Accumulated Baggage


The good thing about never posting is that you eventually accumulate something worth posting.

And so it is with great pleasure that I link to a list of Ten Essential Southern Novels I wrote for Conversational Reading. Boiling down that list was instructive, revealing. So much gets left on the floor. For better or worse, there’s nothing too terribly idiosyncratic in my list, except for the fact that my list of novels includes four collections of stories. No matter, the collections are novelistically expansive, panoramically interesting. But it made me think of the paucity of my list-making ability. Get thee to the library! And it made me appreciate D.G. Myers’s energetic listing over at his excellent A Commonplace Blog. Here’s my favorite list he’s done thus far: Five Books of Professors.

In addition, I am happy to report that a short story of mine is in the newest issue of Louisiana Literature (27/2), available now in better bookstores and libraries everywhere. The story is called “Popular Baggage” and is included in the story collection that will come out next year. The story is my, ahem, High-School Prom story. Every writer who’s read Hemingway attempts a hunting story, and likewise, everyone who was a child in the 80s, or has seen too many John Hughes movies, has a High-School Prom story in them. My Prom story is a bit more like Carrie than Sixteen Candles, except there’s no blood, or telekinesis, or John Travolta, but there is dancing, by god.

Here’s how the story begins:

Popular Baggage
His name was Jason Stiph and he was the hardest working kid in school. He was never the smartest kid, only the one who had apprehended his family’s near failure. His father had done something vaguely horrible when Stiph was a boy. I could never find out what. He’d spent several years in prison, but was back with the family and repentant. Consequently, Stiph had developed this hyperventilating will to succeed: like at the science fair, where he got second place for testing the viscosity of various types of synthetic oil, using a disembodied engine block he’d rigged with one of his south Jackson neighbors; and at sports, when he tried out for football sophomore year even though he had never played, wasn’t an ounce over 160, and was later disinvited from the team for his own safety; and in social circles, Stiph was no less a boy who yearned to achieve, who refused to believe in social circles because he wanted to penetrate them all. Exhibit A: Sarah Samson.

The rest appears in the latest issue of Louisiana Literature. Enjoy.