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Other titles in the Iowa Short Fiction Award series:
This Day in History (Iowa Short Fiction Award)by Anthony Varallo
Synopses & Reviews
On the verge of maturity--where parents are distant or absent, friendships are often more accidental than deliberate, and restless angst is common--Anthony Varallo's adolescent protagonists dissect the world, and their place in it, with keen perception. This Day in History deftly collects their moments of discovery. “There's a feeling I get whenever I enter an unfamiliar house, as if a secret inventory has been handed to me, and I am made to understand that the sofa cushions are stained underneath, the coffee table nursing one gimp leg, the books along the bookcase stolen from summer rental, and the dining room table used only for Christmas and taxes,” the narrator confesses in the first of Varallo's twelve stories. Here, a birthday party for an unpopular classmate reveals an adult world both familiar and utterly strange. In subsequent stories a young girl longs to be a part of her best friend's family, only to discover the family is less than ideal; two sisters recall the childhood houses they grew up--and apart--in, places inseparable from each woman's notion of the other; and a mother and son set off on a bold and hopeless errand, their suburban neighborhood momentarily transformed into a stage.As these children stand on the brink of adulthood, unsure how to move forward, striving to make sense of the world around them, they often discover that the distance between themselves and others is no nearly so great as first imagined. Funny, sad, and hopeful, Varallo's stories make a gentle argument for connection and community and, in doing so, seek to extend our sympathy toward the world.
"Varallo retreads the familiar cul-de-sacs of bored, awkward suburban adolescence in these 12 solemn tales that comprise his listless debut collection. As the eighth-grade narrator of 'The Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg' yearns for his neighbor Carolyn and goofs off with his friend Ben, whose college-age older brother Mark commits suicide, he mulls over The Great Gatsby. The latchkey sixth-grade narrator of 'The Pines' (his artist father took up with a college student and ditched his mother) is all too vulnerable to an older bully who drags him into minor vandalism. In 'A Dictionary of Saints,' the 14-year-old protagonist defies peer pressure and attends the birthday party of unpopular Brady Carson, who accepts his friendship with prickly pride instead of gratitude. 'Sunday Wash' establishes a sympathetic kinship between a young boy, Jody, and his mother's well-meaning, but ill-equipped, live-in boyfriend, Ron, when the boy-still grieving his dead father-breaks down in a car wash. Varallo sympathetically paints children unbalanced by death or divorce, but his understated prose aims for insight without often reaching it. " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Anthony Varallo grew up in Yorklyn, Delaware. His stories have appeared in Epoch, Crazyhorse, Story Quarterly, the Black Warrior Review, and other publications. He is the recipient of an AWP Intro Journals Award, the Crazyhorse Fiction Prize, the Journal Short Story Prize, and an NEA Fellowship in Literature. He lives with his wife, the writer Malinda McCollum, and their son in Charleston, South Carolina, where he is an assistant professor of English at the College of Charleston.
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