Monday, March 5, 2007

Stuart Dybek's "I Sailed with Magellan"

Stuart Dybek is the author of five books. His two collections of poems are Brass Knuckles and Streets in Their Own Ink. His fiction includes Childhood and Other Neighborhoods, The Coast of Chicago, and I Sailed with Magellan, a novel-in-stories.

Dybek's work has won numerous awards -- a Lannan Prize, a PEN/Malamud Award, a Whiting Writer's Award, a Guggenheim, and numerous O. Henry Prizes and inclusions in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Poetry and other anthologies. His work appears regularly in magazines such as Harper's, The New Yorker, Atlantic, Poetry, DoubleTake, Ploughshares, and Tri-quarterly.

He put I Sailed with Magellan to the "page 99 test" and reported the following:
I just looked at p. 99 and it turns out to be a bit of a cliff-hanger in that a drugged-up mob hitman named Joe Ditto has just encountered a blond from his past who might or might not be a ghost. I'd hope the reader would at least turn the page to find out what happens next. It's a page from a novella-length story titled "Breasts." "Breasts" is part of a novel-in-stories set in an inner-city neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago and it is based on a murder that took place there when I was growing up and how local tavern owners in the neighborhood were intimidated into renting jukeboxes from the mob. One thing I wanted the story to do was to detail the neighborhood, Little Village -- complete with its economic clashes and its diverse ethnicities. The book, I Sailed With Magellan, is mainly realistic, but I believe that one of the beauties of the novel-in-story form is that it allows for departures in a way that a more linear form does not. "Breasts" is a story that makes a departure from the realism.
Read Dybek's short stories "Brisket," "Swing," "Ant," and "Confession," and a poem, "Today, Tonight."

--Marshal Zeringue