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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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“When you’re a kid you’re not sure if you don’t know something because you haven’t been taught it or because you’re not supposed to know.”
“I think, in pursuit of truth, science and religion still have to wrestle with the strictures of human knowledge, error, pride.”
“The narration style feels very conversational to me. I liked how second-person really tries to make the reader part of the story as well.”
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“When writing this story, I was thinking explicitly about a tendency in players to play games as murderous kleptomaniacs.”
“The idea here is the casual way children can accept and parrot this kind of simple, black-and-white math about worth. So much so that in a pinch they are willing write off their own mother!”
“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.”