Archive | November, 2013

WIPS Conversation: Jacob M. Appel on His Work in Progress

Jacob M AppelJacob M. Appel’s first novel, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, won the 2012 Dundee International Book Award and was published by Cargo; his second novel, The Biology of Luck, was recently released by Elephant Rock. Jacob’s short story collection, Scouting for the Reaper, won the Hudson Prize and is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press. His short fiction has appeared in more than two hundred leading literary journals including Agni, Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Gettysburg Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Raritan, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, StoryQuarterly, Threepenny Review, Virginia Quarterly Review and West Branch. His prose has won the Boston Review Short Fiction Competition, the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award for the Short Story, the Dana Award, the Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction, the North American Review’s Kurt Vonnegut Prize, the Missouri Review’s Editor’s Prize, the Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize, the Briar Cliff Review’s Short Fiction Prize, the Salem College Center for Women Writers’ Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award, the H. E. Francis Prize, the New Millennium Writings Fiction Award on four separate occasions, an Elizabeth George Fellowship and a Sherwood Anderson Foundation Writers Grant. His stories have been short-listed for the O. Henry Award (2001), Best American Short Stories (2007, 2008), Best American Nonrequired Reading (2007, 2008), and the Pushcart Prize anthology (2005, 2006, 2011). Jacob holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Brown, an M.S. in bioethics from the Alden March Bioethics Institute of Albany Medical College, an M.A. and an M.Phil. from Columbia, an M.D. from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, an M.F.A. from N.Y.U. and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Jacob, The Man Who Trounced God at Chess starts a year into Balint’s serial killing spree, but this chapter recounts the circumstances with his wife and Sugarman that initiated his metamorphosis from “conscientious physician to calculating assassin.” What specific timeline does the novel eventually cover? Does it take place over the aforementioned year, or does it continue beyond the time period of the opening narration?

Figuring out how much time the storyline covered was one of the challenges of putting this novel together.  I knew that I wanted some narrative distance, but I wasn’t initially certain how much. Eventually, I realized I needed to start in the middle–beginning after Balint has become an assassin, but before his assassination efforts reached a climax.

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Jacob M. Appel: An Excerpt from The Man Who Trounced God at Chess


Killing, Balint discovered, was the easy part. Not killing required discipline and restraint. Whether his medical career had inured him to death, or his steady constitution enabled him to suppress his emotions, or merely the sheer depth of his need for his wife and his hatred for Warren Sugarman transcended all moral barriers, he grew to see the slayings as a routine matter, even a mundane nuisance, like his four weekends each year as the on-call cardiologist at the hospital. Never, not even with his hands choking the life from innocent strangers, did he experience any guilt. At worst, he suffered a nagging fear of future guilt: the apprehension that he’d one day find himself overcome with remorse and confess for no good reason—like Raskolnikov or Leopold and Loeb. Then even these worries faded, leaving behind only the fact of his crimes. All of this occurred much later, of course: After he’d committed himself irreversibly.

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WIPS Conversation: E. G. Silverman on His Work in Progress

E.G. SilvermaE.G. Silvermann was a finalist for the 2012 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction for his short story collection Hardly Any Mess At All. Silverman’s short stories and novel excerpts have appeared in Beloit Fiction Journal, South Dakota Review, Harpur Palate, 2 Bridges Review, Fugue, Berkeley Fiction Review, Reunion: The Dallas Review, and many other literary magazines. A complete list is at He’s studied with Brian Morton, Sheila Kohler, Carol DeChellis Hill, and Jonathan Baumbach.

E. G., in this chapter of Be My Own Father young Harry recreates his present to help understand the past. He has emulated his father’s life to a tee until it puts him behind the wheel of his Camaro in what may become his final ride. He relates the anguish of growing up without having ever known his father, and the torment he undergoes as he seeks to learn the possibly frightening truth. Does the reader already know the full back-story of Harry’s family that he can’t seem to pry from his mother?

This is near the end of the book. While the reader has been given clues as to the full back-story, this is the first time where it’s laid out in detail. Still, one must wonder how reliable Harry is. After all, he is a teenager boiling over with anger and resentment. Can one accept his interpretation of what he believes are the facts? The reader gets the answer in the final scene, an epilogue after this chapter, but by then it is too late for Harry.

In a sense though, does it really matter what the truth is? Isn’t how characters respond to what they perceive as the truth more important? As their perceptions change, the truth changes, and so do their responses to it. At its essence, that’s what the novel is about, as is much of my work. In life, we all struggle to discover the truth, we rarely do, and yet out entire lives are based on our perceptions of it.

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E.G. Silverman: an Excerpt from Be My Own Father


Hillsview Teenager Dies in Wreck – Possible Suicide Say Authorities

Harry Corsen, 18, of Hillsview died today near Layton when the car he was driving left the road and slammed into a tree. He was pronounced dead at the scene, of massive head injuries and internal bleeding. The car had been traveling at a high rate of speed and apparently went out of control….

My dad. My hero.

I’m a lucky one all right. Not like other sons. Not burdened with fathers who are doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, firemen, automobile salesmen, farmers, factory workers, rocket scientists, ditch diggers, ball players, rapists, or serial killers. Not me. My father is a newspaper article. And a not very good one at that. The Hillsview Herald. Page 3. Didn’t even make the front page. Couldn’t push Courthouse Renovation Debated by Council out of the way.

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