Somewhere in New Jersey. The official Story Prize phone (i.e., my cell phone) vibrates on a hot August night.
LD: Hello?That's pretty much how it happened--in my dreams. In any event, I'm thrilled that Oprah has chosen a short story collection. I've been reading some great ones so far this year. The short story continues to gain momentum, and this is a huge boost.
OW: Hello, Larry Dark. It's Oprah.
LD: Oprah who?
LD: Just kidding, Oprah Winfrey. The most influential person in America. A thousand apologies, she who sells more books than anyone.
OW: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. I understand you think I should pick a short story collection for my book club.
LD: I do, indeed.
OW: I think I'm ready. What were you thinking of?
LD: How about In the Gloaming?
OW: Isn't that a Christopher Reeve movie? What else?
LD: Well, Ron Hogan thought you were going to choose Edward P. Jones's All Aunt Hagar's Children a few months ago. That's a good one.
OW: You know Ron Hogan?
LD: Who doesn't?
OW: What else?
LD: Did I mention The Dew Breaker? The Hill Road? The Stories of Mary Gordon? Like You'd Understand, Anyway? Our Story Begins?
OW: You did.
LD: Let me think about what your readers might like.
OW: Something powerful and moving like In the Gloaming.
LD: Hmmm. Well, there's another book I read last year that might be perfect.
LD: Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan, a Nigerian priest with an MFA from Michigan. It's well written, describes terrible events in the lives of children, and, to quote myself: "Any of the six stories in this collection set in Africa is enough to break a reader's heart."
OW: Perfect. Be sure not to tell anyone, especially not Ingram. They're sure to blow it.
LD: I promise. And, by the way, don't worry about what Rob Spillman thinks.
OW: I won't worry about anything, Larry Dark. Thanks for all your critical wisdom.
LD: Thank you, Oprah Winfrey--for being you.