forest in Portland, Oregon. His most recent novel, Klickitat, is a young adult novel centered on two sisters and wilderness survival.

Rock lives in Portland, Oregon where he is a professor of writing at Reed College. 

He offers three of his favorite books on the theme of survival: 

A Wizard of Earthsea
by Ursula K. Le Guin

Best book about wizards and wizard-school ever. More importantly, about believing in unseen forces, and about finding yourself as the greatest power available. About shadows and strange animals, too. My dad read me this book at night before I fell asleep and that’s one reason I came to write things; now I read it to my daughters. And 40 years after my dad read me this book (and the rest of the trilogy, and Narnia, etc, etc, but Earthsea was always our favorite, our touchstone) Ursula has become a very good friend to me, the best writer, wisest, most generous person I know.

The Long Winter
by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I only saw the television show until the last few years, when I read the whole series to my daughters. They love these books, and so do I.  Whoa. I don’t know if Laura’s daughter did all that much editing, or changed the content, but I bet she didn’t touch these sentences, which are truly, truly astounding. This book is my favorite of them all! The snow, the train delays, the freaking twisting of straw to burn it, the hotness of Cap Garland (whom Laura totally should have married), everything. I love the way Wilder writes. My new book, Klickitat, opens with an epigraph from The Long Winter: “They were not walking hand in hand, but they felt as if they were.”

Island of the Blue Dolphins
by Scott O’Dell

Man! The way this world is delimited and how it changes, how quickly and seismically things change. The assessment of dangers, loneliness, the making of friends (dogs, even), the crazy vacillations of possibility, the sea, the weather. Every single time I read this I still can’t believe what happened to Ramo! Unbelievably sad and poignant, and the voice conjured here is so pure and fine, so fraught. Karana! This is pretty much a perfect book.



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