Suspend Your Disbelief

Brian Short


Brian Short received his MFA from the University of Michigan, where he received a Hopwood Award and a Zell Post-Graduate Fellowship. His work has appeared inMonday Night and Fourteen Hills. He lives in Ann Arbor, MI.


Reviews |

Once Upon a River, by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Bonnie Jo Campbell’s charisma is formidable, and her energy infectious. This same energy can be found in the churning rivers and restless characters of her new novel, the follow-up to Campbell’s acclaimed story collection American Salvage. The protagonist of Once Upon a River is Margo Crane, a teenager who has grown up along the fictional Stark River, obeying its currents and snooping for its secrets.

Reviews |

Swimming with Strangers, by Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum

The stories in Kirsten Lunstrum’s new collection, Swimming with Strangers, are smart, harrowing, dramatic, and quite often surprising. In one, the narrator describes the story of her own birth; in another, as the characters discuss fairy tales—one of the characters forces his students to read the Brothers Grimm in their brutal, original forms—the roles of witch and distressed damsel switch back and forth. While we could easily imagine stories like these in which thematic elements take over, Lunstrum keeps them at a low burble, focusing on the reality of these characters’ struggles. It is a very brave choice.

Interviews |

Those Magic Carbons: A Conversation with Eileen Pollack

Brian Short talks to fiction guru Eileen Pollack about the juggling act of writing fiction, teaching writing, and directing the Creative Writing MFA program at the University of Michigan. Her advice to writers: Be bold.

“The first thing I love, when I read, is the language. I can’t read anything where I don’t like the voice. What else do I like? I like plot, I like setting, I like humor, I like boldness. I think part of it has to do with being female. No one ever told Philip Roth to be more timid or nice, to have nicer characters or less sex, to not be as broad. And when a woman tests boundaries, it’s seen as unbecoming. We’re supposed to write these quiet, domestic stories or novels. I’ve just never been one to do that.”

Reviews |

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, by Wells Tower

The first things you feel are joy and awe. The stories in Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, Wells Tower’s first collection, are pieces that care, first and last, about telling a damn good story. Tower’s use of compression and summary to contextualize poignant or dramatic scenes is elegant and efficient. The granular and hilarious detailing of landscapes—North Carolina’s landscapes, in particular, are exuberantly and beautifully rendered in this collection—and of characters is solid, remarkable. The virtuosic moments in Tower’s prose make us gape, wince, laugh out loud: the hilarious or heart-rending one-liners, the hard-eyed endings, the way in which objects are imbued with astonishing, imagined inner lives of their own. But these stories are also relentlessly cynical.

Reviews |

A Better Angel, by Chris Adrian

The stories in Chris Adrian’s third book (and first story collection) are idealistic, relentlessly imaginative and existentially harrowing—(Flannery O’Connor/Lorrie Moore) x Kafka=Chris Adrian. Using a unique mixture of shocking imagery and surprising tenderness, Adrian illuminates the pathologies of the trauma-battered, those stricken by grief or illness who choose to funnel their angst into healing or annihilating activities. The results are individual, startling, and luminous.

Reviews |

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England, by Brock Clarke

I don’t actually want to tell you anything about this novel. I want you to go read it and then meet me at Sweetwaters in Ann Arbor, so we can talk about our favorite parts while sipping mocha lattes and nibbling cranberry scones. This type of behavior—informally discussing books in settings seemingly created for the informal discussion of books—is something that Clarke makes fun of in the novel, but then again, he makes fun of pretty much anyone who likes books, or talks about books, or thinks they are at all important. A significant feat, considering the fact that Clarke obviously reads tons of books, and loves them, and thinks they’re at least important enough to spend a few years writing a pretty good one.