Monday, September 4, 2017

Scott Gould

Scott Gould’s work has appeared in Kenyon Review, Carolina Quarterly, Black Warrior Review, New Madrid Journal, New Stories from the South, and New Southern Harmonies, among others. He is a two-time winner of the Artist Fellowship in Prose from the South Carolina Arts Commission and a past winner of the Fiction Fellowship from the South Carolina Academy of Authors. Gould chairs the creative writing department at the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts & Humanities in Greenville.

His new story collection is Strangers to Temptation.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Gould's reply:
I tend to read in fits and starts, depending on how many student essays are stacked on my desk, whether the fish are hitting, the current phase of the moon. Serious things like that. But right now, I’m on a pretty good tack. Here’s what I’ve had my nose in lately:

The River of Kings by Taylor Brown

I read Taylor’s work because I can be sure every page is chock full of gorgeous sentences that send me into fits of wonder and jealousy, simultaneously. Case in point: “There below them, in a wing of moonlight, stands a stag the size of a thoroughbred horse, head motionless and erect, trees of bone-white antlers twinned crooked and perfect from the crown of his skull.” A wing of moonlight? Damn. Two other reasons I sought this book out: Taylor blends three distinct time periods and their narratives together to create something bigger than its separate parts. I needed to see how that worked. And (probably most importantly), The River of Kings is set on a slow-moving, Southern, black water river in Georgia. My collection of stories is set on the same kind of river in South Carolina. I wanted to read how Taylor uses the river as a character. Does he ever.

The Dog of the South by Charles Portis

I make an annual trek to the temple of Charles Portis, because I’ve never read anybody who can maintain such controlled chaos on the page. He walks a tightrope between humorous quasi-absurdity and the real world like nobody I’ve ever read. The fact that he’s not more known is a crime against literature, but if you ask writers (especially those who live in the South) about their influences, the name Portis will invariably come up. The Dog of the South is, like a number of Portis works, a road novel. And I like it when characters have to move. Another thing I’ve always admired is the way Portis can get a long story started very quickly. “My wife Norma had run off with Guy Dupree and I was waiting around for the credit card billings to come in so I could see where they had gone.” That’s a first line that guarantees you’ll read the second. (By the way, the second is “I was biding my time.” Damn, again.)

Gradle Bird by J.C. Sasser

I picked up this book because I’d been hearing so many good things about it through the literary grapevines, I felt guilty I hadn’t cracked it open. Also because my buddy, George Singleton, said in a blurb that Gradle Bird was “Absurd, yet utterly believable. Southern, yet universal.” George wouldn’t lead me astray. Though I’m only about a third of the way through, I’m already completely taken with the rhythm of Sasser’s sentences. Oh, and her use of specific detail…Sasser is a writer who keeps her eyes open. “[The bra] was left dangling on a lounge chair by a woman with Florida tags who sped-read bodice rippers, sipped Shasta Grape from a straw, and French-inhaled Misty Menthol Lights.” Damn, three times.

My suspicion is that I’m going to watch Sasser spin Southern Gothic on its ear a little. Which is something Southern Gothic could use.
Visit Scott Gould's website.

The Page 69 Test: Strangers to Temptation.

--Marshal Zeringue