The Permanence of Absence

May 17, 2020

The Duchess of Albany flower from Schutt's garden in Maine.
Credit C. Schutt

Does the garden die with the gardener?

Join us as J. Bradley Minnick and his guest, award-winning author Christine Schutt, explore the answer to this question through Schutt's short story, "The Duchess of Albany."

The story deals with loss, isolation, meddling adult children, issues of aging, and the desire to preserve what others have left behind.

“The Duchess of Albany” is from Schutt’s short story collection, Pure Hollywood, published by Grove Press.

Author Christine Schutt
Credit Photo provided by Schutt

“The garden was not genteel. The garden was full of thugs, and Owen had shown her some. The Duchess of Albany was not a thug, but a racer on a brittle stem, a clematis with deep pink upside-down bells, deceptively frail and well-bred, small, timorous bells. The Duchess of Albany was a favorite of hers: how could she sell the house to someone who might kill the Duchess in the earthmoving buiness of  house improvement?”

Christine Schutt is the author of three short story collections, NightworkA Day, a Night, Another Day, SummerPure Hollywood.  Her first novel, Florida, was a National Book Award finalist; her second novel, All Souls, a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. A third novel, Prosperous Friends, was noted in The New Yorker as one of the best books of 2012.

Among other honors, Schutt has twice won the O. Henry Short Story Prize.  She is the recipient of the New York Foundation of the Arts and Guggenheim Fellowships.

Schutt's personal garden at her home in Maine.
Schutt's personal garden at her home in Maine.

She was awarded the Katherine Anne  Porter Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in May 2020. She lives and teaches most of the year in New York and spends summer in Maine. There, over the past twenty years, she and her husband have made a perennial garden.  

This episode features music by Emmy-winning composer, Silas Hite.  His music can be heard in TV shows, films, commercials, and video games around the world. Thank you to Adam Simon for the Gilbert & Sullivan tune. 

Thanks to David Wallace for sharing his voice as "Owen." A special thanks to Jeffrey Condran for facillitating this interview.  

Thank you to Stickyz Rock 'N' Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas.

Generous funding for this episode was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Executive Producer & Host: J. Bradley Minnick

Producer & Story Editor: Mary Ellen Kubit

Sound Mastering: Simon Sound Studio