Tag Archives: Fiction

Summer Travel Interviews and Readings: Richard Ford

Richard Ford, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Sportswriter, the wonderful novel that first introduced us to Frank Bascombe, is bringing Frank back in a new book, Let Me Be Frank with You, to be released later this year.  In this interview with PBS’s Jeffrey Brown, Ford discusses writing his Bascombe novels, reads from the new book, and tells a wonderful Raymond Carver anecdote.  If you’re traveling and you’d like to add a little depth to your highway-skyway miles, settle into for an interesting discussion of story making.

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Lorrie Moore Has a New Story Collection: BARK

Lorrie Moore has a new book of stories, Bark, and I hope readers take notice.  No one writes like Moore.  She’s always rich in metaphor and simile, sometimes poetic, sometimes astonishingly moving, and often very funny.

Her sentences are like mini-orchestrations.  Take for example the following sentence found near the end of “Beautiful Grade,” a story from an earlier collection, Birds of America.  Here, the narrator shows us how the adult main character remembers his own alienated childhood and part of a letter he’d written to his distant father.  The “He” is the main character; the “it” is his love-starved childhood:

He glimpsed it all from behind some atmosphere, from across some green and scalloped sea–“Dear Dad, How are you?  I am fine”–as if it were a planet that sometimes sparkled into view, or a tropical island painted in hot, picture-book shades of orange.

Who writes like this?  Lorrie Moore.

Then there’s the humor.  From her story “You’re Ugly, Too” (found in Like Life):

Zoe had been out with three men since she’d come to Hilldale-Versailles. One of them was a man in the municipal bureaucracy who had fixed a parking ticket she’d brought in to protest and then asked her out for coffee. At first, she thought he was amazing — at last, someone who did not want Heidi! But soon she came to realize that all men, deep down, wanted Heidi. Heidi with cleavage. Heidi with outfits. The parking-ticket bureaucrat soon became tired and intermittent. One cool fall day, in his snazzy, impractical convertible, when she asked him what was wrong he said, “You would not be ill served by new clothes, you know.”

She wore a lot of gray-green corduroy. She had been under the impression that it brought out her eyes, those shy stars. She flicked an ant from her sleeve.

“Did you have to brush that off in the car?” he said, driving. He glanced down at his own pectorals, giving first the left, then the right, a quick survey. He was wearing a tight shirt.

“Excuse me?”

He slowed down at an amber light and frowned. “Couldn’t you have picked it up and thrown it outside?”

“The ant? It might have bitten me. I mean, what difference does it make?”

“It might have bitten you! Ha! How ridiculous! Now it’s going to lay eggs in my car!”

The second guy was sweeter, lunkier, though not insensitive to certain paintings and songs, but too often, too, things he’d do or say would startle her. Once, in a restaurant, he stole the garnishes off her dinner plate and waited for her to notice. When she didn’t, he finally thrust his fist across the table and said, “Look,” and when he opened it, there was her parsley sprig and her orange slice crumpled to a wad. Another time, he described to her his recent trip to the Louvre. “And there I was in front of Delacroix’s The Barque of Dante, and everyone else had wandered off, so I had my own private audience with it, all those agonized shades splayed in every direction, and there’s this motion in that painting that starts at the bottom, swirling and building up into the red fabric of Dante’s hood, swirling out into the distance, where you see these orange flames — ” He was breathless in the telling. She found this touching, and smiled in encouragement. “A painting like that,” he said, shaking his head. “It just makes you shit.”

“I have to ask you something,” said Evan. “I know every woman complains about not meeting men, but really, on my shoots I meet a lot of men. And they’re not all gay, either.” She paused. “Not anymore.”

“What are you asking?”

The third guy was a political-science professor named Murray Peterson, who liked to go out on double dates with colleagues whose wives he was attracted to. Usually, the wives would consent to flirt with him.

Under the table sometimes there was footsie, and once there was even kneesie. Zoe and the husband would be left to their food, staring into their water glasses, chewing like goats. “Oh, Murray,” said one wife, who had never finished her master’s in physical therapy and wore great clothes. “You know, I know everything about you: your birthday, your license-plate number. I have everything memorized. But then that’s the kind of mind I have. Once, at a dinner party, I amazed the host by getting up and saying goodbye to every single person there, first and last names.”

“I knew a dog who could do that,” said Zoe with her mouth full.

Murray and the wife looked at her with vexed and rebuking expressions, but the husband seemed suddenly twinkling and amused. Zoe swallowed. “It was a talking Lab, and after about ten minutes of listening to the dinner conversation this dog knew everyone’s name. You could say, ‘Take this knife to Murray Peterson,’ and it would.”

“Really,” said the wife, frowning, and Murray Peterson never called again.

You can find the full text to “You’re Ugly, Too” here.

And you can find her new collection, Bark, on the shelves now.

Elizabeth Stuckey-French, Editors, The Quivering Pen and “My First Time”

Imagine if your dad once made editorial suggestions to Flannery O’Connor.

Novelist Elizabeth Stuckey-French claims this in her blog post, “My First Editorial Confab.”  Elizabeth teaches at Florida State University.  Her most recent work is The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, a comedy about a whacked-out 77-year-old woman set on murdering the doctor who poisoned her with a government-issued radioactive cocktail.

I did not learn of Elizabeth’s literary heritage until I happened upon her post on the literary blog, The Quivering Pen.  Her essay was part of a series on that blog entitled “My First Time,” in which writers talk about their first experiences with things like having a story published, signing a book deal, earning money from writing, etc.  Elizabeth writes about working with an editor and realizing that the biggest illusion of a good story is that it appears “to be effortlessly formed, springing right out of the ether like a gift from a benevolent goddess.”

My First Editorial Confab

Before my father died, he told me an amazing story.  When he was younger he’d been a student of the novelist Caroline Gordon, and as the years went by he and Ms. Gordon became good friends.  When I was a child, she was hired as a visiting writer at Purdue, where my father also taught in the English Department.  (She was a frosty woman who disliked children, so she’ll always be Ms. Gordon to me, even though my father named me after her—my middle name is Caroline.)  While Ms. Gordon was at Purdue, another of Ms. Gordon’s mentees, Flannery O’Conner, living in Milledgeville, Georgia, was revising her short story “Revelation,” and had sent a copy to Ms. Gordon to be critiqued.  She was an amazingly generous and helpful reader, and her letters to Flannery contain some of the most useful bits of advice about fiction writing I’ve ever read.

Ms. Gordon showed my father Flannery’s story “Revelation” and asked him to read it and offer some suggestions to Flannery, which he did.  And, he informed me, after the story was published he noticed that Flannery had taken his suggestion and changed some of her wording and used his!

(read the rest at The Quivering Pen)

 

 

The Generous Every Writer’s Resource

This weekend I came across the website, Every Writer’s Resource.  It seems to have loads of information for writers at different levels.  From interviews with editors of literary journals like Tin House to a list of WordPress themes for the blogging writer.  They have interviews, a blog, articles, and stories and poems.

Here is one of the many lists from the website that you might find useful: