Thursday, April 5, 2007

Holly Goddard Jones

Holly Goddard Jones's short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Southern Review, Epoch, The Kenyon Review, The Gettysburg Review, American Literary Review, and Velocity, a supplement to the Louisville Courier-Journal. Her story "Good Girl" received a Special Mention in Pushcart Prize XXXI: Best Of The Small Presses, and another story, "Life Expectancy," has been selected by Pulitzer-prize winner Edward P. Jones to appear in New Stories From The South: The Year's Best, 2007.

She is currently a Visiting Writer at Denison University.

I recently asked her what she has been reading. Her reply:
These days I’m reading more student papers than anything else, but I’ll take this opportunity to make a recommendation. I just finished a wonderful book of short stories called Things Kept, Things Left Behind, written by my friend Jim Tomlinson. I met Jim in person for the first time at the 2006 Sewanee Writers’ Conference, but we’d been in touch by email a few times before that. Jim had sent me a lovely note about a story I’d published in The Southern Review, identifying himself as a fellow Kentucky writer. A few months later, news went out that Jim was a recipient of the Iowa Short Fiction Award, and I was delighted to be able to return the favor. When we finally hugged for the first time at Sewanee, it felt to me like Jim was someone I’d known for a long time, even though we’d only exchanged a few messages. Every now and then you connect with someone that way.

And I connected with Jim’s book the way I connected with its author, which was an enormous thrill. Things Kept, Things Left Behind is set in Kentucky, and these are the kinds of stories I love to see written (and strive to write) about my home state: realistic, certainly, but also dignified and tender. My favorites are the two that comprise the book’s title: “Things Kept” and “Things Left Behind.” These linked stories both center on the infidelity of their central character, but Jim writes about this familiar material in surprising and poignant ways. What I also love about these pieces, especially “Things Left Behind,” is their breadth. Here’s a twenty-three page story that does as much work as a novel — that has a novel’s scope and texture, and alternates seamlessly between several points of view, both male and female. But it’s a testament to Jim’s skill that he can just as successfully write the more succinct, “an-afternoon-in-the-life-of” kind of story, and those are in Things Kept, Things Left Behind, as well. The final story, “Stainless,” is such a piece, and it’s masterful.

I’ve read other books recently that I loved — Claire Messud’s The Emperor's Children, William Trevor’s Felicia's Journey, and I finally succumbed to Jane Austen after resisting her for a long time, which means I’ve plowed through Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma the way I once plowed through C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle — but I emphasize Jim’s work here because I love that Jim and I share a community as well as an aesthetic.
Read Holly Goddard Jones's story "Life Expectancy" in The Kenyon Review.

--Marshal Zeringue