David James Duncan

I am deeply in love with the writings of one David James Duncan. I found his first novel, “The River Why,” entirely by accident at a Crown Books in Seattle something like fifteen years ago. Not long after reading it, I somehow found myself on the phone with my godsister, with whom I hadn’t spoken in probably five years. To her “how are you,” I replied that I was great, but that I had the most intense desire to go stand in the middle of a river, in spite of having never been fly-fishing in my life. She said, “Ah, you just read ‘The River Why.'”

(One of these days, I owe him a letter. I tracked him down (sorta) through an interview he did with Smokebox. I wanted to solicit something from him for our second anniversary issue of SmokeLong, and contacted the editor at Smokebox (so much smoke in this paragraph!). Through him, I learned that David doesn’t use this here internet thing, preferring immensely the world of pen and paper. Which I’m not so good at. So I haven’t written him yet.)

Anyway… go read that interview in Smokebox. Good stuff. And then read this article in Weber Studies (which Nance Knauer, bless her, pointed out to me, and was the impetus for this post). I’d be interested to know how many folks, particularly writers, delve beyond the “quit lit” portion of the article. Because the gems, I assure you, come later. A very odd little sampling:

Flannery O’Connor and Franz Kafka both wrote unquestionably artful, though grisly, fictions about Southern K-Mart shoppers and de-egoed East Europeans of various shapes and sizes encountering sudden violence, violation, senseless persecution, random and obscene transformation, pain, agonized death. Ms. O’Connor and Mr. Kafka also shared a problem: both could hardly read their stories in public. Why? They found their stories hilarious, and would whoop with laughter at the very climaxes at which their audience recoiled. O’Connor and Kafka had discovered their own peculiar “f-u-n.”