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National Short Story Month: Five Questions with Four Writers

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Who are your five favorite short story writers?

Hemingway, Richard Ford, Faulkner, Cheever, Denis Johnson.   Also an honorable mention for Sherman Alexie -- he's not my favorite, but when I read The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven in my early 20s a door in my mind flew open, and I never looked back.   In a way the whole arc of my life was changed by that book.   Up to that point I'd only read the so-called canonical white writers (writers I love and will always love regardless of what the latest literary-political fads are) but I'd never read anything about the world I knew, and by the end of the first story I was floored.   "I did not know you could write about this stuff," was basically my response.   I have a lot of thoughts about this, actually, about what it means to come from a space not only marginalized but also stereotyped to no end, and what it's like to write from that space for people who will on the most part never experience in any kind of depth the world you write.   But I will save those thoughts for the next Q & A, which will probably never happen seeing as I've been miserably off-topic for most of this one.   But the real question is, could I call myself Blackfeet if I didn't change definitions to fit my needs, talk for way too long, and talk about things that have nothing to do with the topic at hand?   Jesus' Son, by the way, is the only story collection I've found that most fiction writers and poets agree on.   I know there are dissenters out there, but they just prove the rule.   It's an exceptional book for that reason alone, because writers are like Indians -- you can't get them to agree on anything.


What are five short stories that you would recommend everybody should read?

See, this is why I drug you through that opening monologue, because now my five will make sense.   Or, at least you will have insight into my, uh, way of thinking.  

  1. The Bear (Faulkner)
  2. The Old Forest (Peter Taylor)
  3. Billy Budd
  4. The Capital of the World (Hemingway)
  5. Tortilla Flat
  6. Death in Venice
  7. The Dead
  8. And that other one, you know, that one


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

 

I would fight this character in a story I've been working on for some time now.   His name is Will Betzel.   He's houngey, but he's tough.   He's also the cousin of the narrator, which is unfortunate and painful for both parties involved.   The narrator's got a great haircut, too.   Can't forget that part.  

 

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