Director of the World and Other Stories (Drue Heinz Literature Prize for Short Fiction)

Overview

Jane McCafferty's Director of the World and Other Stories was selected by John Edgar Wideman as the winner of the twelfth Drue Heinz Literature Prize for short fiction. Her collection was chosen from 279 manuscripts submitted by published writers to the contest and read anonymously by the screening judges and the final judge. The characters in Director of the World and Other Stories are often distanced, lonely, or displaced from others and the events around them, yet they are almost always ready to act, to become...
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Director Of The World And Other Stories

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Overview

Jane McCafferty's Director of the World and Other Stories was selected by John Edgar Wideman as the winner of the twelfth Drue Heinz Literature Prize for short fiction. Her collection was chosen from 279 manuscripts submitted by published writers to the contest and read anonymously by the screening judges and the final judge. The characters in Director of the World and Other Stories are often distanced, lonely, or displaced from others and the events around them, yet they are almost always ready to act, to become involved with others, and to change. In "Eyes of Others," a woman, stopping with her family at a Howard Johnson's during a trip, becomes fascinated by the meeting of two strangers and attempts to connect with them as she has been unable to connect with her own family. Two teenaged girls in "While Mother Was Gone with 571" play a practical joke on a lonely neighbor and watch from the roof of their house as the consequences of their actions unfold. In "World Upon Her Shoulder," a young girl stands embarrassedly in the local supermarket while her mother, wearing a "Carmen Miranda fruit bowl tied with a scarf on top of her head," fills an entire shopping cart with bottles of maple syrup. "I saw her standing by the great mountain of syrup in her cart, grinning wildly," the narrator explains. "She didn't seem to see me. I grew up considerably in moments like these, digesting my own invisibility." Implicit in these stories is a rootlessness that gives way to yearning and a passion for remembering. In "Director of the World," a disturbed child, whose father has recently abandoned the family, attempts, in language reflecting her shattered sense of the world, to recapture some of their last experiences together. An alcoholic father waiting at a bus stop for a visit from his teenage daughter, in "By the Light of Friendship," strikes up a conversation with two women. He "revels in the safety of how little whatever transpired...could matter," yet unexpectedly finds
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Winner of the 1992 Drue Heinz Prize, McCafferty presents 11 powerful, melancholic stories whose theme is deterioration--of relationships and of the mind. Her weary characters usually feel abandoned, at least figuratively, by their families, but rather than effecting change or making decisions, they simply reflect on the cumulative experiences that led to their present ennui. In the disturbing title story (also included in Best American Short Stories 1991 ), a child witnesses the division of her family after her father returns, psychologically ruined, from a war. The particularly wrenching ``By the Light of Friendship'' shows a lonely man nervously awaiting his 14-year-old daughter at the bus station, only to be told she has decided not to visit him. In ``The Shadders Go Away,'' a mother taking her young sons on vacation feels overwhelmed by their unresponsiveness even as she acts jovial and hopeful. Reading McCafferty's collection, one feels empathy for characters trapped by circumstance and inertia; rather than disdain them, we share the poignancy of their experiences. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Common motifs link these 11 fine stories by McCafferty, winner of the 1992 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Most of the stories are told from the viewpoint of a little girl whose single mother is revealed to be eccentric and perhaps certifiably disconnected. Throughout, Pop 40 songs define each woman's apparent emotional range. Men aren't so much blamed as portrayed as ill formed and ineffectual. Thus, in the title story, Zenia's father returns from an unnamed war with a ring of 52 keys and a cry in his voice. In ``Thirst,'' Doris likens her daughter to something ``they had picked up one day like groceries.'' ``While Mother Was Gone with 571'' (the digits being the license tag of her newest beau), the narrator and a friend conspire to hail a series of taxis to reach the home of a reclusive, hysterical neighbor. In the best story, ``An Evocation,'' the death of a childhood friend stirs memories of the Fifties that are alternately funny, bittersweet, and ugly. Recommended for most collections.-- Ron Antonucci, Hudson Lib. & Historical Soc . , Ohio
Donna Seaman
Award-winning short story writer McCafferty has a wonderful talent for evoking the vulnerability, instinct for truth, and loyalty inherent in children. The kids in her mesmerizing and melancholy tales cope with the void left by vanished fathers and the confusion wrought by unhinged mothers. McCafferty's world is painfully yet beautifully alive, breathing and glowing with a shifting aura of sadness and hope. These are stories of skewed domesticity; of young, rattled parents and their knowing offspring. In the title story, a girl remembers the wacky desperation of her father on their last night together; another daughter watches her mother crack up in a supermarket, filling their carts with bottles of syrup and boxes of All, in "World upon Her Shoulder." Moving to slightly older children, McCafferty explores the awful threshold of sexual awakening with particular aplomb and humor in "Help, I'm Being Kidnapped." The prevailing image of this moody, lyrical, and redeeming collection is the comforting interior of a late-model sedan. In story after story, these big ships cruise night highways, a love song on the radio, a parent seeking peace at the wheel, the parent's preternaturally understanding child by his or her side.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822937296
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1992
  • Series: Drue Heinz Literature Prize Series
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.36 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Table of Contents

World Upon Her Shoulder 3
The Shadders Go Away 19
Help, I'm Being Kidnapped 33
Eyes of Others 49
While Mother Was Gone with 571 63
Thirst 73
By the Light of Friendship 89
Director of the World 105
Good-bye Now 115
Replacement 129
An Evocation 151
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