Patrick deWitt

Patrick deWitt, novelist, short story writer, screenwriter (born at Sidney, BC 1975). A native of Vancouver Island, Patrick deWitt now lives in Portland, Oregon. His unusual road to literary success has led to two critically acclaimed novels and one produced screenplay.

Patrick deWitt

Patrick deWitt, novelist, short story writer, screenwriter (born at Sidney, BC 1975). A native of Vancouver Island, Patrick deWitt now lives in Portland, Oregon. His unusual road to literary success has led to two critically acclaimed novels and one produced screenplay. DeWitt began writing without so much as a high school diploma, taking inspiration from his work environments and the people that populated them. He has garnered international acclaim for his reinvention of well known subjects.

Drawing on the author's 6 years' experience working in a Los Angeles bar, Patrick deWitt's Ablutions (2009) follows an unnamed barman who begins to over-sample his work. As booze and patrons both living and dead eat away at the narrator's life and liver, only the notes he takes for a future novel prevent a complete breakdown. The novel is akin to Rawi HAGE's Cockroach (2008) in that, despite vast differences in subject matter, both deal in ennui and self-loathing, and contain within a brutal and quasi-autobiographical honesty. Writing the novel in the second person perspective, deWitt takes chances not just with content, but with style. Ablutions was named a New York Times Editors' Choice.

DeWitt's follow-up novel, The Sisters Brothers (2011), is a sly western that mixes the familiar tropes of gunfights and fists full of money with themes of family, work and personal introspection and revitalization. During the California gold rush, the neurotic and empathetic Eli Sisters at times assists, and at times criticizes his brother's penchant for violence and drinking. Like Guy VANDERHAEGHE's The Last Crossing (2002), deWitt's revisionist western explores themes of love and brotherhood, but owes its creation as much to a modern resurgence of cowboy cinema and other visual sources - deWitt found inspiration from photos taken out of Time Life's The Forty-Niners - as to any work of literature. The Sisters Brothers was the winner of the 2011 GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD for fiction and the 2011 ROGERS WRITERS' TRUST FICTION PRIZE, and was nominated for both the SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE and the Man Booker Prize.

Terri (2011, dir. Azazel Jacobs), an official selection of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, follows the life of an unusually large teenage boy and two fellow outcasts as they manoeuvre through the taunts and teases of a small town high school. DeWitt was engaged to write the screenplay for the film after Jacobs read a number of deWitt's short stories.

By looking at well-trod territory - be it the down-and-outs in a gritty L.A. bar or guns for hire in the Old West - with a fresh and candid pen, Patrick deWitt has established himself on the Canadian literary scene.