Magazine Feature / People

Writing prof Laird Hunt publishes experimental new novel

After a death in his family, Harry attempts to escape his grief by fleeing overseas to a city that sounds like Barcelona but is never named as such, where he begins life anew, meeting different people and falling in love with a woman named Solange, who works on the street as a “living model” for tourists and has grief of her own to contend with — more happens of course but that’s a brief summary of events in Ray of the Star (Coffee House Press, 2009), an upcoming novel by Laird Hunt, associate professor of creative writing at DU, who took a cue from Swiss writer Friedrich Durrenmatt’s experimental novel The Assignment and wrote each chapter of the new book in a single sentence.

Hunt also was influenced by the work of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, whose irregular designs often confounded expectations of what a building should look like.

“That one-sentence mechanism is twisting things slightly and forcing me to be economical and resourceful as a writer. Everything feels slightly altered; it’s not a normal realist environment,” Hunt says. “That’s how I felt when I was walking through Gaudi’s buildings: ‘OK, here’s a room, here’s a kitchen, here’s a balcony, but then again are they really?’ Everything is slightly off.”

Funded by a DU faculty grant, Hunt spent a month doing research for the book in Barcelona, where he studied the city and its famous living statues that pose for tourists along a boulevard called Las Ramblas.

“I was pretty captivated by Barcelona,” Hunt says. “I had never been to Spain before. I spent a lot of time in France and Greece and London, but it was interesting for me to be in Europe in a place that felt really familiar on one hand — this great European city — but completely new and strange on the other. There was a heightened sense of possibility.”

Colorado State University creative writing professor David Milfosky wrote in his Denver Post review that Ray of the Star — which will be released in September — “has a mesmerizing quality that is hard to resist and is frequently dazzling in its evocation of both place and states of mind.”

Hunt, who lives in Boulder, has written three previous novels: The Impossibly, The Exquisite and Indiana, Indiana, all published by Coffee House Press. Denver’s Buntport Theater will premiere a stage adaptation of Indiana, Indiana starting Sept. 4. Visit for more information.

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