Author Spotlight: Craig Loomis
Craig Loomis is associate professor of English and Chair of the English Department at the American University of Kuwait. He is also author of A Softer Violence: Tales of Orient and his short fiction has been featured in the Iowa Review, Colorado Review, Quarterly West, Louisville Review, and Prague Revue. Dr. Loomis’ most recent book, The Salmiya Collection: Stories of the Life and Times of Modern Kuwait, comes out this March and is a unique unveiling of Kuwaiti society through a collection of stories.
Tell us about your upcoming book, The Salmiya Collection: Stories of the Life and Times of Modern Kuwait?
“For the last eight years I have been living and working in Kuwait, at the American University of Kuwait, and during this time I have been fortunate enough to have published many of the short stories that you will find in The Salmiya Collection in a national magazine here in Kuwait entitled Bazaar. Bazaar is a monthly publication that offers readers a myriad of articles about Kuwait, its culture, society and people. I see The Salmiya Collection as a bundle of mini-stories–call them snapshots–of, as the title implies, the ebb and flow of life in the State of Kuwait. Of course many characters and situations are involved in my Salmiya life-tide, and to that end, I have attempted to give readers bits and pieces of humanity at work in the gulf region.”
What aspect of the Kuwait culture inspired you the most during the writing process of your book?
“You have to remember that Kuwait is a relatively young nation, gaining its independence from Britain in 1961; and like so many of the countries in this region, Kuwait, too,–in its own Kuwaiti way—is struggling to define itself, and to decide how that definition measures up to other cultures on the planet. Again, not unlike other Middle Eastern countries, Kuwait, too, finds itself doing a cultural juggling act, as it seeks to find a healthy social and cultural balance between that which is Kuwaiti and that which is not, and then determining what is acceptable and what is not. This is a process I witness daily, and sometimes it is blatant and coarse, while at other times it is subtle and compassionate. Kuwaitis are a proud people, which can be both a boon and a bane. In my stories, I have attempted to capture this aspect of Kuwait, a work in progress.”
What was the process like in deciding on the order of each story? Is there a connection between them?
“No particular order. Or, I take that back, in the beginning I toyed with arranging the stories in a special order or sequence, but then, I gave up. I am sure readers might unravel some sort of hidden, secret structure, and if they do I hope that let me know what it is.”
“Although people can celebrate their individual countries, cultures, and heritages, the human condition does not change. Of course it goes without saying that, in many ways, an Arab can be culturally different from, say, a North American, but at the emotional and psychological core, we are, I think, made of the same stuff. We sometimes forget this because these days our world has a tendency to stress the differences, and more times than not, those differences are perceived as less than positive. The Salmiya Collection embraces this different-but-same notion.”
Who are your top five favorite authors? Did any of them inspire you to become a writer?
“It is almost impossible to answer this question. Over the years, a good many writers have influenced me. For example, to some degree, I have been mesmerized by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, and his obsession with terse, concise sentences, as well as what has become known as his “ice-berg theory” on writing; and of course I need to include Mark Twain, and his mastery of characterization. Finally, I certainly have to tip my hat to writers such as James Joyce and John Banville who were/are fearless when it comes to taking chances with language, style and structure.”
Any recommendations to readers for books to read that you have enjoyed?
“I recommend any book written by John Banville.”
Interested in learning about Kuwait, its culture, and society? Pre-order Dr. Loomis’ The Salmiya Collection, in print or ebook edition, now at the Syracuse University Press website.