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A Conversation With PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2018 Author Drew McCutchen
“I like melancholy and characters with weighty histories. I fell in love with Daniel. But I fall in love with all my characters.”
Baltimore Review Pleiades Magazine. Fifth Wednesday Journal
I had to eighty-six Daniel three times from beneath the overpass, hit my clipboard against his dirty blue tent, and wait for him to crawl out of his sleeping bag before he agreed to see his daughter. He’d been dead for sixteen years and back for nine months then. He’d done the usual reanimation cycle: shower off the dirt, six months in rehab, iris repair, tongue ligimentry, and then booted out on his own with the address of a group home and fifteen hundred dollars from Uncle Sam. Within four days he and his roommates were dragging their mattresses out to the backyard and burying themselves in the dirt. He didn’t get up, just lay there. He lost his job, lost his housing, and then got turfed to the streets. He was a typical zombie, and thus a typical zombie case, which made him my responsibility, or, to be more specific, made him my case: Case 7, Daniel Hedrig.
Every week there is some new theory out there by a scientist or mental health expert who comes up with a strategy for how to deal with the dead. Not how to deal with the problem of the dead. That’s a political conversation left to twenty-four-hour news channels and presidential candidates. But instead, how to deal with the individual dead. This issue is debated in academic journals, daytime television programs, and just about every single religious newsletter—both print and online versions.
Man V. Nature
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“Every interaction between adult siblings presents a chance to get more clarity about the past. Hopefully, we’re able to seize at least some of these chances.”
“I wrote much of the story listening to jazz, including the title song, for inspiration on how to shift without imposing too much of a structure.”
“I wanted to portray the pain of trying to reach someone who is inside their own, unreachable pain, and how this often puts untenable pressure on relationships.”
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“Some stories just flow out of you and you try to keep up as you write them. This story was not like that.”
“I slowly connected the dots that nearly all my friends—no matter what continent we had been on—had experienced some level of sexual violence.”
“I decided to subvert readers’ expectations in terms of the narrative of a diaspora visiting their homeland in order to challenge the myth that all those arriving home from the west are endowed with bags of cash.”