About the book
In fifteen sharply engaging essays, acclaimed novelist and short story writer Brock Clarke examines the art (and artifice) of fiction from unpredictable, entertaining, and often personal angles, positing through a slant scrutiny of place, voice, and syntax what fiction can—and can’t—do. (“Very: is there a weaker, sadder, more futile word in the English language?”)
Clarke supports his case with passages by and about writers who have both influenced and irritated him. Pieces such as “What the Cold Can Teach Us,” “The Case for Meanness,” “Why Good Literature Makes Us Bad People,” and “The Novel is Dead; Long Live the Novel” celebrate the achievements of master practitioners such as Muriel Spark, Joy Williams, Donald Barthelme, Flannery O’Connor, Paul Beatty, George Saunders, John Cheever, and Colson Whitehead. Of particular interest to Clarke is the contentious divide between fiction and memoir, which he investigates using recent and relevant critical arguments, also tackling ancillary forms such as “fictional memoir” and the autobiographical novel.
Anecdotal and unabashed, rigorous and piercingly perceptive—not to mention flat-out funny—I, Grape; or The Case for Fiction is a love letter to and a passionate defense of the discipline to which its author has devoted his life and mind. It is also an attempt to eff the ineffable: “That is one of the basic tenets of this book: when we write fiction, surprising things sometimes happen, especially when fiction writers take advantage of their chosen form’s contrarian ability to surprise.”
About the writers
Brock Clarke is the author of nine books, most recently the novel Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe? (published September 2019) and the essay collection I, Grape; or the Case Fiction (published March 2021). He’s also the author of the novels The Happiest People in the World (which was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice Pick, an Indie Next Pick, and an Amazon Book of the Month choice), Exley (which was a Kirkus Book of the Year, a finalist for the Maine Book Award, and a longlist finalist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award) and An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England (which was a national bestseller, and American Library Associate Notable Book of the Year, a #1 Book Sense Pick, a Borders Original Voices in Fiction selection, and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice pick). His books have been reprinted in a dozen international editions, and have been awarded the Mary McCarthy Prize for Fiction, the Prairie Schooner Book Series Prize, a National Endowment for Arts Fellowship, and an Ohio Council for the Arts Fellowship, among others. Clarke’s individual stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Boston Globe, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, One Story, The Believer, Georgia Review, New England Review, and Southern Review and have appeared in the annual Pushcart Prize and New Stories from the South anthologies and on NPR’s Selected Shorts. He lives in Portland, Maine, and is the A. LeRoy Greason Professor of English and Creative Writing at Bowdoin College.
Sarah Domet is the author of The Guineveres, originally released from Flatiron Books/Macmillan in October 2016. It received starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal along with praise from O Magazine, People, Elle, Real Simple, Harper’s Bazaar, and The New York Times Book Review. Southern Living voted it one of the Best Books of 2016 by
Southern Authors and Bustle included it on their list of 2016’s best debut novels. She is also the author of 90 Days to Your Novel, and her short fiction and nonfiction have been published and anthologized in numerous places. Sarah holds a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from The University of Cincinnati, and she currently teaches in the creative writing program at Ball State University.
More information about how to connect in virtually:
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