Thursday, May 23, 2013

May is Short Story Month - Mary Hood

May is Short Story Month and today's author is Mary Hood. Ms. Hood is a novelist, essayist and short story author of the American South. Born in Georgia in 1946, she is a graduate of Georgia State University. She began her professional life as a librarian in Douglasville. She has held the Grisham Chair (yes, that Grisham) at the University of Mississippi, among other positions, and taught at the University of Georgia.

Hood's first published work was a collection of short fiction, How Far She Went (1984), which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction and the The Southern Review/Louisiana State University Award for Short Fiction. A second collection, And Venus is Blue (1986), won the Lillian Smith Book Award and the Townsend Prize for Fiction, among others. Her one novel (so far) is Familiar Heat, published in 1995. She has since had several stories published in The Georgia Review. Hood's stories have been anthologized frequently, notably in The Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Short Stories. This is a list of works. This is a list of awards.

Generations of southern identity are central to today's story and I don't think I've ever read a better, clearer characterization of the way the South understands the question of identity than this one from Hood. She had this to say:

Suppose a man is walking across a field. To the question "Who is that?" a Southerner would reply by saying something like "Wasn't his granddaddy the one whose dog and him got struck by lightning on the steel bridge? Mama's third cousin - dead before my time - found his railroad watch in that eight-pound catfish's stomach the next summer just above the dam. I think it was eight pounds. Big as Eunice's arm. The way he married for that new blue Cadillac automobile, reckon how come he's walking like he has on Sunday shoes, if that's who it is, and for sure it is." A Northerner would reply to the same question (only if directly asked, though, never volunteering), "That's Joe Smith." To which the Southerner might think (but be much too polite to say aloud), "They didn't ask his name, they asked who he is!"
Today's story deals with a particularly perilous time in the life of a teenage girl: suffering from that delusion during which teenage girls fancy themselves powerful because they are physically
attractive to men. It's a shot to the groin, hollow in the stomach, the idea that you can exert your will over a man. Not a boy, a man. If you manage to survive that phase relatively unscathed you can look back many years later and marvel that you made it through with no violence having been done you. At the time you're not thinking about things like that. You think you're in control. Until you're not.

Our story is "How Far She Went." Some women know how far she went, and some are glad they don't.

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