Yorkstater of the Month, April 2006: Bruce Coville

For me, and I assume many of my peers in their early 20s, the name “Bruce Coville” conjures up memories of little shiny softcover novels bought at middle school book fairs with titles like My Teacher Fried My Brains, The Monsters of Morley Manor and Aliens Ate My Homework. Coville’s imaginative works were about aliens disguised as teachers who gave too much homework, children who hatched dragons in their bedrooms and ghost-haunted creaky old buildings. They were wonderful, bizarre and far more entertaining than the standard children’s fare. I myself have stashed copies of his great classic, My Teacher is an Alien, in my attic for my children to enjoy.

However, I had not thought much about Mr. Coville’s books in several years until Natalie mentioned his name while we were discussing possible York Staters for this monthly column. I was amazed, and frankly a little embarrassed, that this pillar of 6th grade literature was living in Syracuse, less than an hour away from my hometown and I had never known it.

Since then, I have perused Mr. Coville’s
personal website and found a biography that discusses his life in our region:

"I was born in Syracuse, New York, on May 16, 1950. Except for one year that I spent at Duke University in North Carolina, I lived in and around central New York until September of 1990, when I moved to New York City, where I lived for two years. Now I am back in Syracuse."
While living Upstate is a prerequisite for recognition as the Yorkstater of the Month, we like to choose individuals who have gone further than that and have made a positive impact in the development of regional identity, helped to build our communities or help us to understand and celebrate our region. For this, we can look to Bruce's work.

Throughout his life Mr. Coville has continually turned to his hometown as an inspiration for his work and a place to leave his mark. For example, The Ghost in the Third Row is set in Syracuse’s supposedly haunted
Landmark Theater (a truly spectacular spot to visit if you ever get in the neighborhood) and The Ghost in the Big Brass Bed is set on Westcott Street where Bruce once lived and now has his office. Bruce also reads his work at performances of the Syracuse Symphony and once did a work in conjunction with Syracuse Stage. Bruce’s two companies, Oddly Enough and Full Cast Audio, are based in Syracuse.

Bruce, for your dedication to making Upstate New York a magical, bizarre and entertaining place to be a child, we salute you as our York Stater of the Month for April, 2006.

-By Jesse

Author’s Note: I’m sorry that this Yorkstater of the Month is so late… I’ve been so busy lately preparing for a vacation and packing up my belongings (I’m moving to Syracuse soon) that I just haven’t gotten around to writing much. -J


Dan Weaver said...

Thanks for introducing us to another Upstate New York writer. I used to sell Coville's books in my store and didn't know he was from Upstate New York.

My son is reading The Damnation of Theron Ware a minor classic by Utica writer, Harold Frederic. I was almost done with my M.A. in English before I discovered Frederic.

There are many "undiscovered" upstate writers.

I hope to put together a list of Mohawk Valley writers eventually, similar to your upstate writers' list.

Jon said...

Huh... thanks for the info. I want to read the Brass Bed book now since I currently live in the Westcott neighborhood. Jesse, where are you going to live in the city?

Jesse said...

I'm going to live on East Genesee a few blocks down (towards Armory) from Westcott in the attic of a big old house. I'm looking forward to creaky eaves and cold winter nights under a pile of blankets.