The Tom Wolfe Weekend Seminar: The Rabbit Hutch

Banner image of The Rabbit Hutch book cover promoting Tom Wolfe Weekend Seminar

"The Rabbit Hutch"

Featuring Author Tess Gunty

April 26 - 27, 2024

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Tess Gunty Author Photo Credit: Lauren AlexandraThe 2024 Tom Wolfe Weekend Seminar highlights author Tess Gunty and her debut novel, The Rabbit Hutch, which offers readers a raw look at the angst of young adults, the consequences of trauma, and the epidemic of loneliness in American life. Gunty is the newest participant in this series, which has included literary luminaries such as Amor Towles, Geraldine Brooks, Jennifer Egan, Jesmyn Ward, and Delia Owens. This year will be the 19th annual Tom Wolfe Weekend Seminar. Sponsored by the W&L Class of 1951 in honor of their late classmate Tom Wolfe, the program honors a distinguished writer and observer of the American scene.

In The Rabbit Hutch, Gunty weaves a tapestry of characters living in Vacca Vale, Indiana, a Midwestern city in decline. The novel’s focus is four young adults sharing an affordable housing unit after aging out of the foster care system. As the central characters contend with their nascent adulthood and the challenges of cohabitation, Gunty introduces other residents of the Rabbit Hutch, whose adjacent stories underscore the anxiety and hopelessness that permeate the book. The novel highlights the oppressive nature of modern life and coping mechanisms that range from the mundane to the eccentric, challenging readers to consider the consequences of capitalism, environmental degradation, and sexual power dynamics.

Tess Gunty has received numerous accolades for The Rabbit Hutch, including the 2022 National Book Award, the Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize, and the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize. The book was also a finalist for National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize and the British Book Award for Debut Fiction. In 2023, it was named to the short list for the Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award. Gunty’s debut was on nearly every best book list in 2022-2023, from TIME to Kirkus to Oprah Daily.

Critics and reviewers have praised the virtues of this New York Times Best Seller. 

  • Kirkus Reviews called The Rabbit Hutch, “A stunning and original debut that is as smart as it is entertaining” and a “darkly funny, surprising, and mesmerizing novel” that captures “what it means to be awake and alive in a dying building, city, nation, and world.” 
  • The Guardian said, “It’s a story of love, told without sentimentality; a story of cruelty, told without graciousness. Gunty is a captivating writer…”
  • The New York Times Book Review noted that Gunty “has a way of pressing her thumb on the frailty and absurdity of being a person in the world; all the soft, secret needs and strange intimacies.”

Tess Gunty holds an MFA in Creative Writing from NYU, where she was a Lillian Vernon Fellow. She studied English with a concentration in creative writing at the University of Notre Dame. She was selected as a fall 2023 fellow at MacDowell. Her work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Granta, LitHub, Joyland, Freeman’s, the Los Angeles Review of Books, No Tokens, Flash, and elsewhere. Gunty grew up in South Bend, Indiana, and now lives in Los Angeles.

Gunty will be joined in the seminar by two W&L faculty members. Genelle Gertz, the Thomas H. Broadus, Jr. Professor of English, will discuss women mystics and the role of Hildegard von Bingen in the novel. While Diego Millan, Assistant Professor of English and Core Faculty in Africana Studies; Millan will deliver a talk entitled, “Laughter, Transcendence, and the Ties that Bind Us in Tess Gunty’s The Rabbit Hutch.”

Photo of W&L faculty members Genelle Gertz and Diego Millan

If you would like to view the keynote address via livestream, please contact Lifelong Learning at lifelong@wlu.edu.


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