the paris review
What a story is, is devious. It pretends transparency, forthrightness. It engages with ordinary people, ordinary matters, recognizable stuff. But this is all a masquerade. What good stories deal with is the horror and incomprehensibility of time, the dark encroachment of old catastrophes—which is Wallace Stevens, I think. As a form, the short story is hardly divine, though all excellent art has its mystery, its spiritual rhythm.
- Joy Williams (from The Paris Review)
madness rack and honey
Eighty-five percent of all existing species are beetles and various forms of insects.
English is spoken by only 5 percent of the world’s population.
I have a short story in Barrelhouse's Comedy Issue. Here’s the first paragraph:
The city had given Ruckledge his name, and now he wanted out. A clean break. Three decades of professional baseball, as both a player and a coach, and what did he have to show for it? Two botched marriages (three, if you counted the attorney in his second divorce, a union annulled soon after the boozy nuptials). He was all but estranged from his children, and the friendships he had forged early in his playing career were foundering with time and distance. Ruckledge could feel his body circling before its final descent. Already his prostate would flare up at certain times during the day (evenings, mostly), and he needed only to walk a few blocks before his legs seized in an act of recalcitrance. When a former teammate by the name of Pendergraph, during an autograph session at a downtown shopping mall, offered Ruckledge use of his lakeside property for the summer, he accepted. It would give him the chance to sample life outside of the city limits.
(Email me to read an alternate version of the story.)
I think many artists of my generation are interested in how information is received and forwarded. We are in an age of information and I feel like I am on constant overload—one step behind or ahead of the latest. The recurring urgent message creates perpetual anxiety. It’s a normalized anxiety that becomes funny because it’s so ubiquitous and habitual. For me, painting is one way to distill and export. Sometimes I think my paintings are like big headlines, each one a container for its own bit of information. They are pretty direct, printed in boldface, per se, but also quiet and loaded. As pictures, they function singularly, but if you see enough of them you’ll get more of the whole story—it’s a sincere tale, but a parody at the same time, one that chronicles my tragic and comic love affair with painting.
- Amy Feldman
Three Condensed Hemingway Stories
"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" (1933)
"The Old Man at the Bridge" (1938)
"Hills Like White Elephants" (1927)
The notable thing, it seems to me, about great pictures is that everything fits. There is nothing extraneous. There is nothing too much, too little, and everything within that frame relates. Nothing is isolated. The reason that becomes so moving is that the artist finally says that the form that he or she has found in that frame is analogous to form in life. The coherence within that frame points to a wider coherence in life as a whole. Why is that important? I think art is the sworn enemy of nihilism. And nihilism is a great downward tug that we all feel.
- Robert Adams
Claudia Smith reviewed Understudies for Necessary Fiction:
Reading Understudies is something akin to binge watching The Office all alone, during a transitional period in your life, with a cheap air conditioning window unit blasting to keep the night heat out.
very short fiction
Super honored to have my story “Feats of Strength" selected for the Wigleaf Top 50. Erin Fitzgerald and Ben Loory have put together an incredible reading list (one that should keep me busy for the next few weeks).
The writing of fiction, when it is going well, is an exercise in joy, in figuring out how to love the world, at least imaginatively, with the illusion that yes, imaginatively, you can encompass and understand its entirety. An illusion, to be sure, a too brief illusion. Yet that, the imagination, is what is best about us as a species. Or best, most agonizing, most destructive. Fiction can net at least some of this.
- Stanley Crawford interviewed at BOMB