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National Short Story Month: Five Questions with Five Writers

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Shann Ray, author of "American Masculine"

What is your favorite opening line of a short story?

"First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl name Martha." From Tim O'Brien's classic The Things They Carried. Love, war, loneliness, and loss from the first sentence to the last.

Name one short story that inspired you to write short stories yourself?

Yes, The Things They Carried, a near immaculate short story, full of soul, desperation, and undying love.

Who are your five (or so...) favorite short story writers?

Richard Ford, Sherman Alexie, Melanie Rae Thon, Tolstoy, Dickens, Dagoberto Gilb, Louise Erdrich, Bill Kittredge, Richard Bausch, Siobhan Fallon, Al Heathcock, Tim O'Brien, Claire Davis, Annie Proulx, Maile Meloy, and a few thousand more.

What are five (or so...) short stories that you would recommend everybody should read?

Tolstoy's How Much Land Does a Man Need, and The Three Hermits; Sherman Alexie's Cry, Cry, Cry; Jess Walter's Statistical Abstract of My Hometown; Siobhan Fallon's Gold story; Al Heathcock's Lazarus, and all the stories linked in Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine.

If you could fight any character in a short story who would that be?

I'd take a horse and chase down the child-harming criminal in Al Heathcock's gruesome and chilling murder story in Volt, bulldog him to the ground and see what happened. I once asked my dad, what are you thinking about in a fight, and he answered, "I'm going in with my eyes open and I'm bringing my lunch."


My answers:  

What is your favorite opening line of a short story?  

"She was beautiful and lithe, with soft skin the color of bread and eyes like green almonds, and she had straight black hair that reached to her shoulders, and an aura of antiquity that could just as well have been Indonesian as Andean." -- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, "Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane."

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