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October 2023 Writer in Residence Peter Counter on Writing After the Unthinkable

Peter Counter was on a perfectly normal family vacation when the unthinkable happened: a stranger shot Counter's father, leaving Counter to drag him, wounded and bleeding, to safety. It was a moment ...

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Writer in Residence

Peter Counter’s latest book

How to Restore a Timeline by Peter Counter

How to Restore a Timeline: On Violence and Memory

A kaleidoscopic blend of personal essays and cultural criticism that explores the profound and occasionally horrific truths of what it means to be traumatized. 

When a stranger shoots his dad on a Costa Rican pier, Peter Counter hauls his blood-drenched father to safety. Returning home, Counter discovers that his sense of time and memory is shattered, and in its place is a budding new mental illness: post-traumatic stress disorder.

Counter begins to see violence everywhere. From the music of Cat Stevens to Jeb Bush’s Twitter feed. Walter Benjamin to Johnny Carson. Taskmaster. Video games. ASMR videos on YouTube. The world is steeped in gore. Again and again, Counter finds himself reliving his father’s shooting as his trauma is fragmented, recast, and distorted on a compulsive mental tilt-a-whirl.

Formally inventive and incisively smart, How to Restore a Timeline revels in a fragile human condition battered by real conflict and hyper-curated media portrayals of death. Channelling John Jerimiah Sullivan and Carmen Maria Machado, these essays look us dead in the eye and ask: What kind of life can we piece together amid all the carnage?