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Long, David 1948–

Long, David 1948–

PERSONAL: Born March 6, 1948, in Boston, MA; son of John H., Jr. (a lawyer) and Jean (a cellist; maiden name, Dimond) Long; married Susan Schweinsberg (a medical librarian), December 19, 1969; children: Montana (son), Jackson. Education: Albion College, B.A., 1970; Hartford Seminary Foundation, M.A., 1972; University of Montana, M.F.A., 1974.

ADDRESSES: Office—c/o Author Mail, Scribner, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

CAREER: Writer, 1974–. Flathead Valley Community College, adjunct instructor, 1976–83; University of Montana, adjunct professor, 1990–99; Pacific University, faculty in M.F.A. program, 1999–. Visiting writer, University of Idaho, 1996, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 1996. Consultant and workshop instructor for the Montana State Office of Public Instruction, 1975–81; member of advisory panel for Poets and Writers in Schools Program, Montana Arts Council, 1980–83, 1989; manuscript consultant for University of Illinois Press, 1983—and University of Missouri Press, 1989; member of board of trustees of Hockaday Center of the Arts, Kalispell, MT, 1983–88 and Hellgate Writers, Missoula, MT, 1993–96; judge or literature panelist for North Dakota Arts Council, 1984, Montana Arts Council, 1984, Loft McKnight Fellowships, 1988, Idaho Commission on the Arts, 1988, Oregon Arts Commission, 1988, Lewis-Clark College, 1995, Arizona State University, 1995.

AWARDS, HONORS: Award for fiction, St. Lawrence University, 1983, for Home Fires; O. Henry Award, for short story "Blue Spruce," 1992; Creative Writing Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, 1993–94; best books of the year designation, Publishers Weekly, 1995, and Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1996, both for Blue Spruce.

WRITINGS:

Early Returns (poems), Jawbone (Waldron Island, WA), 1981.

Home Fires (short stories), University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1982.

The Flood of '64 (short stories), Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1987.

Blue Spruce (short stories), Scribner (New York, NY), 1995.

The Falling Boy (novel), Scribner (New York, NY), 1997.

The Daughters of Simon Lamoreaux, Scribner (New York, NY), 2000.

Purgatorio, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2005.

Contributor to magazines, including Antaeus, Montana: Magazine of Western History, Poets and Writers, Publishers Weekly, and Sewanee Review. Founding editor of CutBank. Long's stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Writers of the Purple Sage: Contemporary Western Writings, Viking (New York, NY), 1984; New American Stories: Writers Select Their Favorites, New American Library (New York, NY), 1987; The Graywolf Annual Four: Short Stories by Men, Gray-wolf Press, 1988; Best of the West: New Stories from the Wide Side of the Missouri, Gibbs Smith/Peregrine Smith Books, 1988; The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology, Montana Historical Society Press (Helena, MT), 1988; Voices Louder than Words: A Second Collection, Random House (New York, NY), 1991; New Writers of the Purple Sage, Viking, 1992; Prize Stories 1992: The O. Henry Awards, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1992; Best of the West 5, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1992; The Portable Western Reader, edited by William Kittredge, Viking, 1997; and Love Stories from the New Yorker, edited by Roger Angell, Random House, 1997.

SIDELIGHTS: David Long has won much critical acclaim for both his novels and his short-story collections. The majority of his tales are set in western Montana—a harsh land that serves as a backdrop to bleak, gritty lives. Here, "happiness is nonexistent or referred to exclusively in the past tense," related David Brooks in an American Book Review piece on Long's second story collection, The Flood of '64. In the story "Compensation," a woman, who was abused in her youth, and her husband, who was debilitated by a horrible accident years before, find that love is not enough to overcome their deep personal wounds. In "Solstice," a wife-beating man is stunned when his spouse finally leaves him one bitterly cold night.

As Long once explained: "If I have a theory of fiction, it's that something of consequence must be at stake in a story; people must make choices and live with their decisions. Most of the stories in The Flood of '64 were triggered by an event in the daily paper or a document I stumbled across—I have an intense curiosity for family letters and oral histories. A number of the stories take place in the years between my father's birth (1909) and my own (1948). If there's a common thread to my fiction, it's that ordinary life is interrupted by moments of extraordinary beauty and sadness, that whatever holds us together is fragile and must be looked after lovingly."

"Long is very good at confronting the more dismal vistas in life with an unflinching stare," affirmed Brooks. "Moreover, he is skillful in presenting plots in which unfortunate incidents take certain, crushing steps towards the protagonists. The reader is led to marvel at the fragility of the most mundane lives." Despite this praise, Brooks was ultimately critical of The Flood of '64, complaining that "there's enough grief and existential malaise here to have it subtitled 'High Noon and No Exit.' While it would be unfair to ask Long to lighten up a little, his style can turn into an oppressive experience in itself." New York Times Book Review contributor Greg Johnson did not share Brooks's view. Johnson found that Long's bleak stories "are remarkable for their affirmative endings. Though he is hard on his characters, Mr. Long highlights the quicksilver moments of humor, insight and compassion that make living worthwhile in such a barren world."

Long offers a similar vision in his award-winning fiction collection Blue Spruce. Most of the stories included here are set in and around the fictional town of Sperry, Montana, just south of the Canadian border. Again, readers are made to feel the icy blasts of air coming down from Alberta and to see the desolate beauty of the Rocky Mountains. In "Perfection," a high-school girl is witness to a brutal murder; in the title story, two sisters-in-law struggle for control of the family home in the wake of a suicide. "Each story engages you enough that you wish it wouldn't end so soon," claimed Ann Fisher in a Library Journal review. Paja Faudree expressed an opinion similar to Johnson's, writing in Voice Literary Supplement that "despite the dark vision of much of this work, these stories never result in despair, but rather in a rugged optimism."

"Long is a sensitive writer and, in a phrase that here and there astonishes, more than that," observed Richard Eder in the Los Angeles Times. Long was published as a poet before he turned to short stories, and other critics have also singled out the quality of his language as one of his greatest strengths. According to New York Times Book Review writer Lisa Sandlin, the tales in Blue Spruce "explore how we nourish the 'crimp' in ourselves—habits of meanness and fear—and how we manage to expand. Some of the stories explode into being, but most require the reader's patient orientation as relationships and consequences shape themselves. All are written in a beautiful, fine-cut prose … that shines and surprises." Tribune Books writer Michael Upchurch pointed to Long's great feeling for his protagonists as an essential element in the success of his fiction. "Whether he's portraying a tough old bird, like the sister-in-law [in Blue Spruce], or a teenager, like the young girl in Perfection, his sympathy is frank and deep. Indeed, he has a shrewd affection for almost all his characters, whatever their failings."

"Long will restore your faith in the short story," assured George Needham in his Booklist assessment of Blue Spruce. Upchurch was equally enthusiastic about the collection, saying, "The best tales … are unostentatious on the surface, but their interior richness merits close scrutiny. At times they feel almost like novels in miniature as they trace—with subtle economy and engagingly quiet wit—the effect of smalltown scandal, family bonds or betrayals and individual ambitions over the years. The writing is spare but poetic; the mood is one of genial sympathy and occasional regret." Up-church concluded: "Long himself has stated his admiration for John Cheever, Joyce Carol Oates, William Trevor and other masters. It's no exaggeration to say that the best work in Blue Spruce places Long among such company."

With 1997's The Falling Boy, Long made what may perhaps prove to be a permanent shift to longer fiction. Remarking on his novel debut, he explained that The Falling Boy "is set in Sperry, Montana, in the 1950s and early 1960s. It's the story of a café owner, Nick Stavros, and his four daughters, especially Olivia, the third-born, and her marriage." The novel hinges around Olivia's marriage to construction worker Mike Singer, and Singer's eventually attraction to Olivia's older sister. Praising the novel as "finely crafted," Library Journal contributor David Sowd maintained that The Falling Boy stands as one of the most "honest and unflinching moral examination[s] of marital infidelity" written in the late twentieth century. A Publishers Weekly contributor concurred, dubbing the novel "a keenly observed and poignantly accurate portrait of the human condition" that is both "unpretentiously profound" and "memorable." "Long is a writer of extraordinary sensitivity and grace," added Booklist reviewer Dennis Dodge, hailing the short-story writer-turned-novelist as "an important talent."

In both The Falling Boy and the 2000 novel The Daughters of Simon Lamoreaux, Long exhibits "an affinity for describing sibling relationships, particularly among sis-ters," maintained a Publishers Weekly reviewer. In the author's second novel, he tells the story of Miles Fanning, a man haunted by the disappearance, over two decades ago, of his high-school girlfriend. Contacted by the missing woman's younger sister, Julia, Fanning is forced to confront the emotions that have haunted him throughout a subsequent marriage, and also works to solve the mystery as a way of healing his own psyche. In Booklist Bonnie Johnson praised The Daughters of Simon Lamoreaux as "a captivating story about the healing potential of love in the face of tragedy" as well as a compelling mystery, while the Publishers Weekly reviewer hailed Long's second novel as "richly suggestive," its "narrative sensitively exploring the ironies of unfulfilled lives."

Commenting on his writing in general, Long once stated: "I've tried to break down the clichés about Montana." Despite any literary trends to the contrary, he continues to employ "affirmative endings" in his work, noting: "It's the job of fiction writers to describe change, which is often difficult or painful (even falling in love is traumatic), but I have a strong desire to redeem my characters, to let them find, or at least sense, a way out of their messes."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Book Review, March, 1988, p. 17.

Bloomsbury Review, May, 1995, p. 18.

Booklist, February 15, 1995, p. 1059; June 1, 1997, Dennis Dodge, review of The Falling Boy, p. 1660; April 15, 2000, Bonnie Johnston, review of The Daughters of Simon Lamoreaux, p. 1524.

Boston Globe, April 30, 1995, p. B16.

Detroit News/Free Press, May 7, 1995.

Gentlemen's Quarterly, June, 1994, p. 98.

Georgia Review, winter, 1995, p. 950.

Glimmer Train Stories, fall, 1995, pp. 119-137.

Library Journal, February 1, 1995, p. 102; May 15, 1997, David Sowd, review of The Falling Boy, p. 103; April 15, 2000, Robert E. Brown, review of The Daughters of Simon Lamoreaux, p. 123.

Los Angeles Times, November 25, 1982; March 9, 1995, p. E6.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 19, 1987, p. 3.

New Yorker, November 12, 1990, p. 46; December 9, 1991, p. 46.

New York Times Book Review, July 5, 1987; April 23, 1995, p. 26.

Ploughshares, fall, 1995, pp. 236-237.

Publishers Weekly, January 16, 1995, p. 435; June 26, 1995, p. 83; April 28, 1997, review of The Falling Boy, p. 47; March 27, 2000, review of The Daughters of Simon Lamoreax, p. 49.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), March 26, 1995, p. 5.

Voice Literary Supplement, April, 1995, p. 16.

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