Following the Reflections
of a Storyteller
Essays and Stories by Max Schott
When Max Schott was a boy he dreamed of being a cowboy, of working on ranches, of training cow-horses, and, secretly, of becoming a rodeo star. He did grow up to work on ranches, and eventually turned himself into a good professional horse trainer. He competed in rodeos, too, for some fifteen years, imagining, for most of that time, that rodeo-stardom was just ahead. It wasnt, and the daydream died hard. With writing it was different. When he began to writeat a time when he was still dreaming of rodeo famethe attempts to put words on paper were not connected to any clear ambition, or to hopes for the future. He wrote for no apparent reason, or, to put it differently, because it interested him and he enjoyed it.
At thirty, feeling in need of an education, he returned to school as a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. There he took classes from Marvin Mudrick, a prominent literary critic. When Mudrick was asked to start a new college at the University, he founded the College of Creative Studies and a little later asked Max if hed teach there too.
Keeping WarmEssays and Stories is an eclectic collection of Max Schotts writing, most of it written over the last decade. Some of the essays are about teachingthe people hes known, the struggles and successes within a University, his pleasures and frustrations. Some of the essays are about the literature hes taught and the writers hes studied. Other essays are about life as a cowboy. Still others are short observations that appeared in a weekly column published in The Independent, one of Santa Barbaras local papers. There are diaries about his father and his fathers death. There is an essay about the myth of an easy life in Santa Barbara. There are a few essays about reading. But all the writing in Keeping Warm is united by Max Schotts quiet and accurate reflection on human nature, his love of the characters and places he writes about, and a seemingly unending curiosity about where his subject will lead him.
A book of essays can easily be overlooked. Its true they may not take us to any distant or exotic place, nor will they distract us with tales of romance or mystery. But Keeping Warm is a collection that gives a view into an inner life. We are privileged to follow the thinking and intelligence of someone who is smart and good hearted and whose curiosity about human nature and what we do because of it leads him to quietly remarkable destinations. For this alone its worth following Max Schott wherever he takes us.
Max Schotts stories and essays have been widely published in magazines; his work has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, and The Pushcart Prize; and he is the author of three highly acclaimed books, Murphys Romance, Up Where I Used to Live, and Ben. He lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, Elaine.