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When I Wrote Fiction

See, one of the reasons to keep googling, nexising, and whatevering your name is that old pubs are still putting their archives online. Which is how I discovered a review in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette of the 1999 version of the anthology, New Stories from the South, in which appears my last piece of fiction. The reviewer, Michael Gills, who taught creative writing in Arkansas back then and is at the University of Utah nowadays, had this astoundingly positive thing to say:

If everything rides on telling the right story, and if the right story in this collection is one that somehow reconfigures tired southernisms, then Michael Erard’s “Beyond The Point” (North American Review) is pivotal. All the foundation stones are here from the word go: “That summer when we were looking for something, we used to congregate at the Big House at South Point . . . . Some of us harbored anarchist dreams. The revolution had been unleashed, and we were partisans living off the fat of the toppled aristocracy . . . .” In this story, the “Big House” has been vacated, its former tenants gone for good, and the lonely offspring forced to realize what, if any, possibilities remain in their station. “Still, we never destroyed anything, except perhaps symbolically.” One remembers Julian from “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” how his dream in life, hypocritical to the core, was to one day return to the plantation of his youth. In Erard’s story, such a return has occurred, only with startling repercussions: “But we hadn’t come to the Big House to be reminded of truths . . . We moved with a singular idea in mind, away from the electrical light. Returned to amniotic baths, naked as we’d come. This was what we wanted . . . . If you didn’t start over like this, you’d misunderstand your life’s vividness, which was always about to begin . . . .” The story’s final move, its crucial utterance, responds directly to Flannery O’Connor and the roots of a Southern literary lineage: “If you didn’t disperse, you wouldn’t know what it meant to be together. . . . So we waded out further, by ourselves . . . further and further . . . in the lapping dark seamed with glitters above and below.”

That’s a nice surprise. I think I’ll keep nexising.