Suspend Your Disbelief

J.T. Bushnell

Contributing Editor

J.T. Bushnell is working on a collection of stories and a novel. His stories and essays have appeared in Poets & Writers, the Mississippi Review, the South Carolina Review, the Greensboro Review, the Tusculum Review, Natural Bridge, Reed Magazine, Fogged Clarity, Bluestem, and Brevity. He earned his MFA from University of Oregon and now teaches writing and literature at Oregon State University. His recommendations are The Assistant by Bernard Malamud, The Barracks Thief by Tobias Wolff, and, if you’re a writer, Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor.


Articles

Shop Talk |

Rejection Love

I save rejection slips. In graduate school, someone mentioned an acquaintance who had wallpapered her bathroom with them, and I liked that idea. There was something honest and humbling about it. So when I started submitting my own stories to literary journals, I saved the rejections, imagining I might do the same one day. It would be a necessary complement, I imagined, for a living room mantel cluttered with prestigious awards, framed reviews, and my many excellent books. I’ve long since backed off both the wallpapering and the cluttered mantel, but I haven’t stopped saving the slips. And I have […]


Shop Talk |

Under the Influence… of prepositions?!

Before submitting stories to workshop in graduate school, I spent hours combing my sentences for inefficiencies. I scrutinized verbs. I wrenched clauses from passive construction. I asked myself some hard questions about adjectives. My classmates often called my writing “clean,” which pleased me. I aspired toward concision. One term workshop was led by an intimidating man largely considered a genius among the graduate students. He introduced us to Chekhov and eviscerated stories with uncanny precision. When my turn came, I was nervous—with good reason. The week my story was up, he sent an email asking everyone to bring three pages […]


Shop Talk |

What Makes Gatsby Great

When I heard The Great Gatsby had been rewritten for intermediate readers, I did what many lovers of the novel probably did—checked the online version to see how my favorite passage had been changed, shook my fist, and then re-read the original, penciling all kinds of ecstatic remarks into the margins. In case you missed Celeste’s post, Macmillan has released a simplified version of the novel as “retold by Margaret Tarner.” Essentially, it relates the events of the Gatsby story without all the big words and elaboration. And so my favorite passage, two beautiful paragraphs of imagery and movement and […]


Interviews |

Perfume from Whale Vomit: An Interview with Keith Scribner

When WTO protestors mobbed downtown Seattle in 1999, breaking windows and burning dumpsters, Keith Scribner was a new father, and it made him wonder how it would feel to have that chaos on his own street. In an interview with J.T. Bushnell, Scribner talks about how those thoughts sparked his newest novel, The Oregon Experiment, what it means to pursue the writing life, and why perfume labels don’t list the ingredients.


Reviews |

The Bigness of the World, by Lori Ostlund

J.T. Bushnell considers how Lori Ostlund’s debut story collection, The Bigness of the World, filled as it is with “godless homosexuals scattered across the globe” would have likely pleased Flannery O’Connor, whose own work is “unapologetically regional and almost dogmatically Catholic.” Ostlund, who won the Flannery O’Connor Prize for Short Fiction last year, writes of the mystery beneath our outer trappings, an underlying truth that binds the two writers in common cause.


Reviews |

Call It What You Want, by Keith Lee Morris

In these thirteen stories, which move from gritty realism in the first half to magical realism in the second, characters are constantly engaged in the act of narrative construction. Again and again Morris structures his stories to obscure actual events, thereby forcing the characters to remember, speculate, or fantasize them into being, much like writers do. Only these characters are not writers—they are a meth addict, a car salesman, a bartender stranded on a desert island.




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