Stuart Dybek is often mentioned in the same breath as Saul Bellow, Nelson Algren, Sherwood Andersen—male writers of a certain era who wrote realistic, place-based fiction. And yet when I began reading Dybek, I couldn’t shake the feeing that something different was going on.
Kim Church told me she was writing a novel titled Byrd the first time we met. We were at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) in Amherst, walking a lane after dinner, cows grazing in the adjacent pasture. I’m sure I heard “Bird” even when it became clear that Byrd is a character. The surprise of homonyms captured me. “This novel,” I thought, “will be poetry.” Now, four years later, the novel is almost out; I have read the galley and, I’m thrilled to say, I was right. Sparse and complex, Byrd (Dzanc Books, 2014) makes rich use of extended […]
I don’t read post-apocalyptic fiction, but I will read about anything by Lane Kareska. Lane and I were MFA students together at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Over our three years in the program, Lane and I met almost weekly outside of class to workshop our own work. We supported each other as our literary voices emerged. But when he told me that he was publishing North Dark (Sirens Call Publications, 2013), a novella, set in sparse futuristic failed state, I all but rolled my eyes. It’s not that I don’t see value in science fiction or the end of […]