This winter, as part of our End Is Nigh contest, we asked you to send us your dispatches about anxious endings, anticipated apocalypses, doomsday prepping, or getting right with God and family before it all comes crashing down. Contest Judge Jim Shepard was so pleased with the quality of submissions, that he couldn’t select just one grand prize winner. Instead, we have two winners and two runners up:
Grand Prize Winners ($575 each):
“When Trains Fall From Space” by Ian Bassingthwaighte
“Cold Snap” by Robin McLean
Runners Up ($150 each):
“Blood by Blood” by Dominic Russ-Combs
“A Brief Chronicle of Jeff and His Role in What is Colloquially Known as ‘The End of Civilization’” by Caitlin Campbell
“When Trains Fall From Space” and “Blood by Blood” will appear in the next issue of the Quarterly, with “Cold Snap” and “A Brief Chronicle” following in the fall.
Explaining his selections, Shepard writes:
Given that the apocalyptic and the post-apocalyptic seem to be everywhere in our mass culture, it probably shouldn’t have surprised me that the entries in the Carolina Quarterly’s “End Is Nigh” contest would have been of such a uniformly high quality, but they were, and choosing the most accomplished from among them was hard. For Runners Up, for example, I chose two stories that could easily have won any ordinary contest: first, “Blood by Blood,” with its evocation of a brother love that survives despite everything, and an imminent endtimes balefully anticipated by a hardscrabble place and a hardscrabble sensibility. And second, “A Brief Chronicle of Jeff and his Role in What is Colloquially Known as ‘The End of Civilization,’” a story that deploys its intricate intelligence with such ingenuity that it transcends its archness and lurches into the realm of the disquieting.
And the stories I chose as Co-Winners are of such dazzling achievement that I think they’d win any contest. On the one hand, there’s the heartbreaking and oddly winsome “When Trains Fall From Space,” which pulls off some of the most unlikely premises with the blithe panache of a Miranda July, and then there’s “Cold Snap,” which is a harrowing and wry and compassionate rendering of a sensibility so damaged by the more quotidian forms of isolation that the oncoming end of the world seems like a seamless extension of the loneliness the protagonist has been riding out for years. Four excellent stories: an enviable array, for any magazine. I congratulate all four writers on their artistry, and heart.
On Tuesday, April 22nd at 7pm, Michael Parker will read from his recent novel All I Have in This World, at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro. He’ll also be appearing at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh on Thursday, May 1st at 7:30pm.
UNC Chapel Hill graduate Michael Parker is currently a Professor in the MFA Writing Program at UNC-Greensboro and holds a faculty position with the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. Author of six novels and two collections of stories, Parker’s work has been awarded the Pushcart Prize and O. Henry Prize and has been featured in various journals such as the Georgia Review, the Washington Post, and the New York Times Magazine. His short story “Love Wild” appeared in issue 44.1 of Carolina Quarterly in the fall of 1991, and in the Winter of 1996 an excerpt from his scrapped project Lake Amnesia appeared in CQ 48.2.
Lee Abbott said of his work, “Only Michael Parker can tell a story you don’t want to quit about folks you don’t want to leave…He has us all in mind—all of us who are needy and scared and running fast from the past, all of us who believe in magic and miracle, all of us beleaguered and bewitched by love.”Parker is the recipient of the Hobson Award for Arts and Letters, the North Carolina Award for Literature, and has received fellowships in fiction from the NC Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Parker self-admittedly has, “…a habit of writing ‘road trip’ novels,” which explore the universal hope that either a temporary change of scenery, or a permanent geographical transition will be the thing that wipes the blackboard of our lives free from unfortunate mistakes and sour memories. For most people, though, and for Parker’s characters, these road trips “…rarely heal their wounds. It might provide some temporary peace of mind or soul, but it’s ephemeral.”
All I Have in This World susses out the relationship between tragedy and redemption and explores two strangers’ unexpectedly shared journey for reconciliation.
RAA: In the Author’s Note of All That I Have in This World, you say you woke up in the middle of the night with the idea that catalyzed the writing for this book. Is that typically how characters and stories come to you, all rushing and intrusive, begging you to leave your life for a while so you can get it all down?
MP: My stories (and novels) usually start with an image or a phrase. Rarely do I begin with an idea. I suppose the spark of All That I Have in This World can be classified as an idea—a man and a woman, complete strangers, who meet in a used car lot in West Texas and decide, after knowing each other less than an hour, to purchase a car together. But it’s also an image. I saw these two people in that car lot and I realized what they were doing there in a matter of minutes, but I think I had to see them first.
Often it’s a phrase—sometimes overheard—that sparks a story. Sometimes I begin with a title, which is unfortunate, since it is rare that the publisher allows you—or at least me—to keep the original title. But on the other hand, it doesn’t really matter if that remains the title of the book, since whatever gets you into the story is golden.
Continue reading Leaving Behind and Returning Home: An Interview with Michael Parker
By Caitlin Bailey
Bring me to the lip of the evening again, again;
palm my best parts. If we’re lucky, rain. You like talking
your way inside me, swelling the dark with spondee.
I am split air, tessellated sky. Tell me how it used to be.
Let me gorge myself even on truth, your crooked verbs.
Words forever the best meal, gorgeous mash of syllables.
Here our bodies lead secret lives, cusped and crashing.
Know everything dazzles in the right light.
Caitlin Bailey’s work has previously appeared in Bateau, Lumina, Paper Darts, Poetry City USA, Vol. 2, and elsewhere.
She is learning to live in the woods after many years in the city. More of her poems appear in the Carolina Quarterly 62.2.
Dan Jones will be reading from Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject (With The Help of 50,000 Strangers) at Flyleaf Books on Monday, March 24, 7pm.
Dan Jones, editor of the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column, which is featured in the Style section of the Sunday paper, has been sifting through other peoples’ love stories for nearly 10 years. “Modern Love” is neither an advice column, nor a dumping ground for lovers spurned. Rather, it showcases essays by people of all ages, from all over the globe, who have something poignant to share about love. Be they retirees who are finally finding love for the first time, or young divorcees whose failed love has led to unexpected self discovery, Jones attempts to include essays that are as varied as they are well written.
Jones assured me that he has no advice to give and that his power lies solely in the ability to choose the right stories to share, at the right time. Nonetheless, I felt the urge to confess to this man I’d never met. Having been confessed to by so many others over the years perhaps he had mystically come to possess both the absolving qualities of a priest and the pathologizing abilities of a savvy psychiatrist. How many Hail Marys, Dan? What exactly is wrong with me, anyway? How many bouquets of flowers am I in debt for?
One of the most attractive qualities of “Modern Love” is how the writers’ experiences are as unique as they are relatable. Even in the essay about an Indian couple in an arranged marriage, aspects of their experience felt universally relatable. Now married for two decades with two children, Farahad explained, “the slow discovery of another person and the unraveling of layers of mystery are part of the fun of arranged marriage.” Jones concluded that, “…in arranged marriage the goal is to figure out how to be married, not whether to marry.” Every piece has something to teach. No love story is too taboo.
“Modern Love” is a vehicle by which the confessions of people like you and I, who have something valuable to share, make it out into the world. Dan says of storytelling, “We’ve learned how to live from shared narratives and stories retold for thousands of years. Learning from the stories of others has so much more meaning than just trying to follow a set of rules.”
Dan’s passion for representing a broad range of love-related experiences in all their forms, combined with encouragement from colleagues and friends, drove him to write Love Illuminated, a book which explores the search for a long term relationship in today’s world of buzzing electronic distractions.
“On the way (to love), there are all kinds of ways of delaying, and ways people have relationships that seem to be a series of short term experiences, but most of what I hear from people, by far, is that people are looking for the love of their life and then trying to figure out whether they can hold onto that love once they’ve found it, or eventually have to let it go and move on again.”
Love is a grind, and Dan tries, through thorough curation and thoughtful interpretation, to present what he has learned from all his years reading about the experiences of over 50,000 people who all want, as Eden Ahbez once said “… just to love and be loved in return…” forever and ever, Amen.
This month, Monday, March 24, Jones will be reading from Love Illuminated at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill at 7pm and I spoke with him to get some behind the scenes insights about his experiences both with writing this book, and curating Modern Love over the years.
- Ryan-Ashley Anderson
Ryan-Ashley Anderson (RAA): Who and what gets published by “Modern Love”?
Dan Jones (DJ): “Modern Love” is a reflection of what’s submitted. The story has to be one that is well told enough to be considered, and typically about 1 out of 100 gets published. The column generally reflects the readership which consists of people who are actively interested in writing about and exploring these issues of love. This impulse to figure out the formula for love is more experimental than traditional because there are so many new problems. As my father said, “Relationships are so much more complicated than I ever would have thought they were.”
Continue reading Trust, Monotony & Infidelity (with 50,000 Strangers) – An Interview with Dan Jones
Leslie Bazzett’s story, “Preludes,” was published in Issue 63.2 of The Carolina Quarterly. Her work has been published in New England Review, where it was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and received special mention, in addition to West Branch (also nominated for a Pushcart Prize) and New England Review Digital. Her novel, Abandon, was a finalist for the James Jones First Novel Fellowship, and was nominated for a Pushcart Editor’s Choice Award. Preludes will be her first publication in the Quarterly. Leslie grew up in a family of artists and was trained as a classical musician but, from the age of 10, has always wanted to be a writer.
- Moira Bradford, Fiction Staff
Leslie Bazzett (LB): I have always written, but I only recently attended my first writers’ conference. A friend of mine—a playwright—mentioned to me that people would be obsessed with point of view. I definitely found that to be true!
Carolina Quarterly (CQ): What do you think the obsession with point of view is?
LB: I think… I was a little astonished. I read a lot of work where there is shift in the narrative point of view, and I’m married to a poet, and so I’m used to approaching reading with verve. I respond to that (the obsession with POV) with a certain amount of bafflement and amusement. I think people who go to workshops are attuned to talking about point of view shifts, but I don’t think it throws readers. I think this is a case where writers are being lazier reader than readers are!
Continue reading An Interview with Leslie Bazzett