Category Archives: Uncategorized

Englander and Hempel Bonus Links

Bonus upon bonus:

Amy Hempel profiled by USAArtists on YouTube

Hempel’s 2006 interview in The Atlantic

Rivka Galchen interviews Nathan Englander in Bomb Magazine

Englander’s official webpage


Blog Comment Grading Policy

As promised!  Here’s the grading rubric for your blog comments.  I’ll be sending these grades to you privately each week, to reflect the quality of your blog comments and participation in our out-of-the-classroom discussion.

4:  Outstanding.  Focused analysis and, though brief, demonstrates a high level of engagement with the response questions.  Points to evidence from the text to back up claims.  Responds to more than one question and considers the previous responses of classmates (beyond indicating agreement or disagreement) in formulating answers.  Applies standard English grammar and punctuation conventions.

3:  Good.  Reasonably clear analysis, demonstrating a solid level of engagement with the response questions.  Occasionally points to evidence from the text to back up claims and may refer to classmates’ previous responses in formulating answers.   Applies standard English grammar and punctuation conventions.

2: Underdeveloped.  Shallow analysis, demonstrating brief or superficial engagement with the response questions.  Does not utilize textual evidence, or uses evidence inappropriately.  Does not respond fully to questions or consider classmates’ previous responses.  May have numerous grammar and punctuation errors.

1: Limited.  Unfocused, exceedingly brief, demonstrates little to no engagement with response questions.

0: No Credit.  The student did not submit a response.

Stuart Dybek’s “We Didn’t” and Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”

For each story, please address one or more of the following questions in your response.  Remember to keep these brief–about a paragraph or so in length.

1) What’s the emotion most at play in Dybek’s story?  How does he achieve that effect?  (Hint: take a look at the very beginning and the very end of the story.)

2) Take a look at the long paragraph that begins on the bottom of page 182 and continues about halfway down page 183.  How does the style of this paragraph (language, rhythm, punctuation) relate to its subject matter?  What’s the effect on you as a reader?

3) “Girl” is a dialogue between two characters.  Who are they, and where is the evidence in the story to back up your claim?

4) Why do you think Kincaid chose the structure she did?

Donald Barthelme’s “The School” and Daniel Orozco’s “Orientation”

In both of these pieces, pay particular attention to word choice, patterns, and the intentional subverting of readerly expectations.

1) If we read “The School” under the expectations of strict realism, we’d be horrified.  Where and how does Barthelme provide clues within the text for how to read this story?

2) Why does Barthelme use an adult’s voice to ask children’s questions?  (or, why are these children so strangely adult-like?)

3) “Orientation” works with an interesting and intricate point of view/narrative distance.  Why does Orozco give such detailed, personal information about everyone except the narrator?

4) What’s so significant about the repetition of the phrase “he/she/you might be let go?”

Mary Gaitskill’s “Tiny, Smiling Daddy”

Please address one or more of the following questions in your response.  Remember to keep these brief–about a paragraph or so in length.

1)  Pay close attention to this story’s structure and use of flashback and memory.  Why do you think Gaitskill made the choices she did?  In particular, why dos the very last memory appear at the end of the story?

2) Why are we never shown the father and Kitty interacting during the story’s present action?

3) How do you feel toward the father character, and how does Gaitskill achieve that effect?

George Saunders Bonus Links

For more George Saunders, try:

George Saunders on The Colbert Report (October 8, 2007)

Interview on Powells

His short story, “Puppy” (The New Yorker, May 28, 2007)

George Saunders’ “Sea Oak”

Please address the following questions in your response.  Remember to keep this brief–about a paragraph or so.

This piece incorporates elements of genre fiction (the zombie/horror story), but goes in unexpected directions with it.  Does it work?  Why/why not?

What are Saunders’ obsessions?  What would you say is his writerly project, and how does he go about exploring it in this particular piece?

Jean Thompson Bonus Links

If you just can’t get enough, try:

Jean Thompson’s Official Home Page

New York Times book review of her short story collection, Throw Like a Girl

A 2007 Interview on

Feel free to share more in the comments!

Ground Rules

Hi, folks, and welcome!  I’ll post the response questions for the Jean Thompson reading on Wednesday, but in the meantime, here are some guidelines for how to treat this online extension of our classroom community:

1) Everyone is required to post a minimum of one comment per reading.

2) There’s a concept known as parallel play.  That’s not what we’re going for here.  A quality response to the reading will engage with at least one of your classmates’ prior responses.

3) What does it mean to *engage* with a previous comment?  Well, a good start is to remain respectful (there’s a world of difference between a disagreement and a personal attack), and even if you agree with a classmate, be sure to back up your own points with evidence from the story.

4) If you have questions of your own, feel free to bring those up.

5) Any comments that are in any way disrespectful to a classmate or irrelevant to the class or the material we’re covering will be deleted, and may be grounds for disciplinary action.

To get started, please leave a comment introducing yourself to the rest of us.