Bonnie Jo Campbell (c) Bradley Pines_300dpiWhat’s all the fuss?

Whoopee & Zoinks & Zowie & Zonkeys for everyone! What a joyful thing to have a new book coming out in 2015. Every book born is a miracle, but mine has a fabulous cover by which you can judge it, and inside are about two hundred and fifty pages of stories that I worked really hard on with much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. And WW Norton is sending me to far-flung cities to make the case that folks should read it. For your information a zonkey is a zebra-donkey hybrid.

MothersTellYourDaughtersUsed to be a doctor would wrap a woman up tight to hold body and soul together, but when I fell last week trying to get to the kitchen to pour myself a drink, they just untangled my tubes, picked me up like I was a child, and put me back in this awful bed. Told me I’d had a stroke. Now I’m lying here with a broken rib that aches.

You don’t have to read Jack Driscoll’s author’s blurb to know he’s a poet. Open The World of a Few Minutes Ago to any story—any sentence—and savor the rich language and rhythms, the words that sing on the page.

Driscoll is the author of four novels, four poetry books, and the short story collection he is probably best known for: Wanting Only To Be Heard. Best-selling author Brady Udall echoes the words of many writers I know when he says, “Jack Driscoll has long been one of this country’s best short story writers.” Despite Driscoll’s impressive critical acclaim–including the AWP Short Fiction Award, PEN/Nelson Algren Fiction Award, the Pushcart Editors’ Book Award, and multiple Pushcarts and Best American Short Story citations–he is not as famous as he should be.

Girlchild is narrated by Rory Dawn Hendrix, “feebleminded daughter of a feebleminded daughter.” She lives in the Calle de la Flores trailer park, in the “rum-and-semen-stained outskirts of Reno.” Rory’s father is long gone, and her mother’s good intentions are drowned in alcohol. Despite this bleak setting, Hassman’s daring debut novel is a joy to read. The rich and dense language, full of surprise, word play, and revelation, makes the book a sensual pleasure, every chapter a prose poem.

Bonnie Jo Campbell’s newest novel has been reviewed everywhere from the New Yorker to Entertainment Weekly. I am lucky enough to study in the MFA program at Pacific University, where she teaches, and I would like to add to the polyphony of praise.

When Margo arrived at the marijuana house, the midnight crickets were screaming. On her twelve-hour, thirty-some-mile trip downstream she had passed swampy places croaking with bullfrogs, but here the tree frogs chirped like insects. Margo pulled her boat onto the sand and climbed up the bank. The place was overgrown, spooky in its neglect. The dock was pulled out of the water, and grass and weeds poked up through the slats. Plywood was nailed over several of the windows, and glass shards in the dirt reflected moonlight. Both doors had padlocks on them. She lit the kerosene lantern she’d swiped from Brian’s cabin before heading down the river. She held the lantern up and read the signs posted on both doors: KEEP OUT NO TRESPASSING, with THIS MEANS YOU spray-painted beneath. Junior’s pot leaf had been painted over. When neither of the uncovered windows would budge, she began to pry at one of the pieces of plywood.

So how did you get where you are, Ms. Campbell? And why are you wearing a Carhartt coverall?

Thank you for coming to see me at my home in the swamp! Even as I am scrubbing mildew off a pair of leather boots with an old toothbrush, I am basking in the glow of my good literary fortune.  And now I’ve been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. It’s a huge honor.  Hey, pass me that muskrat that needs skinning. I like to think I’m in this beautiful place—with a new book coming out—because I work really hard, but plenty of people work hard. Hey, watch out, that shotgun is loaded! I’ve been writing about the characters and situations that interest me, and it turns out that these are characters and situations other people want to read about. What beautiful luck! Too bad about your car over there—it seems to be sinking into the mud.