Friday Jan 21

Robert Clark Young In the years before he drank himself to death, my friend Jim was arrested for drunk driving eight times. Two of those times, he wasn't even in his car. Instead, he was parked on the median of the 101 in San Jose in the rush-hour afternoon, urinating into traffic. When I told him, "Look at the bright side—someday you can write a great story about your DUIs and jail," he replied, "There are no great stories about DUIs and jail." I wish Jim were still alive, so that he could read "Canebrake" by Ric Hoeben. For those the living—enjoy!

On the morning of May 18, 1980, I was on my way to the movies with a friend when we stopped off at a liquor store so that I could pick up some liquid breakfast. On a TV set mounted over a bank of bottles, we watched time-delay photos of Mount St. Helens blowing up.

"This is why literature is dead," my friend said. "It can't beat what we're watching."

"I disagree. I think someday someone will write something excellent about this. I think the story will use this explosion as a metaphor for the difficult relationships between people, and therefore say something about the human condition."

I left with my vodka and drank it in the theater, craving such a story. Thirty-two years later, the remarkable story I was craving has arrived: "My Father and Mount St. Helens," by Tracey Lander-Garrett. Enjoy!

Twenty-seven years ago, I had my last drink. The last week that I was drunk, I wrote a story about my dog for my creative writing class at the University of California, Davis. The story ended with the dog being euthanized with a shot of sodium pentobarbital. Novelist James Crumley was guest-leading the workshop that week. He said, "They should have injected the author instead."

I've been a sucker for excellent dog stories ever since. This week we have "Running Shadows" by Jenna Opperman. Enjoy!

Many years ago I entered a writing contest and was beaten out by a story about anorexia. I thought it a weak piece of work, sentimental, technically facile, and maddeningly secondhand. I thought, "Huh. Someday I'll be the creative nonfiction editor of a magazine and I'll pick an anorexia story that's clear-eyed, technically inventive, and in-your-face first-person." Well, that day is today. And so I give you "Collapse" by Lizz Schumer, which contains all of these stated qualities and so much more. Enjoy!

If you live long enough, you'll come across excellent examples of every type of story. Enjoy them all!