what it’s like living here

I wrote a guest post for Doug Glover’s blog, Numéro Cinq, in the series he’s doing on what it’s like to live in various places. Here’s the first paragraph:

In Columbus, Georgia, the seasons change, but they take their sweet time about it. First summer doesn’t want to let go, and then the leaves cling to the trees. Not until late October do the golds, oranges, and reds sprinkle this over-green world with color.

To read more…

summer reading II: story collections

IMG_0951With the intention of reading a story a night, a reader asked yesterday about story collections. I love that idea. No brand new collections to suggest, I’m afraid, but here are three great oldies:

Women & Fiction, edited by Susan Cahill, published in 1975. “Short stories by and about women.” Doris Lessing’s “To Room 19,” Jean Stubbs’ “Cousin Lewis,” Virginia Woolf’s “The New Dress,” Flannery O’Connor’s “Revelation,” Carson McCuller’s “Wunderkind”….Try to avoid the very pink 2002 Signet Classic edition.

You’ve Got to Read This, edited by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard, published in 1994. “Contemporary American writers introduce stories that held them in awe.” There’s a great story in here by Paul Bowles, “A Distant Episode,” chosen by John L’Heureux. Also, Annie Dillard chooses a James Agee story. Bobbie Ann Mason chooses a Tim O’Brien story. Lorrie Moore chooses a John Updike story….This is a good, solid book.

The Story Behind the Story, edited by Peter Turchi and Andrea Barrett, published in 2004. “26 stories by contemporary writers and how they work.” I was fascinated by Stephen Dobyns’ explanation of how he wrote his story, “Part of the Story.” He was inspired by Raymond Carver’s method. “…the first sentence had come into his mind and he just followed it.” Also, stories by Margot Livesey, Charles Baxter, Andrea Barrett, Robert Boswell….

Others worth mentioning:

  1. Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike
  2. Best American Short Stories 2008, edited by Salman Rushdie

Then there’s The New Yorker and One Story.

As far as the initial question, I assumed anthologies, but here are two new single author collections:IMG_0978

  1. My Father’s Tears by John Updike, out today and reviewed in WSJ book review mentioned yesterday.
  2. Do Not Deny Me by Jean Thompson, out June 9th. Loved her collection, Who Do You Love. Also reviewed in WSJ book review mentioned yesterday.

Of the single author collections I’ve read in the last couple of years, I would recommend:

  1. Don’t Cry by Mary Gaitskill
  2. Last Night by James Salter
  3. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  4. Animal Crackers by Hannah Tinti

So many good stories, apparently I could go on and on…

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the first days of April

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wisteria in Columbus, Georgia

“The first days of April were windy and warm.  White clouds trailed across the blue sky.  In the wind there was the smell of the river and also the fresher smell of fields beyond the town.”

from The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Carson McCullers was born Lula Carson Smith in 1917 in Columbus, Georgia.  Her first novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, was published in 1940, when she was just 23 years old.

I first read this novel in high school and didn’t particularly like it.  I’ve read it three times since then, amazed at the genius of the character of the deaf mute, the many threads of the theme of loneliness, and the depth of the writing.  Amazed that it was a first novel.  Amazed that it could have been written by a 23-year-old.

McCullers’ childhood home is located about fifteen minutes from where I live.  We’ve had a lot of rain in these early days of April 2009, sixty-nine years after she wrote these words:  “The sound of the rain was like the swelling sound of the sea.”