John McManus is a novelist and short story writer. His fourth book of fiction, the story collection Fox Tooth Heart, was published in 2015. His first book, the story collection Stop Breakin Down, won him the Whiting Writers’ Award in 2000, and it was at this time that collectedstories.com spoke with him.
Ha Jin (pseudonym of Xuefei Jin) is an award-winning Chinese American poet, novelist, short story writer, and professor. He currently teaches at Boston University. He taught at Emory University when the following interview was conducted.
Like the main character, Glory, who infuses most of the 21 stories in the collection Glory Goes and Gets Some, author Emily Carter moved to Minnesota, which she labels in the book as “land of Ten Thousand Treatment Centers,” for drug rehab.
Dagoberto Gilb’s Woodcuts of Women (Grove Press) is a collection of lust stories. Set in the author’s native Southwest, they are tales of working class men and women struggling to find redemption through one another. They dance the dance of fear and bravado, hope and betrayal, and straight up physical need. As often as not, desire is expressed most acutely in the emptiness of failure and the solitude of loss, but these characters never really fall to despair.
If you thought the shortest form of fiction was flash fiction, also known as the short short at anywhere from some 200 to 1500 words, then chances are you haven’t come across the work of Richard Kostelanetz; he writes single-sentence fictions, stories composed of one to three words, or even of numbers and of line-drawings, as well as fictions with only three words and a period to a page.
That night, I rode my bike out of Red Hook to Tam’s, passing through the quiet streets and across the BQE. She lived in Cobble Hill, which at one time had been incredibly affordable, but recently had become clogged with baby-strollers and mean-eyed Jamaican and Polish nannies who surged down sidewalks as if they owned them. I had keys to Tam’s apartment, which she’d given me a couple months before, not out of any romantic impulse but out of pure, practicable need; when she went out of town, on tour with the band, I went over to water her plants and collect her mail. I grabbed her mail now — bills mostly for Tamara Wing, a card for Tamara Pulaski. She’d changed her last name long ago as a way to rid herself of the final vestiges of her family in Pittsburgh. The card was from her mother, Marjorie.
My father believed that the gap between us began the year I turned thirteen though, in truth, it merely widened then. An absentee parent, he had left me in the charge of an elderly German woman from an early age. Ortrud Randersacker cooked and cleaned with venomous efficiency, never indulged my nonsense and fell asleep in front of the television every afternoon soon after I arrived home from school. When, in my twelfth year, she died of heart failure during the daytime soaps, I waited until The Sonny and Cher Variety Show had ended before I called for help. I feared Ortrud’s wrath more than I feared her dead body. At her funeral, a somber affair followed by booze and polkas, I was the only person who wept.
Joe missed sitting on the stoop with Hoover and Lou in the old neighborhood, drinking Ballantines and watching the parade of humanity up and down Dekalb Street. They would chuckle at the packs of roaming teenage boys, their restlessness palpable, some of whom they could remember in diapers. He had grown nostalgic for the pleasant hum of voices from the streets mingled with distant music from apartments and passing cars. He also missed his former students at Adlai Stevenson High where he had taught history for twenty-eight years before his retirement last year. Even though most of them were going nowhere, their exuberance had made him feel young. The wrinkled faces that now surrounded him sent him to the mirror to examine the lines that crisscrossed his own at unpredictable angles.
My father called one spring night from Brooklyn and said, “Anatole, you up for a drive?” I hadn't spoken to him in over twelve years. I thought it was a prank and hung up. He called back, repeated the question. “Nothing urgent,” he added. “Aw, well, that's a lie. Put a fork in me; I'm dying.” And in between the silences, my chest moved, and I broke.
The new year was not starting any better than the last had ended. It was only the second of January, but already Maggie felt the strain of despair making its home squarely between her shoulder blades, a tight pain blooming closer and closer to her ribs with each wet shovel of snow she heaved aside. In the last twenty-four hours, thirteen inches had been dumped on her driveway. And it wasn't the calm winter wonderland floating kind of snow either, not the kind that made you want to pull a chair up to the bay window with a mug of cocoa and watch it blanketing the stiff grass.
"Tell me about when I was a baby," I say to my mother. I'm back for a visit, and I want to hear the story of my life, from the beginning. "What?" my mother calls from the kitchen. "You know I can't hear you when I'm in here, and you're out there." I rise from my spot on the sofa -- how many times have we had this go-around?