Dale is a fiction writer, essayist, and freelance journalist living in Austin, Texas. His writing has been featured in publications including The Rumpus, The Masters Review, and Barrelhouse Magazine. He has won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for his feature writing, narrative nonfiction, and cultural criticism, and his essays and short stories have been anthologized. His debut short story collection, Justice, Inc., comes out today. Here’s an excerpt on us.
About a year ago I started working at a used bookstore, which is a bit like an alcoholic getting a job at a winery. Temptation is everywhere.
Imagine the size apartment a writer/bookseller can afford, and then cut those dimensions in half. That’s where I live with my wife-to-be (we both started hating the word “fiancée” approximately twenty minutes after our engagement was announced) and our psychotic cat, The Tempest. We have three bookshelves that are crammed to bursting, but that doesn’t stop me from creating tome towers in every room, disjointed, Jenga-like constructions that appear stable but crash to the floor if you look at them funny.
We don’t have a bed, per se, but there’s a mattress on the floor in the bedroom and an ever-changing tome tower on my side that The Tempest pushes onto my head whenever the little serial killer gets bored. The stack contains new books I’m enjoying for the first time and old favorites that I re-read pathologically.
Amy Falls Down is the latest novel by the incomparable Jincy Willett. I feel like a bible salesman when I talk about Willett. So few people have heard the Good News, and I desperately want to convert them. Amy Falls Down is a dark, sharp-witted satire of the publishing industry. Willett skewers everyone from online trolls to radio commentators to elderly Norman Mailer-wannabes. I love this book.
If I manage to convert someone to Willettism, I then move on to Richtianity. Twin Study is Stacey Richter’s second short story collection, and it is a flawless combination of postmodern satire, pop magical realism, and good ol’ fashion storytelling. No other fiction writer makes me shoot vodka out of my nose like Richter.
I’ve been reading a lot of short story collections lately. I know they’re passé, but there’s no better place to find exciting new voices. Okla Elliott’s From the Crooked Timber is one of those wonderful small-press books that make you ache with anticipation for what’s to come next from the author. These are gritty stories filled with physical and psychological trauma, but there are small rays of sunlight if you look hard enough.
There are no such sunny moments so far in Jim Thompson’s Savage Night, however. I’m only about fifty pages into the novel, but from past experiences with Thompson I’m not going to hold my breath. Thompson was written off as just another pulp fiction writer during his lifetime, but he’s become something of a cult figure since his death. I wouldn’t want to live in a Thompson universe every day, but it’s a damn entertaining place to visit.
Are you a short story fan? Who’s your fave author of the terse? Any must-reads?