David Essinger, assistant professor of English at The University of Findlay, recently won first prize in Sport Literate’s annual writing contest for his essay “Hallucinating in Suburbia: John Cheever, Buddha and the Unabomber on the Urban Ultramarathon.”
The essay compares Cheever’s short story “The Swimmer,” published 50 years ago next July, to the seemingly inexplicable phenomenon of modern 100-mile ultramarathons.
Sport Literate is a literary journal that has grown into a yearly-published magazine. Each year writers submit nonfiction essays and poetry primarily about sports and leisure to Sport Literate to be considered for publication.
Rus Bradburd, college basketball coach and author, served as the judge for the submitted essays and selected Essinger’s essay for the award. Bradburd has published work in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Houston Chronicle in addition to the his latest work, “Make It, Take It” a critically acclaimed work of fiction about the college basketball game. Bradbird also is a faculty member in New Mexico State University’s master of fine arts program.
“I just recently started writing and publishing essays in nonfiction and I’m finding it to be a successful field for publishing,” said Essinger. “It’s a field where there’s a lot of interest and maybe fewer people are writing in the field now compared to literary fiction and short stories.”
Essinger’s essay combined a plethora of unconnected things that came together to talk about what the cultural phenomenon of extreme sports.
“More and more people are doing these strange and extreme events,” said Essinger. “It’s a very surreal experience jogging through the forest in the middle of the night in some suburban metro park. It’s dark, empty and there’s nothing there and you come around a corner where there’s dozens of people, bright lights and food.”
Essinger wrote about how hundreds of people line up to run 24 to 30 hours for fun.
“I dropped in some Buddhist and Unabomber references because I was trying to go really eclectic with it and it seemed like those jumps can fit in a creative non-fiction style,” said Essinger. “I tried to pull it all together by the social commentary aspect. All these threads were talking to me about what this cultural phenomenon of extreme sports is.”
Although Essinger has a background in fiction writing, he has found creative non-fiction writing to be an exciting new venue for his writing.
“Creative fiction is less defined,” said Essinger. “Ask a dozen people what creative non-fiction is and if any of them have an answer they all will be different.”
Essinger’s essay will be published in Sport Literate’s fall 2013 issue. Visit sportliterate.org for more information.
Written by Sarah Foltz