The Blog

Sex, Rocks, and Taxidermy: A Conversation with Chris Offutt

Alex Dezen

[This interview appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of The Iowa Review.]

I first met Chris Offutt outside the fabled Foxhead bar on Iowa City’s east side. What I had heard about Chris Offutt was that he graduated from the Workshop during the fabled Conroy days—when Frank Conroy ruled the Workshop with painstaking intensity and tough love—and that he wrote about hunting. I had shot a pigeon with a BB gun at age twelve, from the second-story window of my friend’s brownstone in the Bronx, an experience that continues to plague me with guilt.

Melanie Rae Thon's IN THIS LIGHT

Vanessa Blakeslee

One often hears of a certain writer’s gift for rendering poetic prose, spellbinding in its precision and rhythm, but rarely have I picked up a short story collection and found nearly every sentence living up to such claims. Not so with In This Light by Melanie Rae Thon, the recipient of a Whiting Award, two NEA fellowships, and the author of four novels in addition to two story collections, Girls in the Grass (1991) and First, Body (1997). In This Light showcases selections from those previous collections along with several new stories. Throughout the book, Thon uses metaphor, repetition, and salient detail to bring her characters’ lives to their often violent, destructive crescendos.


Michael Martin Shea

Water Puppets, Quan Barry’s third full-length collection and winner of the 2010 Donald Hall Prize in Poetry, is anything but puppetry, striking a forceful blow against the idea of poetry as naïve navel-gazing. It takes as its motivating question, “What does poetry have to do with the real world?” and throws an emphatic response, as Barry builds a narrative at once personal and political, reflecting on her own past as an immigrant from Vietnam as well as the current state of world affairs.

(Do Not) Beat Poets

Lynne Nugent

Sometimes I imagine the Iowa Review, publisher of literary fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, as inhabiting the opposite side of the publishing spectrum from, say, a newspaper: not so much Great Men or Great Events—what Virginia Woolf summarized as the kind of history that proclaims, "In the year 1842 Lord John Russell brought in the Second Reform Bill"—as a more lowercase version of history: personal, idiosyncratic, filtered through the consciousness of a single writer who, in the moment of writing, seems not so much engaged with world events as contemplating them from a distance.

Why We’re Excited to Publish…“Magellan” by Bradley Bazzle

Bryan Castille

For a new series of posts, we’re asking our editors to choose a recent story, essay, or poem they’d selected for publication and tell us how it won them over. Here, our 2010-2011 fiction editor, Bryan Castille, recalls his discovery of Bradley Bazzle’s “Magellan,” which appears in the Winter 2011 issue.

It was the end of a very long day of reading fiction manuscripts. The sun had long set, and my head ached from hours of straining my eyes. My contact lenses had fused themselves to my corneas. I was about to log out of my computer when I saw another unopened envelope. (Envelopes tended to inexplicably repopulate my desk when I was ready to go home.) Rather than toss it back into the slush pile for another day, I opened it, thinking, “I’ll just read the first page. If it’s good, I’ll take it home. If it’s not so good, I’ll leave it for tomorrow.”


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