Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Jess Walter (Plot Twist: Another White Guy)

Jess Walter is an American author of six novels, one book of short stories and one nonfiction book. He received the Edgar Allan Poe Award for his novel Citizen Vince in 2005, and his short story compilation We Live in Water (2013) won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. His work has been featured in Best American Short Stories, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Harper's, Esquire, McSweeney's, and Byliner. Walter lives in Washington with his wife and three daughters.

Being a straight white male, Walter is a man who fits perfectly within the classic literary canon. He has a habit of writing “loser men” who are down on their luck and turn to questionable means to make things write. In The Financial Life of Poets, a down-on-his-luck poet who turns to illegal activity to provide for his family. So, it’s a bit of a surprise that this short story would take place from the point of view of a successful woman who is entertaining a movie star who is questioning himself.

The only part of the story that is consistent with his larger body of works is one thing: his voice. Famous Actor’s narrator and actor have very strong and clear personalities through the pages. Walter takes his typical miserable guy setup and tells the story from the perspective of a woman. It is through these voices that we learn more about these characters and begin to care about them and their histories.

What do you think the author is trying to say with the voice of Katherine? Do you think the story works better in her POV than the Famous Actor or not? And why?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Eudora Welty

Original post (Sunday, 3/18): My post on Welty's stories is forthcoming...feel free to post your comments before I get myself in gear ...

Second post (Monday, 3/19): Referring to "A Worn Path," Lee Smith calls Eudora Welty's language "plain yet poetic." Come up with your own analysis of Welty's language (in any of the three stories you've read). Especially: look at how her language choices affect and direct the reader.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Flannery O'Connor (Nic)

Flannery O'Connor is one of the most respected short-story writers of the 20th century.  Her introduction in 3x33 crowns (or halos) her "the patron saint of the contemporary American short story" despite her last published work being written just before her premature death in 1964.  O'Connor was born at the tail end of the women's suffrage moment, joined the Iowa Workshop the year World War II ended, and spent her post-MFA life in her hometown of Savanna, Georgia throughout the Civil Rights movement. 

She fictionalized some of the most country-shaping movements of our modern history, bringing voices to the unseen and the uncomfortable.  She was unflinching in her work, as well as her commentary on such.  On the content of her work, she was quoted, "The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it." What a BAMF. (Sorry for the language, Catherine) While dealing with incredibly heavy subjects like sexuality, sexism, racism, religion and more, O'Connor's work is never heavy handed.  She doesn't villainize or victimize a single character, refusing to let her readers take the easy way out and choose a good versus bad character to love or hate. Everyone is redeemable, everyone is questionable, everyone is complex.  This, I think, is what makes her short stories so perfectly reflect human nature.

What characters in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find", "Everything That Rises Must Converge" and "Good Country People" did you feel the most conflicted over? Who did you want to dislike, but sympathized with in the end, or vice versa? Most importantly, how did O'Connor evolve these characters as you read? Find specific moments/lines that support your idea of each character, whether it caused, confirmed, or conflicted with your initial opinion. 

(You don't need to respond to this specifically in the blog, but be aware of how she balances drama with subtlety.  These stories' plots have "big" moments, murder or theft combined with an all-consuming epiphany or divine intervention [O'Connor was raised Roman Catholic and drew heavily from Gothic literature]. However, those plot moments never actually overtake the emotional resonance of the piece. The what never overshadows the who. We're going to talk in class on how the characters exist through the plot versus the story (like the 2nd subject in nonfiction), so be mindful of that as you read!)