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A Conversation With PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2018 Author Maud Streep
“You can fall in love with a place in a way that’s just as made-up and selective as how you fall in love with a person.”
PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2018hunting trip in Montana.
I met Jake working at a ghost town in western Montana the summer I turned twenty-two. I had just graduated from Yale and was “doing something different.” Jake played a cowboy, and my best friend Liza and I played whores. We leaned over wooden balconies to holler at the tourists, our white cotton chemises pulled low over corset-hoisted boobs. Every day at noon and four, Jake broke up a gunfight in the street while Liza and I fanned our jaded faces. We bunked in a long-stay motel at the edge of town and spent our nights drinking in our rooms, on the roof, in the parking lot out back. I’d sit by Jake and feel the space between us go live.
One night we hit an emergency: Liza ran out of cigarettes. Jake had bummed too many the night before. I told him I would come along for the ride. We were still in our work clothes, so after I’d backed him up against the door of his truck, and after he’d helped me into its bed, it took some concentration to lose the chaps and stays. And then, naked behind the gas station in the light-stained August twilight, free from all that, I thought: I could wear this sweat forever.
PEN American Best Debut Short Stories
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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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“My focus was on the character and emotions of the immigrant: the loneliness, the sense of loss and disconnection.”
“When you feel like you have no power in a relationship, withholding becomes one of the only ways you can maintain the illusion of agency.”