Life Stories #105: Glen David Gold

Life Stories: Glen David Gold

I first met Glen David Gold when he was on a reading tour for his second novel, Sunnyside, which happened to be the name of the neighborhood where I lived at the time; that wasn’t the only reason we hit it off, but we did, and so I was excited when I found out he was publishing a memoir, I Will Be Complete. I spoke to him in the summer of 2018 about his family history, how he’d tried to deal with it by writing fiction in his twenties, and the path toward eventually finding the right literary structure through which to tell the story. One of the first things I mentioned is how perfectly it illustrated that famous Philip Larkin verse about what your parents do, which eventually brought us to a discussion of how some relationships simply can’t be fixed:

“I notice a lot of memoirs are—and it’s the thing that frustrated me about The Glass Castle, which is a brilliant book, which is really well-written—at the end, she forgives everybody. And, like, ‘Wait a minute! Hold on! Time out! I have a different opinion here…’

Not to castigate anybody, but there’s something… Traditional memoirs end ‘And my family are all monsters and now I’m all healed, because I’m holding this door against them…’ That’s one, and the other is ‘Ahhhh, they’re my family, so I forgive them, and welcome and embrace.’ I think there’s another way to go, which is ‘hold them accountable, and walk off alone.’”

We also talked about how working on I Will Be Complete has made Glen a more confident writer, and the newly honed skills he’s been able to take back to his fiction. Plus the story of how David Leavitt became his literary archnemesis, until he actually went to a David Leavitt reading…

Listen to Life Stories #105: Glen David Gold (MP3 file); or download this file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). Or subscribe to Life Stories in iTunes, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (If you’re already an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)

photo: Sara Shay

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19 December 2018 | life stories |

Virginia Pye: Black Tickets & Feminist Poets of Another Time

Virginia Pye
photo: Tennessee Photography

I met Virginia Pye at a book festival down in Richmond ages ago, so I was delighted to hear that she’s got a new short story collection, The Shelf Life of Happiness. In her stories, you’ll see how an elderly painter being courted by a rich young art collector and a teenage skateboarding enthusiast embarrassed to be driven to the skate park by his dad are fighting similar battles. You’ll also spend time with a man who’s accompanying his old friend from college, who’s now dying of AIDS, as he gets married in a remote town that’s little more than a few stores and a motel lining either side of the highway, and a woman who’s struggling to make sense of a brutal murder that stuns her small community. In this essay, Pye shares some thoughts about a story collection, and the poems that preceded it, that helped her clear a path to writing about characters struggling to figure out, let alone assert, their identities.

When I was twenty, Black Tickets, the story collection by Jayne Anne Phillips, with its hard-edged prose about hard-edged people, hit me hard. I’d read Hemingway’s short stories. Fitzgerald and Chekov, too. Isaac Babel and Isaac Bashevis Singer, and that one about the yellow wallpaper that everyone had to read. Unlike novels, short stories seemed the place to start for an aspiring young writer. Stories were like small sculptures, carefully shaped and refined, seemingly comprehensible with a single walk around.

But when I tried to write them, mine tended to sprawl into an unruly mess. My pages grew dense and overwritten as I attempted to say too much. Then I read Black Tickets and saw that when you used restraint, you created meaning in a more powerful way. If you kept it minimal, you could leave your reader aching for more, at least that was the hope. But it wasn’t just Phillips’ style of writing that I admired and wanted to emulate. Her stories hit home because they were about women and girls, not unlike me.


23 October 2018 | selling shorts |

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