New Stories from the Midwest 2012

New Stories from the Midwest 2012

New Stories from the Midwest 2012

New Stories from the Midwest 2012


New Stories from the Midwest presents a collection of stories that celebrate an American region too often ignored in discussions about distinctive regional literature. The editors solicited nominations from more than 300 magazines, literary journals, and small presses and narrowed the selection to 19 authors. The stories, written by Midwestern writers or focusing on the Midwest, demonstrate that the quality of fiction from and about the heart of the country rivals that of any other region. Guest editor John McNally introduces the anthology, which features short fiction by Charles Baxter, Dan Chaon, Christopher Mohar, Rebecca Makkai, Lee Martin, and others.


John McNally

What does it mean to be a midwestern writer?

I first became aware of the idea of the “regional writer” in eighth grade when my father drove me to Greenfield, Indiana, for the city’s James Whitcomb Riley Festival. On weekends, my father and I sold concert T-shirts at small festivals and fairs throughout Illinois and Indiana, so I became intimately familiar with the peculiar histories of each small town across I-80, up and down I-57, and beyond. But who was James Whitcomb Riley? I wanted to know. Turns out, he was a famous Hoosier poet born in Greenfield in the nineteenth century. With the hope that Mrs. Davis, my eighth grade reading-and-writing teacher, would notice and be impressed, I bought a James Whitcomb Riley Festival T-shirt and wore it to school. But Mrs. Davis didn’t notice. and when I pointed it out to her, she had no idea who he was. How was it possible that she had never heard of this writer who had his own T-shirt? Was it possible to be too regional?

Well, no, I don’t think so. in an essay about the importance of place, Richard Russo writes about the fear (by some writers) of being labeled a regional writer: “The real fear of being labeled regional—in the sense of, say, Hamlin Garland or Sarah Orne Jewett—is its unstated implication. These writers weren’t more regional than Mark Twain and Faulkner; they, I believe, were less talented, less visionary, less true.” in other words: Fear not, O regional writer! Just make sure you’re good. Damn good.

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