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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wiseblood Books

Confession: I don't get short stories. Poems, by and large, are short snippets, a steady, heavy look at one big thought, saying one thing concisely. Novels create a whole world, an extended universe. However, as I've said to some of my friends, when I think of short stories, I see teenage chickens.

Yes. Teenage chickens. Newly hatched chicks are one of the sweetest things in the whole wide world. Grown up chickens, while they might be rivaled only by sheep in their level of stupidity, and by pigs in their stench, nonetheless have a certain dignity. But no one ever talks about the in-between-chicken. He is an ungainly creature. And that is my frustration with short stories.

I am, of course, frustrated by my frustration, because there are authors whom I adore, such as Flannery O'Connor, who wrote lots and lots of short stories. I've tried. Really I have. And if bourbon and good company and reading them out loud together can only muster feelings of mild appreciation rather than a delighted insatiable desire for more, well, then I guess I'm stuck. So I decided years ago to increase my acquaintance with O'Connor by reading Wiseblood, one of her two novels.

Like Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy, she'll make your head spin as you attempt to decipher simple plot lines. Like Graham Greene and Robert Penn Warren, she'll make you feel sticky and dirty in the heat and the dust. And like Walker Percy, she'll put you at your ease and discomfit you all at the same time by how unfortunately true her writing is:

"That's the trouble with you preachers," he said. "You've all got too good to believe in anything," and he drove off with a look of disgust and righteousness.

Like I said, it was several years ago that I read Wiseblood, but she's been on my mind lately because, have you heard? Farrar, Straus and Giroux are publishing one of her journals! There is an article in the The New Yorker that has some long excerpts from it; I recommend whetting your appetite. Is it outrageous for me to say that part of the reason I'm so excited about this is that I identify with her? Let me explain; she's a young woman trying to figure out how and why and what to write, and wants desperately to do well at it and do it for the right reasons:

"Please help me dear God to be a good writer and to get something else accepted. . . Don't let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story."

In all my searching and excitement for this book release, I came across another publisher who seems to be on the right track. Look into Wiseblood Publishing; they're doing a good thing.

I'm afraid that's all I've got for you today. I started my midwifery training three weeks ago, and my time and head are full of bio flashcards, placentas, and the distinctions between APA and MLA citations. Which I like! But, you know, not everybody wants to read about placentophagy. I'll spare you the details.


  1. I'm sorry that your head is full of placentas. That's gross. I enjoyed this post, though. To me, short stories are like sitting on your couch on a summer evening by yourself when suddenly someone bursts in the door, shouts something incomprehensible, stabs you, and runs away forever. Then you have to figure it out before you bleed to death.

  2. How can you not fall in love with that particular teenage chicken. I think he must be on the early end of the teens, all direct, wide open. Gotta love 'em!