Tag Archives: Chad Simpson

An Interview with Chad Simpson

Earlier this month we reviewed Chad Simpson’s story collection Tell Everyone I Said Hi. Over the last few months, we’ve had an email volley going about the book, his writing, and how the Midwest might be maligned. Here it is, in its basically (but not totally!) unabridged form.

MORRIS:  So how did it feel to win the 2012 John Simmons Short Fiction Award? To my recollection, your name has come up a lot in the various near-miss categories for a number of awards. Was this something that felt more possible because you were so much on the cusp, or was it difficult to maintain a positive attitude with so many variations on the “you almost got there, slugger” rejection?

SIMPSON:  Because I was a finalist for two book contests in 2011, I don’t think I was quite as shocked as I might otherwise have been when I received the phone call from the University of Iowa Press. I was surprised, no doubt, but the call didn’t floor me. Over the course of the past several months, as the news has both spread and had time to sink in, I’ve begun to realize just how much luck is involved in winning a contest like this. You have to submit a decent manuscript to win, of course, but it takes a lot more than that. So, I feel lucky. And humbled. And very excited that this book of mine is going to be released into the world. Continue reading

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Chad Simpson’s “Tell Everyone I Said Hi”

I used to mow lawns when I was a kid, for my grandparents and some of their neighbors. It wasn’t so bad—I had cash and smelled like grass, both of which I found masculinely intoxicating. But sometimes the oldies would bust my ass and kill my buzz. One guy in particular used to chew me out when I’d miss the smallest spot in his lawn, let me have it when I’d mow dewey grass and leave it sloppy.

I resented that, and would just do a worse job in turn: leave little isosceles patches at every pivot, not get too close to the trunk when rounding the trees, forget to sweep loose grass off the driveway.

And soon he stopped having me do the grass, and I felt like I won, somehow. Twenty fewer dollars in my pocket a week, but a sense of pride about the fact that I’d somehow stood up, let that too-serious old guy have it—however silently the message was delivered.

But I knew he had a lot of stuff going on: I heard he was a veteran (WWII) and his wife had just died. Long after he stopped having me, when I mowed my grandma’s lawn across the street, I’d see him sitting on his two front steps, grilling a steak on his Smokey, looking around, neither contemplative nor engaged nor even really there at all.

I haven’t thought about the mowing or that old man or that whole juvenile triumph in a while. But after reading Chad Simpson’s short story collection, Tell Everyone I Said Hi, I’m finding it difficult to think about anything else, to cover up the image of that man and that stoop and that Smokey, the understanding that he was profoundly sad and I was cruelly happy in the way that only adolescents can be.

Simpson’s eighteen stories masterfully capture similar contrasts, and captivate the reader with their compassion and cleverness. Continue reading

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Our October Review Previewganza

As of today, September 29, we have reviewed forty-eight titles in 2012—not bad, right? This week we will publish titles 49 and 50. And yet, there’s more! So much more, really, to come as autumn turns to winter. October will be something of a catching-up period, for us, as we review some September titles sitting in our review queue. But there will be some October titles covered as well. Here’s a not-at-all exhaustive list of what we’ve got to come.  Continue reading

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Five Debuts to Watch

In a way, 2011 was the year of the debut: Chad Harbach, Karen Russell, Teju Cole, and Téa Obreht enchanted with first-time efforts. Though 2012 hasn’t offered any debuts on the literary level of Open City, or any with the blistering industry-wide hype to match The Art of Fielding, the second-half of this year will feature many notable debuts that you’ll be hearing a lot about—some of which we’re lucky enough to review.

Here are five to watch.

Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles (Random House, June 26)
The year’s representative from the Earth-Shattering Hype category might be this debut from Walker, a former editor at Simon & Schuster. The Age of Miracles has a bold premise: the earth has, inexplicably, started to slow. And all the while the eleven-year-old Julia must find a way to cope while being a person with those other problems—you know, the ones that don’t have an effect on the earth’s rotation, like losing friends or watching her family disintegrate. Early reviews have been stunningly positive, with Publisher’s Weekly calling it a “triumph of vision, language, and terrifying momentum.” Continue reading

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A week from now, the DBC|READS gang is going back to college! (Cue: montage showing us in college.) And for some of us—the D and B, respectively—this means heading back to the Midwest. This is exciting. This is a good thing. So, in honor of that, our #fridayreads will focus on the Midwest.

Chad Simpson’s “Estate Sales”
One of my favorite writers’ (and a former professor) best stories, “Estate Sales” does everything a good piece of flash fiction should do: it condenses a meaningful story line into a very small space, without sparing the elements required of a good piece of writing.

Michael Martone’s “The Flatness”

And, in the dawn around Sandusky, they have had enough, and they hunker down and drive, looking for the mountains that they know are out there somewhere. They cannot see what is all around them now. A kind of blindness afflicts them, a pathology of the path. The flatness.

I’ve always had a particular fondness for this piece. Having spent a lot of my adolescence driving across Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, reading “The Flatness” puts me back in the seat of my 1999 (and later 2003) Chevrolet Cavalier.

David Foster Wallace’s “Tennis, Trigonometry, and Tornadoes”
Look at that opening line—I mean, seriously, look at that opening line. I love, “T, T, and T” because it’s Wallace’s best piece about the Midwest. Spare me his treatise on the Illinois State Fair—which was, undoubtedly, something he must have regretted writing, what with its East Coast self-righteousness and generally toxic tenor—I’ll take this simple, heartfelt piece that somehow comments on all three Ts in a way that seems natural; right.

Jonathan Franzen’s “The Comfort Zone”
Listen, I’m just not a big Franzen guy. He’s lacking in, shall we say, humility? But this is a tremendous essay.


Have a good weekend, everybody. I’ll be the guy trying to figure out if the White Sox really did hire Robin Ventura.

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