New Stories from the Midwest 2012

By John McNally; Jason Lee Brown et al. | Go to book overview

Introduction

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.

-1-

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New Stories from the Midwest 2012
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Editors’ Note xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • One - Mr. Scary 6
  • Two - To Psychic Underworld 22
  • Three - Townie 32
  • Four - The Amnesiac in the Maze 47
  • Five - The Deep 56
  • Six - Circling in the Air 72
  • Seven - Down to Bone 83
  • Eight - Starry Night 94
  • Nine - Peter Torrelli, Falling Apart 104
  • Ten - In Which a Coffin Is a Bed but an Ox Is Not a Coffin 117
  • Eleven - Drunk Girl in Stilettos 131
  • Twelve - The State Bird of Minnesota 146
  • Thirteen - The Five Points of Performance 156
  • Fourteen - The Baby Glows 170
  • Fifteen - Splendid, Silent Sun 172
  • Sixteen - Miscarriages 185
  • Seventeen - American Bulldog 198
  • Eighteen - Twelve- + Twelve 206
  • Nineteen - A Dry Season 221
  • Twenty - Schnecks 234
  • Thirty- Other Distinguished Stories 243
  • Contributors 245
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