Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Laura Furman

Laura Furman was born in New York, and educated in New York City public schools and at Bennington College. Her first story appeared in The New Yorker in 1976, and since then her work has been published in many magazines, including Yale Review, Southwest Review, Ploughshares, American Scholar, Preservation, House & Garden, and other magazines. Her books include three collections of short stories, two novels, and a memoir. She is the recipient of fellowships from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Dobie Paisano Project, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has received grants in residency at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and in 2009 she was a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome. She taught for many years in the Department of English at the University of Texas at Austin. Series editor of The PEN/O.Henry Prize Stories since 2002, Furman selects the twenty winning stories each year.

Her new book is the story collection, The Mother Who Stayed.

Last month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
It’s end-of-the-world weather, even in sunny Austin, Texas, and I’ve just read a novel that’s appropriate to the sky, Next by James Hynes.

The novel’s hero is Kevin Quinn of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a funny guy, attractive despite his bad case of arrested development and priapism, both of which lead to melancholy visits to his past and strange episodes in his Odyssey around Austin one fine, sunny June day.

Reading a novel set in a familiar place offers the fun of identifying the real places behind the fictional names—Crazy Maria’s disguised as Anna’s Taco Rapido—but by the end of the book the joke was on me. Next is much more than the musings and regrets of a middle-aged man.

I can’t think of Austin now without being haunted by the powerful ending of Next.

The novel is gripping, funny, and entertaining. The writing is terrific. Toward the end, our hero Kevin Quinn is reminded to pay attention. The readers of Next by James Hynes should heed this advice.
Copyright (c) 2011 by Laura Furman
Read more about The Mother Who Stayed.

--Marshal Zeringue