Praise for Sam Pickering: "The art of the essay as delivered by Mr. Pickering is the art of the front porch ramble."
---The New York Times Book Review
"Reading Pickering . . . is like taking a walk with your oldest, wittiest friend."
"What a joy it is to 'mess around' with Professor Sam Pickering!"
---The Chattanooga Times
"Pickering is a barefoot observer of the quotidian who revels in the spectacle and its gift for surprise, prefers the rumpled to the starched, has raised puttering and messing about to an art form, and wrings from it more than a pennyworth of happiness and a life well lived."
The movie Dead Poets Society is where most Americans first met Sam Pickering, the University of Connecticut English professor. Robin Williams plays the lead character (loosely based on Pickering), an idiosyncratic instructor who employs some over-the-top teaching methods to keep his subjects fresh and his students learning.
Fewer know that Pickering is the author of more than 16 books and nearly 200 articles, or that he's inspired thousands of university students to think in new ways. And, while Williams may have captured Pickering's madcap classroom antics, he didn't uncover the other side of the author-Sam Pickering as one of our great American men of letters. Like the music of Mozart, the painting of Picasso, or the poetry of Emily Dickinson, you can spot Pickering's writing a mile away; there's no mistaking the Pickering pen. As an ample demonstration of the author's literary gifts, Waltzing the Magpies is his unabashedly lush and Technicolor travelogue from Down Under.
On the face of it, Waltzing is the chronicle of a sabbatical year spent with family in Australia. Yet beneath the surface Pickering's big themes-family, nature, seizing the moment-move in a powerful current that frequently bursts out in moments of ecstatic revelation and intense sensual flourish. Through it all Pickering weaves stories from his fictional Southern town of Carthage, Tennessee, especially when the goings of the outside world get rough.
Waltzing the Magpies is classic Pickering at the height of his literary powers, and places him in the company of such great American essayists as E. B. White and James Thurber, but with an irony and observational prowess that is pure Pickering.
Sam Pickering is Professor of English at University of Connecticut in Storrs. He's the author of more than a dozen books of essays, including Trespassing, The Blue Caterpillar and Other Essays, and The Last Book. He is married and has three children.