Post-40 Bloomers

February 11, 2013

Tillie Olsen and the Writing of Fiction 3

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Tillie Olsen’s stories turned me into a fiction writer, as if they pointed to a door in what had looked like a blank wall — a door to which, as it turned out, I owned a key.

January 14, 2013

Post-40 Bloomers: Samuel Richardson, Persuading Pamela 0

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Modern readers might be somewhat amused to learn that this bodice-ripper is regarded as one of the early examples of “realistic” fiction. Is there any plot less true to life than the lord of the manor marrying his serving girl? But Pamela’s realism has little to do with the plausibility of the story. It lies, instead, in the novel’s scope and language.

December 10, 2012

Post-40 Bloomers: Shannon Cain’s The Necessity of Certain Behaviors 0

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The title of Cain’s story collection is polymorphously suggestive, teasing the reader into attempted decodings in reaction to the individual stories. In its context in the title story, the phrase has to do with a character’s complicity in her own idealization, but the collection invites us to think about the title more expansively.

November 12, 2012

Everybody Pays: The Extreme, Dark Fictional World of Donald Ray Pollock 2

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Pollock rockets the reader into a highly particular time and place. He never wastes our time circling about the airfield looking for a spot to touch down. We’re immediately there, in the thick of it. Pinned right where Pollock wants us.

September 28, 2012

Post-40 Bloomer: Susan Starr Richards Escapes the ‘Southern Boy’ World 0

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My time was always fairly equally divided between the horses and my writing, the difference being that the horses always came first, and the writing had to be fitted in around their needs and their schedules. But in my imagination, there was always a confluence of visions.

August 29, 2012

Post-40 Bloomer: David Abrams Taking As Long As It Takes 6

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There doesn’t always need to be a dramatic story to later-life publication — sometimes a writer may just be spending a couple of decades reading, writing, working, and living enough to know what it is he’s writing about. Often those intervening years are simply about showing up.

August 6, 2012

Post-40 Bloomer: Mary Costello’s Immaculate Sadness 3

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There is much sadness, of the starkly honest and lonely variety, in Costello’s stories. She gets it so right – achingly right – how love and loss are indistinguishable.

June 29, 2012

Post-40 Bloomer: Anna Keesey’s Little Century 3

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Little Century is a book I’d recommend to anyone who embraces the dark and bright sides of life with equal gusto.

May 30, 2012

Post-40 Bloomer: Mary Wesley, That Sort of Girl 3

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There was no stopping her now. She wrote like a woman possessed, scrawling on the back of old manuscripts and whatever she could find. She had a soft touch for dark themes, offering deception and adultery the same respect as the rest of the natural world they occupied. The only sin she couldn’t forgive her characters was cruelty.

May 2, 2012

Post-40 Bloomer: Spencer Reece, The Poet’s Tale 5

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We needed such a story. The romance, the sense of “close call.” We need these stories to counter the inevitability of obscurity; we need stories that kindle our sense of hope, and possibility. In truth, I wouldn’t blame fans or journalists for altering or exaggerating the story. I understand why we need it to be as dramatic as possible.