Posts Categorized: Fiction

Inside IR: Meet Fiction Editor Joe Hiland

Clockwise from top left: Mark Twain, Ron Swanson, Sean Connery, Topper Hiland and Joe Hiland

It’s true, Fiction Editor Joe Hiland has discerning taste in literature, whisky, and canines, but he also has a soul. Despite his dry wit and carnivorous tendencies, Joe is a true Duke Silver: sensitive, compassionate, and as tender on the inside as a medium-rare steak. Read on to see for yourself.

JL: What is the last piece of writing that knocked the wind out of you?

JH: We usually think of writing knocking the wind out of us (or whatever image we want to use) when we read something for the first time, but it’s interesting when a familiar piece of writing knocks the wind out of you.  I recently had that experience with Bobbie Ann Mason’s story “Shiloh.”  I’ve read that story at least a dozen times, and I was rereading it the other day in preparation for a class I’m teaching.  I was taken aback by the precision of Mason’s language and the richness of even the simplest details in her story.  I’d forgotten the first line, and it caught me pleasantly off-guard during my reread:  “Leroy Moffitt’s wife, Norma Jean, is working on her pectorals.”   So much of what’s at stake in the story is encompassed in that simple opening line.

JL: What do you look for a good story to do?

Read more, after the jump!

Read more…

Inside IR: Meet the Editors

This week, IR’s prized and plucky Fiction Editor Rachel Lyon, shares some of her favorite journals with unique pursuits and reminds us that we all still need to read Moby Dick.

Photo sources: Tom Neely, Vanessa Michelle, Indiana Review

Where are you from?
Brooklyn, New York.

Favorite issue of IR?
31.2, Winter 2009, because it was the first issue I saw. It’s as old as my studentship at IU, and it introduced me to the work of writers like Michael Martone and Dan Beachy-Quick, whose work I still follow. Plus, I love that wicked rabbit on the cover.

Favorite non-IR journals?
I love the Canadian journal Geist. It’s funny, Canada isn’t that far away, but reading Geist you get a real sense of a different culture. I’m also interested in journals that are dedicated to more specific projects, like Alimentum, a journal that showcases work about food, which Deb introduced me to; Memoir, which pushes the boundaries of traditional memoir; Fourth Genre, which focuses on creative nonfiction; or Camera Obscura, which has some beautiful fiction and photography.

 

What/Who is on your reading wish list right now?
I am itching for summer, when I’ll have the time to finally read Moby Dick. The short passages that I have read are stunning. I can’t wait to read it from beginning to end.

 

What do you hope to see next for IR?
I’m interested to see where we go in the next five or ten years with digital literature, interactive written work that is only available online. I think digital literature offers some really interesting possibilities, and I will be following IR long after I graduate to see how we eventually develop those ideas.

2011 Fiction Prize Winner & Runners-Up

Image: plentyofcolour.com

Announcing our winner of the 2011 Fiction Prize

“Presidents”

Elise Winn

Davis, California

& Runners-Up:

“Eight, Nineteen, Twenty-Seven”

Natasha Sunderland

“Last Night with Cicely”

Kyle Winkler

Congratulations to our contest winner, Elise Winn, our runners-up, Natasha Sunderland and Kyle Winkler, and all our fantastic finalists. We’d also like to extend a huge thank you to our final judge, Kevin Brockmeier, and all of our contest entrants, for making our 2011 fiction contest a success!

Dialect and Bias

“Well… yawl have looked long enough. What you think about them?”

“We been watching… who they now?”

“Displaced Persons…. Well now. I declare. What do that mean?”

“It means they ain’t where they were born at and there’s nowhere for them to go—like if you was run out of here and wouldn’t nobody have you.”

“It seems like they here, though… if they here, they somewhere.”

The above is excerpted from Flannery O’Connor’s story “The Displaced Person,” published in 1953 in the collection A Good Man is Hard to Find. Since O’Connor’s death in 1964, the way we use dialect in fiction has changed significantly. The dialect in which O’Connor wrote her characters’ dialogue was complex enough in the 1950s. Sixty years later, it seems to me that the use of dialect is a dying practice—not least because with each passing decade it’s become increasingly racially, politically, and socioeconomically problematic. Dialect can also signal the contemporary reader to read a character as ‘other,’ which in turn can take that reader out of the story and discourage identification with the character.

But dialect can also be powerful. Nothing conveys a character’s voice and tone with as much immediacy. And in a time when reading has become an essentially visual experience—the text we read online and on our phones is compressed, abbreviated, translated into symbols—dialect can encourage the reader to connect with the written word on an aural level.

Visitors to the site The Dialectizer can input text and have it translated by a computer program into a number of dialects, including Jive, Cockney, Elmer Fudd, Swedish Chef, and even Hacker (the last of which I suspect isn’t a dialect at all, since it’s only ever typed, not spoken…). Imagine reading the following in a story, a familiar joke I ‘translated’ into a dialect the site calls Redneck: “Whuffo’ did th’ possum crost th’ road? To git t’t’other side.” In the work of a contemporary author, I imagine that little line would come off as satirical at best, offensive at worst. For the writer, though, particularly during an era when creating dialect is as simple as inputting text into a Web site, it can read as lazy characterization.

Ultimately, I suspect that the problem of dialect is just one facet of a much larger one: Good dialogue—like a good man—is hard to find.

What’s your opinion of dialect in fiction? Is it an outdated practice? Or can it be used wisely? We’d love to know your thoughts!