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My Publications

Alone With All That Could Happen: On Writing Fiction (Revised & Expanded Edition)

Alone With All That Could Happen: On Writing Fiction (Revised & Expanded Edition) contains eight essays that take a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, approach to the craft of fiction. They describe the various technical possibilities available to fiction writers and, further, they analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each possibility, the effects each choice we make has on the work as a whole. Although the essays are grounded in literary history and tradition, they frequently depart from the reigning dogma of our time, as expressed both in standard creative writing textbooks and in the practice of many contemporary fiction writers.  (Note: The first edition of this book was published in hardcover in 2008 by Writer's Digest Books and reprinted in softcover as On Writing Fiction: Rethinking Conventional Wisdom about the Craft in 2011.  All seven of the original essays have been revised, updated, and expanded and an eighth essay has been added.)

Bret Lott, the author of Jewel, Ancient Highway, Dead Low Tide, Before We Get Started: A Practical Memoir of the Writer's Life, and numerous other books, says in the Foreword that David Jauss is "a writer whose work I respect and admire utterly, and from whom I myself have learned a great deal about writing. ... You'll find in these pages, whether he is writing about such practical matters as point of view or such seemingly esoteric issues as Janusian thinking, a teacher who cares deeply about his students and a writer who cares just as deeply about the power of words and all they can mean." And he concludes: "The best way I know to discover how words do their work, and to understand how they can become art, is for the apprentice to study with a fierce and compassionate master of that art. David Jauss is just such a master, and this book grants its readers—you who desire to know what it means to write—an invaluable course of study..."

In Fiction Writers Review, novelist Philip Graham says, "On Writing Fiction: Rethinking Conventional Wisdom about the Craft ... is a book that lives up to its audacious title, and has the further backup of being written by an award-winning short story writer and a master of the form."

To read excerpts from this book, please click on the title above.

Nice People: New & Selected Stories II

A companion volume to Glossolalia: New & Selected Stories, Nice People contains revisions of four works from previous collections, including the novella "Last Rites," and nine new stories. The book is available in both paper and hardcover. To order, please go to the following link: https://www.press53.com/short-story-collections/nice-people-by-david-jauss

Glossolalia: New & Selected Stories

Glossolalia: New & Selected Stories (Press 53, 2013) includes 11 stories from my previous books and 6 new stories. The book is available in bookstores and online at https://www.press53.com/short-fiction/glossolalia-by-david-jauss, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and elsewhere.

Here are some reviews and advance praise for the book:

"If I were in charge of the seating arrangements, I'd reserve a place for David Jauss in the very first row of contemporary American fiction writers. Glossolalia: New & Selected Stories is why. Each of the stories within delivers stunning revelations of deep human truths, and each hitches Jauss's formidable storytelling powers to his very good heart. I'm in awe of this collection." —WALLY LAMB, author of She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True

"These incredibly accomplished short stories are cause for celebration; whether the characters are male or female, young or old, from the majority or from the minority, David Jauss renders them with the compassionate mastery of a true and humble artist. His prose is at once lean and generous, sensual and intelligent, edgy without being judgmental. Glossolalia is an absolute triumph of the short form by a master of it, and you will not read a better collection anywhere." —ANDRE DUBUS III, author of House of Sand and Fog and Townie: A Memoir

"For more than three decades David Jauss has been quietly crafting gems of literature. In Glossolalia he demonstrates yet again the skill, insight, and artistry that have earned him a place among the very best American writers. His talent runs deep." —CLINT MCCOWN, author of Haints and War Memorials

"I have long admired David Jauss’s fiction—the tough, yet gentle intelligence in it. But having these stories together in this beautiful selection [Glossolalia: New & Selected Stories] is such a pleasure. I've been going through the book slowly, savoring each story; each comprises what Peter Taylor called 'an evening's entertainment.' Yes indeed. An evening’s superior entertainment." —RICHARD BAUSCH, author of The Stories of Richard Bausch and Before, During, After

"David Jauss's work was a huge influence on me as a young writer, and I'm grateful that his smart, wise, deeply heartfelt stories are being collected in this beautiful new edition [Glossolalia]." —DAN CHAON, author of Among the Missing and Ill Will

"I have long been a great admirer of the work of David Jauss, though admirer is too weak a word. More like a fanatical fan. His stories have been personal landmarks for as long as I have been writing ('Glossolalia' is itself worth the price of admission), but with this new book [Glossolalia: New & Selected Stories] one can see the man and his work in all their literary glory. The new stories are stronger than ever, which is saying a lot, given the power of the early work, and the publication of this collection is an occasion for all readers to cheer." —BRET LOTT, author of Dead Low Tide and Jewel

"Glossolalia sparkles, providing readers the opportunity to engage with one of the unsung heroes of modern American short fiction. Jauss's stories are quietly haunting. This is the kind of work that sticks to the soul, waiting to be carried long into the night." —BENJAMIN WOODARD, Rain Taxi Review of Books

"David Jauss is a treasure who remains largely—and unjustly—undiscovered. ... Glossolalia is a more than welcome overview of David Jauss's career to date as a short story writer, and every lover of the form would profit from reading and studying this book, yet what this writer deserves is not only a New and Selected, but, one hopes one day, a Collected." —PHILIP GRAHAM, Fiction Writers Review

Black Maps

"These powerful stories are about conditions of exile and the many contemporary varieties of American violence and American shame. Written with clarity and compassion and an ability to see several sides of life simultaneously, Black Maps is a moving, impressive, deeply rewarding collection from a very talented writer." —LORRIE MOORE

"Black Maps ... is a near-perfect story collection." —PHILIP GRAHAM, Fiction Writers Review

"The vivid Vietnam War story 'Freeze' ... accomplishes more in just over 17 pages than most genre films manage in over two hours." —LIAM CALLANAN, The New York Times Book Review

"These nine stories display the acuity about human nature and the restrained yet moving style that call to mind such giants of the short story form as Hemingway, Cheever, Carver and Dubus." —HOPE COULTER

"It is not surprising that several of these stories have appeared in well-known literary magazines or won prizes. Highly recommended for libraries, undergraduate and up, wanting to build collections of first-rate contemporary fiction." —Choice

"The small, sharply seen worlds Jauss creates do much to prove—as the opening quote by Milan Kundera attests—that 'the border beyond which everything loses meaning ... is not miles away, but a fraction of an inch.'" —Publishers Weekly

"A collection of finely crafted tales of alienation that resonate like a high lonesome chorus of howling canines. ... These are excellent stories, delicate and intricate as poetry." —Small Press Review

"In these finely crafted stories, David Jauss depicts the lives of ordinary people who have crossed the border into a new and dark country where what once sustained them no longer exists. A man saws his car in half when his wife and son leave him. Close to the no-hitter that will give him his chance at 'The Bigs,' a minor league pitcher from the Dominican Republic refuses to throw another pitch. An alcoholic attending his son's funeral discovers in a lie he once told a truth that could destroy or save him. With gentle words and acts of love, a husband succumbs to his latent brutality. A soldier in Vietnam steps on a mine that fails to detonate and enters into a new and baffling kind of war. As the epigraph from Milan Kundera suggests, the secret of life is that 'the border beyond which everything loses meaning ... is not miles away, but a fraction of an inch.' With an unerring eye for human frailty, Jauss maps this ever-shifting boundary." —from the dust jacket

To read excerpts from this book, please click on the title above.

Crimes of Passion

"Crimes of Passion is a remarkably varied performance, speaking to us at different times from 16th-century Spain and post-Vietnam America, in the voices of murderers, priests, and heart-broken lovers. The stories are executed with verve and wit, and one of them—'Shards'—is terrifying enough to have vexed my sleep for two nights running. A fine collection." —TOBIAS WOLFF

"What a fine collection David Jauss has written. It is, beginning with the epigraph, a humorous book, alive with men bearing hooks instead of hands, crafty nuns, blind painters. Though much of this writing is funny, much is also sad. For the protagonists are lovers, that terrible and inward tribe; they carry gifts and doom to one another, and they describe for us the pain, the awful energies, of real loving. Mr. Jauss offers five monologues that are persuasive and haunting voices. His concluding novella, alert as it is to the marvelous failures available to us in art and in love, must be called no less than wise. The language of the book is clearly consecrated to its characters: they and their predicaments are more important to Mr. Jauss than is any need to show us how rich his gift is. It is very, very rich." —FREDERICK BUSCH

"Each story begins casually and moves with increasingly complex revelation, quickening pace, and with relentless motion. The language is deceptively simple, but carefully directed, with maximum economy. Jauss's work is complex, profound, beautiful in form." —H.E. FRANCIS

"There isn't a mediocre story among the six, though for this reader, the stories got better and better; more subtle, more intricate as the book went along; culminating in the long 'Last Rites,' a study of the savage sadism of a Medievalist college professor to a blind girl. This story interweaves flashbacks and overlapping events in such a way as to leave us miraculously sympathetic to the main character. In fact, eliciting multiplicity of response to deeply flawed characters seems to be Jauss's specialty, which he achieves by implicating us in conflict and desire and making us feel complexity, rather than accepting a more simple, surface appearance. In presenting us with inherently unattractive people and then bringing us to understanding, he sets himself the hardest task of the storyteller. Most highly recommended." —LAUREL SPEER, Gargoyle

"These six pieces display a fine ability to capture disparate voices in well-crafted, often simply beautiful language. As a first book by Jauss, it's a dazzler." —JAMES HANNAH, The Houston Chronicle

"Crimes of Passion, a powerful collection of stories by David Jauss, probes the darker regions of the human heart with all the acumen and skill of a first-rate surgeon. Jauss bares for us the lives of a rogue's gallery of characters—saints and sinners, murderers and malcontents—a varied crew alike only in the excesses of feeling and action passion has made them heir to. In 'Hook,' Jauss gives us a tortured Vietnam vet whose hook hand is the one constant in an otherwise chaotic life. In 'Sister Anastasia's Birthday,' a convalescing nun, looking back on a life of hollow routine, becomes caught up in the etiquette of dying, afraid to face the emptiness her misplaced devotion has left her with. 'Apotheosis' recreates the world of a 16th-century prelate in New Spain. With rich historical detail, the story is a documentary account of a priest whose will to survive leads him into the inner realm of the native Indian religion: the worship of the serpent God, Quetzalcoatl. 'Shards' offers penetrating insight into the mind of a murderer in love with light and devoted to death, on a mission guided by the ghostly voice of his dead father. And 'Last Rites,' the concluding novella, is a brilliant examination of a college teacher whose confused sexual identity leads him into the brutal psychological manipulation of a vulnerable blind painter. Written with indelible imagery, Crimes of Passion is a book you won't soon forget, the work of a man stretching the conventions of fiction to open up new avenues of psychological discovery." —from the dust jacket

To read excerpts from this book, please click on the title above.

You Are Not Here

"In the central elegy of this powerful and moving book, David Jauss finds a way of expressing and transcending his grief for the death of his friend and former student, the poet Lynda Hull, through the severe discipline of jazz improvisation, retelling and magnificently reinventing the great myths of hell. Compassion, humor, restless intelligence, and flawless technique come together brilliantly in You Are Not Here to create poems of real tenderness and classical restraint." —MAURA STANTON

"These elegant, timeless poems forego the ironies and fancy footwork to which many poets today seem to aspire, and instead fashion language into something far more difficult to achieve, 'the silence we call poetry.' This silence, of course, is not silence at all, but a recognition so profound, so blinding and right about the fragility of life and the persistence of desire, it leaves one speechless. Jauss has taken a cue from the jazz greats he so admires, whose sounds came straight from the hopeful, despairing reaches of the human heart to wrench and console us in ways that could never be paraphrased. Like them, humble and a true master, he all but disappears behind the sadness, the quiet courage, and the largesse of his own music." —LESLIE ULLMAN

"David Jauss's book of 'night thoughts' is a meditation on mortality, and on the ways we transform the pain of our brevity into art. At the heart of You Are Not Here is a fierce elegaic sequence remembering a brilliant poet, Lynda Hull. Hers is a grievous, particular loss, but as any deep grief seems to do, it draws all losses unto itself, until the poem becomes what real elegies are: both a lamentation and a search for a way to move forward in a world where 'without words there can be no return.'" —MARK DOTY

"In 'Requiem,' the stunning central sequence of You Are Not Here, David Jauss has written nothing less than a contemporary book of the dead. The poems combine elegant forms with the improvisation of jazz, to create a vibrant meditation on loss. These are crucial poems, both for the journey they undertake and for the wisdom and music they bring back." —BETSY SHOLL

"David Jauss devotes the central two-thirds of You Are Not Here to a forty-page, multi-part elegy for Lynda Hull, 'Requiem,' that is rivetingly layered, plangent, smart, simultaneously personal and mythic, and classically restrained while never not agonized. Hull's teacher at the beginning of her meteor-like career and her good friend until her sudden death, Jauss has been wounded into song by his need to accept her absence. And what song! More symphonic than lyric, the poem's thirty-nine sections engage in a continuing and deepening dialogue with each other, working and reworking a wide variety of motifs into a kaleidoscopic exploration of attachment and loss. Less linear than vertical, the poem is a descent through question after question, answer after answer, none of them final, an Orphic journey determined to discover the possible ways to reclaim any Eurydice from the underworld. 'Requiem' reads like quest literature, except the quester is not an exotic distant hero but each of us as we try to come to terms, literally, with mortality's exigencies. Particularly impressive is the author's creative intelligence, his ability to sustain at once so many themes and stories and characters—Coltrane, Ereshkigal, Cocteau, Dante, the Khmer Rouge, Buzz Aldrin, a personal grandfather and daughter, et al.—and fold them into a rich and lucid blend that offers first pleasure and then lasting if shifting and dynamic insight." —PHILIP DACEY

To read excerpts from this book, please click on the title above.

Improvising Rivers

"Improvising Rivers is an impressive book of technically accomplished poems. The surface details, as on a river, float gracefully over hidden but powerful currents." —MAURA STANTON, Ploughshares

"David Jauss writes poems as intense as prayers. His focus on memento mori, however, leads him not to some afterlife but more deeply into this one, including imaginative engagement with the lives of others—Flaubert, Kafka, jazz musicians, a Vietnam vet. That the poet's love for the world and its sensory pleasures behooves him to perfect his art, whose delights of form and language shine from every page, is the ultimate joy of Improvising Rivers. David Jauss can't get over the gift of his existence, and readers won't be able to get over the gift of his book." —PHILIP DACEY

"The unobtrusive technical mastery and almost classical precision of his style would alone be enough to make David Jauss's collection a notable one. But there is a unique depth and resonance in Jauss's work which is the real source of his accomplishment. Like Flaubert, Chekhov, and the jazz musicians who figure as tutelary spirits in his collection, Jauss sees the exercise of style as a form of pilgrimage to the human heart. And he knows the heart in all of its intricacies, misery, and splendor. It is hardly the fashion anymore to label a book as noble—but no other word will suffice." —DAVID WOJAHN

"In Improvising Rivers, David Jauss's strong first book of poetry, music abounds. Demonstrating his admirable range in form, style and voice, Jauss evokes music most directly in his poems about jazz giants, among them Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk. But when Jauss confronts his awareness of mortality, one of this book's central themes, music resonates most profoundly. Jauss, in accepting the inescapability of death, embraces the joy of his existence, the music of this life. ... In a poetic landscape too often populated by irrelevancy, inaccessibility and solipsistic absorption, Improvising Rivers is an exception, and that should be music to anyone's ears." —DEBORAH CUMMINS

To read excerpts from this book, please click on the title above.

Words Overflown by Stars: Creative Writing Instruction and Insight from the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Program

Thirty-two essays on the craft of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction by past and present faculty members of the acclaimed Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing Program, including such authors as Ralph Angel, Mark Doty, Douglas Glover, Robin Hemley, Richard Jackson, Sydney Lea, Bret Lott, Victoria Redel, Mary Ruefle, Sue William Silverman, David Wojahn, and Xu Xi. Topics covered include the creative process, titles, beginnings, voice and style, point of view, novel and short story structure, and the role of dreams and fantasy in fiction. The anthology also includes discussion of the often-blurry borderline between fiction and creative nonfiction, the subgenres of creative nonfiction, music and time in poetry, image patterning, "saying the unsayable," multiculturalism, the art of revision, and much more.

Since the MFA program's inception in 1981, the graduates of Vermont College of Fine Arts have published more than 500 books as well as thousands of individual poems, stories, and essays in literary journals and anthologies. They have also received such major honors as the American Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, the Iowa Short Fiction Award, the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, the AWP Award for Creative Nonfiction, the AWP Award for Poetry, the Walt Whitman Award, and the Yale Younger Poets Prize. Additionally, they have received Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and a Poet Laureateship, and had their books chosen for the National Poetry Series and Oprah's Book Club.

Both provocative and practical, the essays in Words Overflown by Stars distill many of the lessons that have made the graduates of Vermont College of Fine Arts so successful.

For the Table of Contents and an excerpt from the Preface, please click on the title above.

Strong Measures: Contemporary American Poetry in Traditional Forms

"This is one of the most distinctive and interesting anthologies of contemporary American poetry to come along in many years. ... Recommended for graduate, undergraduate, and public library poetry collections." —BARRY WALLENSTEIN, Choice

"For literature courses, advanced or beginning creative writing, form and theory ... probably the most useful text to come along in my experience. If I didn't teach classes which required this text, I'd create them." —ART HOMER, University of Nebraska, Omaha

"Strong Measures is a rich and diverse anthology containing more than 300 contemporary American poems. It is also a book with a mission. Editors Philip Dacey and David Jauss seek to heal the rift between proponents of free or open verse and those who favor traditional forms. They also hope to bring traditional verse out of its current eclipse and to show that it, too, is a fit medium for strong statement. If the book is read as widely as it should be, they should succeed—or at least significantly further the peacemaking process. Finally, the book is a handy and painless guide to modern prosody." —San Francisco Chronicle

"In the desert of contemporary poetry, one is grateful for the first oasis." —HENRI COULETTE, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Strong Measures is useful as well as a delight. ... The introduction by the editors describes 'nine principal methods of experimentation' illustrated by the poems in the book. ... Appendices contain helpful instruction in meter and scansion, defining and classifying forms (and listing examples in the book), describing the forms illustrated by each poem in the book, and a 'Bibliography of Books and Articles about Traditional Forms and Prosody.' Thus it is not only a sparkling anthology but also a study guide." —JUDSON JEROME, Writer's Digest

"This rich and brilliantly illuminating anthology celebrates the renaissance of formal verse in contemporary America. It presents the finest examples of nearly seventy-five traditional forms, ranging from ballads and sonnets to kyrielles and pantoums, as writers today have employed them. More and more poets, as Richard Wilbur points out in his foreword, have come to realize that meter and rhyme are 'not ornament but emphasis, ligature, and significant sound.' Hence more and more of them are experimenting with using the old forms to achieve their objectives, and are finding themselves increasingly expert with these precision tools. To enlarge and deepen the reader's enjoyment of the poems, the editors have provided four appendixes. The first analyzes and describes the varieties of meter and scansion and cites clear current examples of their effective use. This is followed by an extensive definition of traditional forms and a listing of the poems in the anthology exemplifying each. The third appendix again classifies the poems on the basis of form but this time lists them by author. And the last offers a selected bibliography of books and articles that deal with traditional forms and with prosody. But the poems themselves are, of course, the heart of the matter, presenting the often unfamiliar work of nearly two hundred poets. Each is at the least provocative and many are sheerly marvelous. Together they reveal unexpected contours in the landscape of contemporary American poetry." —from the dust jacket

The anthology contains poems by such leading poets as John Ashbery, Marvin Bell, John Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Hayden Carruth, Robert Creeley, James Dickey, Alan Dugan, Stephen Dunn, Allen Ginsberg, Louise Gluck, Marilyn Hacker, Donald Hall, Robert Hayden, Anthony Hecht, Edward Hirsch, Richard Howard, Richard Hugo, T.R. Hummer, Randall Jarrell, Denis Johnson, June Jordan, Donald Justice, Weldon Kees, X.J. Kennedy, Galway Kinnell, Etheridge Knight, Ted Kooser, Maxine Kumin, Stanley Kunitz, Sydney Lea, Al Lee, David Lehman, Denise Levertov, Philip Levine, John Logan, Robert Lowell, Thomas Lux, Sandra McPherson, William Meredith, James Merrill, W.S. Merwin, N. Scott Momaday, Frank O'Hara, Molly Peacock, Robert Pinsky, Sylvia Plath, Stanley Plumly, Donald Revell, Adrienne Rich, Alberto Rios, Theodore Roethke, Muriel Rukeyser, David St. John, Anne Sexton, Louis Simpson, Dave Smith, W.D. Snodgrass, Gary Snyder, William Stafford, Mark Strand, James Tate, John Updike, Robert Penn Warren, Richard Wilbur, David Wojahn, Charles Wright, James Wright, and Al Young.

To read an excerpt from this book, please click on the title above.

Miscellaneous Essays and Interviews

"The Case of the West Memphis Three" appears as an appendix to the ebook edition of Damien Echols's Life After Death (New York: Blue Rider Press, 2012).

"The Real Story Behind Low-Residency MFA Programs," Writer's Digest Magazine, Feb. 2011.

"Homo Sapiens vs. Homo Fictus, Or Why a Lot of Knowledge Can Be a Dangerous Thing Too," The Writer's Chronicle (March/April 2013), 30-48.

"Returning Characters to Life: Chekhov's Subversive Endings," The Writer's Chronicle (March/April 2010), 24-35.

"Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Abstraction?: Modes of Conveying Emotion," The Writer's Chronicle (May/Summer 2012), 64-79.

"The Reverse Side: The Poetry of Stephen Dunn," Shenandoah, Nov. 2011.

"Stolen Moments: An Interview with David Jauss," conducted by Sascha Feinstein, Brilliant Corners, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Summer 2004), 64-77. Reprinted in Ask Me Now: Conversations on Jazz and Literature, ed. Sascha Feinstein (Indiana University Press, 2007), 171-189.

"Ways of Breaking: Lynda Hull's 'Ornithology'," Brilliant Corners, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Summer 2003), 60-63.

"To Become Music or Break: Remembering Lynda Hull," Crazyhorse, No. 55 (1999), 74-95.

"Contemporary American Poetry and All That Jazz," Crazyhorse, No. 42 (1992), 125-140.

"The Age of Fatigue," The Literary Review, Vol. 33, No. 2 (1990), 164-171.

"James Wright's 'Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota'," James Wright: The Heart of the Light, ed. Peter Stitt and Frank Graziano (U of Michigan Press, 1990), 165-166.

"Articles of Faith," Creative Writing in America, ed. Joseph Moxley (NCTE, 1989), 63-75.

"Making It New: Contemporary American Experiments with Traditional Forms," Verse, Vol. 5, No. 3 (1988), 42-56.

"Flannery O'Connor's Inverted Saint's Legend," Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 25, No. 1 (1988), 76-78.

"The Descent, the Dance, and the Wheel: William Carlos Williams' Kora in Hell," Boston University Journal, Vol. 25, No. 1 (1977), 37-42.

To read excerpts from selected essays and interviews, please click on the heading above.