Wednesday, February 12, 2014
A faculty member at Kansas City Kansas Community College has been recognized for his literary prowess.
Gregg Primo Ventello, who teaches African American literature, Composition I and II, Precomposition and a gender studies course at KCKCC, was recognized for having a Notable Essay in the “Best American Essays 2013.” Written about his car, “Das Schweinehund,” first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2013 issue of a University of North Carolina journal, “Carolina Quarterly.”
“When I found out, I was pretty excited, enough that I had trouble thinking clearly for a few minutes,” he said. “Being recognized in a national anthology is something that may have been a dream of mine, but I never imagined it would happen.”
Because the Best American series has been around for several years, Ventello said “it’s an honor for a writer.” Visit www.hmhbooks.com/hmh/bestamerican/essaysbookdetails to see his name among the Notable Essays. Select the “Notables” tab and then “U-V.” Ventello is listed as Primo Ventello.
“I don’t know if I love writing, but I definitely love having written,” he said. “The process is always hard, and I lose myself in it. The everyday things sort of fall away, which is good. Doing it always makes me feel better. Writing is my vent, my refuge. It keeps me balanced and sane.”
The piece talks about Ventello’s Volkswagen Passat, which he calls “Das Schweinehund” (the German translation is “pig-dog”). The humorous essay focuses on Ventello’s initial hesitation to purchase the German car from his sister-in-law and then highlights the mechanical problems he runs into. As the essay continues, he details his attempts to do everything he can to fix the problems without taking it to the Volkswagen dealer for the specific parts, and sometimes tools needed to address the issues.
Ventello said he was inspired to write the essay after reading an essay by author Thomas Kennedy about the frustrations of not being able to get a clear diagnosis for an ailment he was suffering.
“At the time, I was very frustrated with the car I was driving, so I thought I could do a similar essay,” he said. “It was a German car that was too expensive to maintain and broke down a lot. I nicknamed it the “Schweinehund,” which is the title of the essay, and a German expletive that means ‘pig-dog.’”
Another one of Ventello’s essays, “The Commuter,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2010. Detailing his dreaded commute from his Lawrence home every day to KCKCC, it appeared in the University of Missouri-Kansas City journal, “News Letters,” in 2009.
“I’m always working on something,” he said. “I have a piece of fiction that was recently accepted to a journal called “Consequence,” which is in Boston. It’s a narrative of my uncle’s experiences in World War II and should appear this semester some time.”