The author The Story of Edgar Sawtelle on three American classics.
David Wroblewski’s electrifying debut novelThe Story of Edgar Sawtelle made the author one of the literary sensations of 2008. With his haunting tale of family which raises an unusually intelligent breed of dogs in rural Wisconsin, the author has constructed a fundamentally American drama that audaciously echoes Shakespeare and Sophocles. Here, David Wrobleski recommends three classics of modern fiction.
By Flannery O’Connor
“Once we had a writer who regularly performed impossible feats in the form of short stories, and her name was Flannery O’Connor. Whether her characters are wandering around in a gorilla suit, stealing a wooden leg, or perfecting a tattooed image of God on their backs, they will capture your imagination and also, very possibly, draw your ire. But they will never bore you. You’ll find all 31 of O’Connor’s stories between the covers of this collection, including the classics, like “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” and “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” as well as the lesser known gems — a favorite of mine is the pitch dark, “A View of the Woods.” None of these stories is less than great; most are masterpieces. When you’re done, to get a sense of O’Connor as a writer and as a person, check out her essays on writing in Mystery and Manners, and her correspondence in The Habit of Being. “
By Richard Russo
“Young Ned Hall, the protagonist of The Risk Pool, has been going around telling people his father is dead, which is far more convenient than explaining why he’s never around. The problem is, sometimes his father is around, and with each new appearance, Sam Hall — a smoking, drinking, carousing catalog of bad habits — casually capsizes Ned’s life. I remember finishing The Risk Pool and (a) wishing I could forget it immediately, in order to read it all over again for the first time, and (b) kicking myself for somehow not discovering it until eight years after it was published, a mistake I never again made with a Russo novel. This book is an absolute jewel — by turns wry, witty, raucous, and tender; it also has the distinction of putting the verb “bleated” to its funniest use ever in the English language.”
By William Maxwell
“Elsewhere I have pointed out William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow as a favorite novel of mine, but Maxwell was also a masterful short story writer. Among the wonders collected in this volume is “The Thistles in Sweden,” surely one of the great short stories of the 20th century, concerning a young couple living in a New York apartment where the boundaries between rooms, between people, between the waking life and dreams all slowly dissolve under the force of memory. And don’t miss the title piece, one of the “improvisations” Maxwell wrote as a gift for his wife, concerning a man who begins to wonder where all the days and nights of his life have gone… and who sets out to find them. Throughout you’ll find the vision and art of one of our finest writers at work.”