Saturday, August 29, 2009

Do Not Deny Me

A cynical, burned-out drama professor unexpectedly bonds with a mediocre student. . . A psychic works at the Department of Motor Vehicles . . . A man in mid-life goes on a quest to build himself a tree house . . . A caretaker wife becomes wicked and vile toward her husband who has suffered a stroke. . . An elderly woman, with a passion for quilting, befriends a troubled little girl in her neighborhood . . . In Do Not Deny Me, the latest short story collection by award-winning writer Jean Thompson, the lives of regular folks intersect with life-changing events that emerge from the ordinary. "What intrigues me are the interior lives of anyone you might meet during the course of an unremarkable day, the possibilities for tragedy and drama that exist in any life," Jean Thompson said in an article recently published in The Chicago Tribune.

I discovered the writing of Jean Thompson more than a decade ago. I was completely riveted by "Mercy" (a story about a cop and a grieving mother) in her collection, Who Do You Love? Since then, I've read everything she's written--short fiction, novels and
essays--and I've not been disappointed. Jean Thompson is a master storyteller who writes compelling, realistic, thought-provoking gems. Her novels (City Boy, Wide Blue Yonder, My Wisdom, The Woman Driver) and her other books of short stories (Throw Like a Girl, The Gasoline Wars, Little Face and Other Stories) are well-crafted, literary page-turners. Layered around the deep, emotional core of her tales are characters who seem like people you know--warts and all--struggling to overcome challenges in their lives.

Jean Thompson was recently asked her thoughts about reading fiction: "People read for diversion and entertainment, but also, I believe, because they hope to become passionately engaged in other worlds and other sensibilities. And because we are language-oriented creatures, language opens portals for us, helps us to understand and interpret our own lives."
Jean Thompson is one of those rare, artful writers who, especially with Do Not Deny Me, crafts stories that offer readers a glimpse of themselves. And it is because of her tender irony and the gripping realism of her work that she is keeping the short story form alive--and well. (which serializes a story each week) recently featured a Jean Thompson short. Link to read "A Winter Husband"