The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

and more...

Two short story books: Stuart Dybek's classic THE COAST OF CHICAGO and Mary Hood's HOW FAR SHE WENT--two 1980s classics that are now, according to my MFA friends, absolute staples of the MFA curriculum. In subject matter they couldn't be more different; in style they were quite similar. Hood's collection is set in the small-town South and inevitably it made me think of the canon of Southern women short-fiction writers: Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, Bobbie Ann Mason. They combine many of the common concerns of the Southern short story, particularly the conflict between the panoptic nature of the Southern small town and the dark secrets held within a family. The title story, "How Far She Went," is probably the most famous, about a grandmother protecting her slutty granddaughter from marauding bikers, and to my mind it was the most successful.

Dybek's COAST OF CHICAGO also boasts one very famous story, "Hot Ice," which concerns street-savvy kids in Chicago with a friend in jail and a story about a frozen body that they carry around (the story, not the body). Dybek's book felt very of-its-time to me--I read a ton of short fiction in the 1980s and Dybek certainly was influential on many of those writers but I think he was also influenced by them--even Ray Carver, whose subject-matter is quite different.


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