Recently, I given the good news that my short-story collection–When You Find Us We Will Be Gone–was recently longlisted for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Prize. This is the first–and probably only time–I will share a list with Margaret Atwood. Top prize is 25,000 Euros! You can see the list here.
I’m happy to report there’s a new review of my debut collection of short stories–When You Find Us We Will Be Gone–over at Atticus Review. The (ominous!) title of the review is “UNCOMFORTABLE AND UNHINGED PEOPLE” and here’s a snippet:
“…the uneasiness Linforth is able to create in us as readers. What is great about this disquiet and discomfort is that it seems as though Linforth is trying to hold a mirror up for us to see our own human flaws, perhaps in an effort to get us to fight against them.”
It has a few months since I last posted. But in that time my debut collection of short stories–When You Find Us We Will Be Gone–has garnered a few more reviews. I’ve been very happy with the nice things reviewers have been saying so far. Over at Foreword Reviews, they note:
“The sting of Christopher Linforth’s stories lingers long after the final page. Complex and disturbing, they follow ordinary people caught up in worlds not of their own making, knowing that somewhere (and it’s always somewhere else) there is a better life—a more worthy partner, a brighter future—if only they could get there.”
And at the Iowa Review:
“The stories…are at once bold but also subtle, haunting but also full of hope, spanning decades and continents.”
Finally a few kind words from At the Inkwell:
“Linforth has given us a rich array of plots, characters and settings in his first collection, and one that’s worth reading for short story lovers.”
Over at Daily Dose of Lit, they have excerpted a section of one of my short stories. “The Lake” was originally published in Gargoyle and then slightly revised for When You Find Us We Will Be Gone. I hope you check it out and let me know what you think!
Here’s an excerpt of an excerpt (!):
Ruth held up a large roadmap of Kansas against the passenger-side window. Bright sunlight bled through the thin paper, washing out the towns, blending together the endless miles of farmland. “I think we’re here,” she said, pointing to a red line in the middle. She seemed annoyed that I had glanced over and hadn’t said anything. We were driving to a lake I visited as a boy. I didn’t care much, but Ruth insisted on us taking a vacation, going somewhere different and away from the noise and dirt of the city. This was my first time back in Kansas since I moved across the country for graduate school in the late eighties. She had never been out this far west, living the last few years on the Upper East Side.
In this era of declining book review pages, getting your book reviewed can be pretty tough. So I feel lucky that my debut collection of short stories was recently reviewed in The Roanoke Times. The reviewer said some kind things about When You Find Us We Will Be Gone. My favorites being: “Each of the 12 stories in the collection combines to create a starkly ravaged landscape of castrated emotions as the various narrative voices suffer disconnection within disintegrating relationships” and “Linforth’s characters struggle with the failed promise of youth and the fear that life has somehow fallen short. Linforth’s settings are global and often unfamiliar, but the characters remind us of people we know well, even of ourselves.”
I have a new story out at Hawaii Pacific Review. Here’s the opening:
A Sky Green and Fields Blue
At the doorway to the barracks, Shoshana saw snow fall into the darkness. Now and then the searchlights scanning the camp illuminated the flurry of white, reminding her of the soap flakes her mother used to wash her clothes. She lifted the gauze from her wrist and picked at the scabby flesh that had grown over the blue numbers. She was tired of the factory, of the endless repetition, of the soreness and the bruises, the grease under her fingernails, the bread and lard rations that made her vomit, and the latrines smeared with dark, liquid shit. Dafna, a Czech woman from Karlsbad, called her away from the door. Shoshana did not want to hear her words. She was tired of listening to the older women.
One of my stories–a playful reworking of the contributor note form found in literary journals–has been published in the new issue of Whiskey Island. The issue (No. 62) is available to purchase here. The journal also features the fantastic work of work of Alissa Nutting, Nate Pritts, Russ Woods, and many others. Here’s a sample:
Carol Clemente teaches writing in the Chicago area where she lives with her two Bichon Frises, Dolores and Fu-Fu. She has published poems in The Paris Review, Crazyhorse, and Feminist Studies. She also has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
This is Tom Fritz’s first published story. He divides his time between drinking espresso at Blue Bottle in Williamsburg and hatching Internet start-ups at his mom’s ranch house in Queens. She has a cat, Pringle, which he’s not allowed to pet. Though he sometimes secretly feeds her handfuls of gluten-free granola and occasionally tosses her a catnip mouse. He’s not sure what else he’s supposed to say here or which achievements he should note down. Sorry, I’m dropping the third-person shtick. I don’t know why you guys require it. But it’s creeping me out. It’s like this note is an obituary or something. I’m here, you know? Alive. Well, just about. I already admitted I live with my mom. It’s kind of a downer, especially on my love life. It’s been a while since I got laid. I’m twenty-three now, but back in college I was an A-grade bullshitter. On the steps of Alexander Library, I held court, often rapping lyrical speeches on the future of the Internet and handing out flyers that detailed my own social networking ideas, and directed people to visit my website. And, sure, I dated plenty of girls, usually hipster types who wrote poems on napkins and then used the corners to wipe the crust from their eyes. Man, that turned me on. I majored in Communication while my friends specialized in Fine Art or Architecture. Their classes were titled “Seventeenth-Century Nudes” and “Onanistic Spaces: A History of the Architectural Phallus.” Sounds cool now. Back then, I never wrote much—just essays on Marshall McLuhan and the lesbian scenes in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even made the Dean’s List one semester. Recently, I’ve been looking for a way out. Maybe an M.F.A. Perhaps from Iowa, or somewhere corn grows like that. When I sent my story to the Tenure Quarterly Review, I thought a literary agent would read it, sign me up, get me a six-figure book deal. I mean that Chad Harbach landed sweet bank. So far, for me, this hasn’t been the case. Here’s the skinny: so my story is a glorified to-do list—a to-fuck really—and six months ago, the editors (Hi Gary! Hi Twyla!) emailed to say “Errands” had been accepted. Champagne-in-a-can followed. I tell you, it’s funny. I remember my ninth-grade English teacher, Mr. Hausman, berate me: “Tom, I’m not convinced you read Hamlet. In fact, I’m not sure you know who Shakespeare is and why he’s so important.” Well, old Hausman was right. I didn’t read Hamlet, but I did study Business Week and Forbes and think about how I could accumulate a Google-level fortune before I graduated college. Even though I went to Rutgers (my safety school), I knew I’d be headhunted by Silicon Valley. Post-college, when that didn’t happen, I fell into a gnarly funk. I hit the streets, zonked on Xanax, and looked for inspiration—something to let me know I should carry on living. Well, one cold morning outside the 42nd Street Library, I thought maybe I should have listened to Hausman and I checked out a North Face backpack’s worth of classic novels: Madame Bovary, The Stranger, Catcher in the Rye, etc. That’s how I ended up writing, and dreaming of literary conquest.
Michael Butler nominates Pringle for a Pushcart.
Here’s an excerpt:
We were told the cows had gone feral, that in the days after the accident they had broken free of the pen and disappeared into the surrounding hills. Government officials were spooked by the rumors of this wild herd, declaring that the cattle posed a radiation risk to the elderly civilians still living in the warehouse on the outskirts of the city. On first meeting Makoto Nishimura, the local representative, the three of us—McAlister, Doolin, and Ketchum—knew the problem was more than some radioactive cattle. We could see he feared the unknown.
Read the rest here.
Today sees publication of one my recent stories, “Take It From Me, Kid, I’m a Clown.” Published by Lunch Ticket (Antioch’s MFA literary magazine), the story is available to read for free on the interwebs.
Here’s the opening:
“Listen kid, I know it’s your birthday and all, that you only turn ten once, and that this is your special day, but, come on, you’re crying over your balloon animal because you wanted a giraffe and you got an Irish Wolfhound, which you say looks retarded, and that I’m retarded; please, give me some respect here—even though I go by Bozo the Clown, I’m no bozo, just part of the franchise—this is my career, my profession…”
Last fall in my fiction class we looked over the rules of several famous and successful writers in this Guardian article and came up with our own list of rules. Mine is below:
- Write for one hour a day. Minimum.
- Try not to make the story predictable. Surprise yourself.
- Create an ending where people say WTF!
- Write about something you know nothing.
- Read the books friends suggest. Don’t just say you will.
- Embody the dialogue. Make it authentic. Make it zip.
- Write things that are beyond your reach.
- Fail as a writer.
- Accept this and rewrite the goddamn thing.
- Value your classmates and your teacher.
Overall, I stuck to these rules quite rigorously and was able to write some strange and powerful fiction–different from my usual fare. During the semester we were not able to tell anybody our rules or mention that we had a covenant with the rest of the class. This, in hindsight, added a layers of secrecy and mystery to the proceedings, and, in some way, drew the class closer together.
So, now, I’m asking: what are your ten rules?