You Reading This, Be Ready
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life.
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
– William Stafford
For more information about this poet, visit williamstafford.org
First day of FS and where are my good green pants? In the wash. I have one pair of pants that aren’t clown pants and they’re in the wash. They haven’t been washed all summer but today, this morning, they’re in the wash. It’s too cold for cargoes and everything else in my drawer is Queer Nation, and sure enough I’m the only one on the bus in shorts. “Scorcher, isn’t it?” a ninth-grader asks when he goes by my locker. I’m standing there like I’m modeling beachwear. Kids across the hall chuckle and point. I almost head home right then.
“FS, man,” Flake says when he sees my face.
“I can’t take it,” I tell him. “It’s like, twenty minutes, and I can’t take it.”
“Look at your face,” he says, and he has to laugh. He doesn’t mean it in a bad way.
I put my head on my hands in my locker and try to tear the shelf off the wall.
“FS,” he says. At least our first period classes are near each other.
“FS,” I tell him back. We don’t even have homeroom together, though they told us over the summer we would. FS is fuckin’ school. We argue over who thought of it.
Project X, Jim’s sixth novel, can be purchased here.
In honor of Alice Munro’s Nobel prize, I asked Jim for Alice Munro stories that he especially loves. The first story that came to his mind was “”Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage.” It begins:
Years ago, before the train stopped running on so many of the branch lines, a woman with a high, freckled forehead and a frizz of reddish hair came into the railway station and inquired about shipping furniture.
The station agent often tried a little teasing with women, especially the plain ones who seem to appreciate it.
“Furnture?” he said, as if no one had such an idea before. “Well. Now. What kind of furniture are we talking about?”
Purchase the collection of stories by clicking here.
Here’s a new series of posts that I’m really excited about. As his students may remember, Jim starts off his classes reading a poem. This is a treasured memory for me: not only does Jim have incredible taste in modern poetry, but he’s masterful at reading poetry to others.
Jim has kindly sent me some of his poetry selections and I’m going to start posting them. I hope it inspires both Jim Shepard fans and aspiring fiction writers to read more poetry, something Jim has always encouraged us to do.
Requiem for the Croppies
The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley…
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp…
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching… on the hike…
We found new tactics happening each day:
We’d cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until… on Vinegar Hill… the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August… the barley grew up out of our grave.
Guest host Wyatt Cenac presents a program of stories about drastic solutions and last chances. Master fantasist Steven Millhauser imagines the world covered by a gigantic plastic sphere in “The Dome,” read by Alec Baldwin. Jim Shepard takes us to the greatest recorded natural disaster in history in “Cretan Love Song,” read by Joe Morton, and Mr. Potato Head is not your friend in Nicholson Baker’s “Subsoil,” read by Thomas Gibson.
Click here to listen. Jim’s story can be heard during the first half hour.
He reads the Netherlands Lives with Water and a new short. Jim begins to read about 25 minutes into the video.
Oh, and here’s an interesting blog post about the story.
Here’s a clip produced by Knopf in which Jim explains how he accesses his emotional world in his writing. This short clip provides valuable insight into Jim’s work.
The short story has had its moment of glory this year with the wonderful Alice Munro winning the Nobel Prize for Literature this year. Jim, a master of the short story himself, had this to say in a Washington Post article:
“I imagine fiction writers everywhere today are celebrating the Nobel Committee having gotten it exactly right. There’s probably no one alive who’s better at the craft of the short story, or who has done more to revolutionize the use of time in that form, the result often being a 20-page story that demonstrates the breadth and scope of a novel.”
Click here to read the full article. And we’re sure that lovers of short stories are still celebrating Alice Munro’s win, and hoping the short story continues its time in the spotlight.