Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘recommended reading’

Shop Talk |

One book to rule them all

A recent discussion on the community blog Metafilter asked, “Please tell me one book you think everyone should read and why. Fiction or nonfiction, doesn’t matter. I’m not so interested in hearing about your favorite book or your desert island book, but a book you think everyone would benefit from reading.” In a matter of hours, over a hundred people responded with their recommendations. Many suggested nonfiction—from Richard Dawkins to Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond to The Art of War to the Bible—but surprise! Many others felt that the one book everyone should read would be fiction. Here’s […]


Shop Talk |

Halloween lit

We don’t usually think of Halloween as a “reading” kind of day, but I can think of at least a couple of Halloween-related stories. In Lorrie Moore’s classic short story “You’re Ugly, Too,” a history professor escapes her life by visiting her sister over Halloween weekend–to attend what may be the most painfully awkward Halloween party in literature: Zoe put on her bonehead. […] When Earl arrived, he was dressed as a naked woman, steel wool glued stretegically to a body stocking, and large rubber breasts protruding like hams. “Zoe, this is Earl,” said Evan. “Good to meet you,” said […]


Shop Talk |

Stories We Love: "Irish Girl"

I don’t mind admitting that I get stuck as a writer—occasionally. Well, pretty often. Okay, I mean constantly. And I’m not talking about jamming up over a flowery paragraph or a pivotal scene. I’m saying that I’ll be four pages into a new story (on what I’ve come to imagine on my worst days as the road to hell, thanks to a willful misinterpretation of Ron Carlson Writes a Story) and I’ll not only forget how to write a sentence, but I’ll lose sight of how a short story should even look. I used to feel ashamed about my lapse […]


Essays |

The Problem of the Author: On Not Reading Autobiography into the Writing of Andre Dubus

What is the difference between art and life, between the writer and the writing? In this essay on the late, great Andre Dubus, we learn how Dubus recognized “transformative moments” as authors Richard Ford and Anne Beattie, among others, weigh in on his talents, and his legacy.


Shop Talk |

Stories We Love: "Ballerina, Ballerina"

(Editor’s note: “Stories We Love” made its debut as part of Fiction Writers Review’s Short Story Month celebration. But we love short stories year-round. So here’s another installment, courtesy of FWR contributor Tyler McMahon.) As an undergraduate, I took my first fiction-writing workshop around 1997. It didn’t go well. My peers were entrenched in Mafia stories and Christian parables. I failed to find my voice. The instructor was accepted into law school for the following fall, and declared there was no future in writing. Near the semester’s end, she invited one of her fellow graduate students, Eric Rickstad, to visit. […]


Shop Talk |

Stories We Love: "Map of the City"

Editor’s note: What? Isn’t Short Story Month over? Yes, it is—but that doesn’t mean we stop loving short stories. So here’s an encore round of “Stories We Love.” In “Map of the City,” a story from her new collection Separate Kingdoms, Valerie Laken portrays the life of an American college student in perostroika-era Moscow. The story is brilliantly structured—the names of Moscow metro stations head the various sections, each of which captures a new moment in time and space and thereby mimics the experience of using the subway: you descend into one station and resurface at another. Perestroika, after all, […]


Shop Talk |

Curl Up with some Good Stories…from Narrative

Is SSM really almost over?! Thankfully we can read stories year round, but I still feel the urge (while they’re center stage) to list two recommendations this week. They both come from Narrative magazine, which does require (free) registration. But I promise, these stories are so good, it’s worth filling out a quick form to read them. And Narrative offers a huge, inspiring, and ever-growing archive of fiction from emerging writers to authors as well known as Margaret Atwood and T. C. Boyle; if I weren’t headed to a wedding this afternoon, I might curl up with this site all […]


Shop Talk |

Stories We Love: "Incarnations of Burned Children"

When I first read William Faulkner, in high school, it felt less like reading a book and more like an archeological find—unearthing something long dormant that I’d always known. His cadence, and that humid, repetitious, biblical world of the South, tapped into something in my bones. The first time I read David Foster Wallace’s “Incarnations of Burned Children,” at my brother’s strenuous recommendation, it struck me the same way—whole cloth, True in the capital-letter sense of the word, so perfect I didn’t want to deconstruct it as a writer, lest I drain a bit of its magic. A writing teacher […]


Shop Talk |

Stories We Love to Teach: "Tiny, Smiling Daddy"

I use “Tiny, Smiling Daddy,” from Mary Gaitskill’s collection Because They Wanted To, to help fiction students understand the value of stories that lack epiphanies, or any clear transformation in their characters. In Gaitskill’s story, a father who has long struggled with his only child’s sexuality finds that his daughter has published an essay about their difficult relationship, one in which she articulates the limitations of her father’s love. The father, aptly named Stew, is insulted, embarrassed, and rocketed back to moments in the past, gaps in understanding that have left him feeling assaulted and alone. In large part, his […]




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