Stories that start off with somebody dying always feel like a con to me. We all know the place in the story that the dying happens. Once you understand how the card trick works – look over here, keep your eyes on this hand, there is no other hand – the magic is gone, and it’s just sleight-of-hand.


Politicians as purveyors of short fiction.

A new interview is up at TMN this morning – Robert Birnbaum talking to David Mitchell. Here’s an excerpt:

DM: In a way, dominant novelists are actually political—politicians.
RB: Give me an example.
DM: I wasn’t clear enough. I mean, novelists are in the business of creating fictional narratives. Politicians also are in the business of creating narratives and then convincing the largest group of people that these narratives—not the other guy’s—are true.
RB: The difference, I think, is that the novelist strives for coherence and plausibility in storytelling. Politicians and political zealots and other hucksters construct a series of informational bits and images—a montage that may not or does not depend on a logical sequence to be convincing.
DM: Quite true.
RB: You wouldn’t normally mistake them as functioning narratives, except perhaps as the internal ramblings of an insane mind.
DM: [laughs] The story has to work when you read it—if you take them week by week by week they don’t have to be consistent over a long period of time.

NYT Sunday Book Review, 2010.4.18

Some interesting reading:

  • Review: Ander Monson’s VANISHING POINT: NOT A MEMOIR (Graywolf Press) – “Over the last 25 years, the memoir — or The Story of My Life, as Vivian Gornick calls it — has become one of the major gestures of American writing. In direct opposition to the literal- minded, linear and epistemologically naïve nature of many such works, there has emerged in the last dozen years a vital countertradition, what John D’Agata labels the “lyric essay.” It’s a form with ancient roots. Hera clitus, anyone?…” Continue reading “NYT Sunday Book Review, 2010.4.18”

Last minute wrap-up.

  • I mentioned this in a couple of other places, but please have a look at my two newest book reviews, both at the Star Tribune newspaper in lovely Minnesota. Here and here.
  • East Coast, looking for a last minute holiday recommendation for book gifting? Have a listen to Condalmo friend Michelle – she’ll be talking up some good books on the radio today. Here’s your link.
  • There should be a new review up at Identity Theory this week.
  • Have a look at this Christmas story.
  • Finally, here’s hoping you are all having a good holiday.

Short Story Month: “How the Broken Lead the Blind” by Matt Bell.

short story month graphicMatt Bell’s story collection How the Broken Lead the Blind is available now as a free download from his site.  I’ve read his stuff here and there; he’s got some work up at Fictionaut that I especially enjoyed.  Previously published by Willows Wept, this collection can be snapped up freeeeeee as a PDF file or via Issuu.  Have a look and pass word along to your friends.

(For more Short Story Month, click here.)

National Short Story Month?

As of right now, there actually isn’t a National Short Story Month, though some efforts have been made toward one in the past.  What will it take to get this thing off of the ground?  From TSP:

The people have spoken (some of them, at least), and the result of our poll so far is that a whopping 90% of respondents agree that yes, we do need a National Short Story month.

When I posted about this a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t realize that some had already declared May National Short Story Month, including Dan Wickett of the Emerging Writers Network and Dzanc Books, who put forward this idea two years ago. When we rolled out The Story Prize in 2004, I was making some noise about the idea myself (if you follow the link, please ignore the awful caricature), and it wasn’t the first time.
But it’s going to take more than a little noise to make it happen. For NSSM to come about and have any impact, it will need to have a strong organization behind it, a real concerted and nationally coordinated effort, and buy-in from bookstores, schools, and libraries, not to mention authors and publishers. Readerville has been kind enough to host a thread to discuss National Short Story Month, so please weigh in if you have ideas about how to make this happen.

Story Prize to be awarded tonight.

Don’t be distracted by the almost-hourly site redesigns here (, I hate you more every day) – it’s just paint.

The Story Prize is being awarded tonight:

The Story Prize’s annual event will take place at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium in New York City at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4. That  night, the three finalists will read selections from their work, after which Larry Dark will interview each writer on-stage. At the end of the event, the winner will be announced and presented with $20,000 and an engraved silver bowl. The two runners-up will each receive $5,000…

Now in its fifth year, The Story Prize, an annual award for books of short fiction, is pleased to honor three outstanding short story collections chosen from an exceptional and varied group published in 2008. The three finalists are:

  • Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Demons in the Spring by Joe Meno
  • Our Story Begins by Tobias Wolff

Follow along at the site linked above, or…

…if you’re on Twitter and you follow @ronhogan or @readerville or @jasonboog, and others who might be in attendance, you’re likely to get some real-time dispatches from The Story Prize event on Wednesday night. If you’re not on Twitter, you might want to think about signing up. Trust me, once you’re acclimated, you’ll find it interesting and useful.

This blog and our Web site will post the winner at or around 9:45 p.m.–to be on the safe side and keep from announcing the news before the event is over–but you may be able to learn the outcome sooner if you’re on Twitter. The actual announcement will probably come between 9 and 9:30. You can also follow The Story Prize @lcdark. I might have a thing or two to tweet from the event, if I have the chance.

You could also follow this dude; he might be watching things closely, if he can put aside the paintbrush.

Meanwhile, listen to the musical stylings of Tobias Wolff: