Steven Millhauser! Yes, I know that news broke last week. But Anne and I attended the event on behalf of FWR – quite the literary crowd, Hannah Tinti further down our row, spotted Paul Vidich in the aisle. Here are some highlights:
- Don Delillo described going back to stories he’d written in the late 1970s and early 80s and not changing anything. Oh, wait, he took out all the semicolons, colons, and commas that magazine editors had introduced. He said it best: “I was a free man.” Cormac McCarthy, eat your heart out.
- Steven Millhauser, white floss of hair aglow in the stage lights, read like a man at the height of his power. His lovely-creepy story “Snowmen” would have been enough, but he ended with a thingamajig (his own term) about the dissolution of a marriage called “He takes/She takes.” Positively incandescent. I hope to Zeus someone filmed that on their smart phone.
- Edith Pearlman‘s dry riposte to some of Larry Dark’s questions about why the short story: “I was told as a child not to take too much of people’s time. I’ve been obeying it.” She seemed 1 part Edith Wharton refinement, 2 parts Dorothy Parker’s withering wit. Oh yeah, she’s also published – published – around 250 short stories.
- The take-home message? It’s difficult to earn a living with short stories. The Story Prize comes with a $20k award (plus $5k to each of the other two nominees). Prestige is a wonderful thing, but money gives a writer room to, well, write.