This is where you get to play. Fool around. Insert a private joke. This is the no-sweat zone. All you have to do is show your reader around the world the two of you have entered.

Though I suppose I should mention here, before I go on, that not all stories have middles, or the middle is so undefined it’s hard to separate it from the beginning and the end. In Irwin Shaw’s compressed “Girls in Their Summer Dresses,” a man and woman — a married couple — discuss fidelity. She is in favor of it. He is uncertain he can be faithful for life.

They are walking together, down Fifth Avenue, on a sunny November day, but as the conversation develops, a gap opens between them. A crevasse. A tectonic plate. Side by side as they are, there is nevertheless between them a gulf like an earthquake. More… “Daydreams in Dresses”

Kelly Cherry‘s new poetry book is Quartet for J. Robert Oppenheimer. Her book of flash fiction titled Temporium is now available.


A few weeks ago I sat in on my friend R.’s memoir writing course in Paris. The class was filled with students — most in their early 20s — learning about structure, about research, about how to frame a story. I was trotted out at the end to answer any questions the young writers may have about what awaits them in the real world and stand as an example of… I’m not sure what. Of success? The idea feels ridiculous. As the editor of the seven-year-old and freelance writer, I would much rather steer people away from my particularly thorny career path than present myself as a trailblazer.

Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer by Jeff VanderMeer. 240 pages. Tachyon Publications. $14.95.

But R. spoke with the hyperbole he uses when he talks… More…