Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction

Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction

Dinah Lenney

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 0393350991

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The best of short literary memoirs, essays, and reflections, many of which were written expressly for this collection. Also available

The late Judith Kitchen, editor of the perennially popular anthologies Short Takes, In Short, and In Brief, was greatly influential in recognizing and establishing flash creative nonfiction as a form in its own right. In Brief Encounters, she and writer/editor/actor Dinah Lenney expand this vibrant field with nearly eighty new selections: shorts―as these sharply focused pieces have come to be known― representing an impressive range of voices, perspectives, sensibilities, and forms. Brief Encounters features the work of the emerging and the established―including Stuart Dybek, Roxanne Gay, Eduardo Galeano, Leslie Jamison, and Julian Barnes―arranged by theme to explore the human condition in ways intimate, idiosyncratic, funny, sad, provocative, lyrical, unflinching. From the rant to the rave, the meditation to the polemic, the confession to the valediction, this collection of shorts―this celebration of true and vivid prose―will enlarge your world.











I wouldn’t let a word pass from the babyfaced redhead, who should have tried to make himself invisible to avoid being harassed, as I did, though it never seemed to do any good. After I told him to meet me at Zeek Field, he should have hidden himself away for a few days and hoped everyone forgot my challenge, but there he was when I arrived, in fresh shorts and T-shirt, bouncing on the balls of his feet as he must have seen boxers do on TV. Half the other kids from the bus had shown up, too,

wooden furniture and canopied crib for a tiny Diego surrounded by a braided cloth rope to ward off those who might be tempted to touch; the impressive entrance halls lined with art in gold frames; once-used dishes now stacked behind spotless glass. The only sounds are the shuffling of curious feet and muted voices in English, Spanish, and German. On the top floor of the house, in the upper rooms full of light, are the little angels, two white-walled galleries of carefully curated photographs of

are wearing burial gowns that are frilly and white and as elaborate and delicate as baptismal gowns. Looking more closely I can see that the way the living person interacts with the camera is different from the stillness of the babies. In death, even their bodies are mute, although it is those silent bodies that tell the whole story of every other person in the photograph. I feel dizzy with the weird meaning of time in this lit upper room: everyone in these photographs is long dead, but in this

time. These ancestors—the Moores and O’Briens—were entrepreneurs as well, though they favored illegal rum and real estate. In addition to the soap, the J. T. Murphy Company eventually expanded into other oil-based products, including an item used in service stations and automobile garages—Murphy’s Tire Mounting Lubricant. It is entirely possible, then, that at the moment his life was unalterably changing, the moment his fearful wife and puzzled children were disappearing with no warning, my

madeleine in volume one of Swann’s Way. Another woman I know ends her day in bed reading Latin—“Greek would keep me awake,” she once told me with an unfeigned modesty that took my breath away. Both of these women are writers which is to say they are born and bred readers, people who begin and end the day with words streaming before them on the page, on the screen, moving from gutter to margin, back and forth in the sublime rhythm of that most intimate of relations: writer’s mind to reader’s

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