Cobb, William J. 1957- (William James Cobb)

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Cobb, William J. 1957- (William James Cobb)


Born 1957. Education: Texas State University, San Marcos, B.A.; University of Texas, M.A.; University of Houston, Ph.D.


Home—PA; CO. Office—Department of English, Pennsylvania State University, 117 Burrowes Bldg., University Park, PA 16802. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected].


Writer, educator. Pennsylvania State University, University Park, associate professor.


National Endowment for the Arts grant for fiction, 1992; Sandstone Prize, Ohio State University Press, 2002, for The White Tattoo; Frank O'Connor Award, 2002, for "What Happens to Rain?"; Jesse Jones Award, Dobie-Paisano Fellowship, 2004.


The Fire Eaters (novel), W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1994.

The White Tattoo (short-story collection), Ohio State University Press (Columbus, OH), 2002.

Goodnight, Texas (novel), Unbridled Books (Denver, CO), 2006.

Contributor of short stories to magazines and journals, including the New Yorker, Mississippi Review, Antioch Review, New Letters, and Puerto del Sol. Contributor to the Houston Chronicle and the New York Times.


William J. Cobb is a novelist and short-story writer whose work is typified by the interaction between characters rather than the necessities of plot. In his short-story collection The White Tattoo, he presents a "gallery of losers," according to New York Times Book Review contributor Patricia Kean. Cobb's characters commit all sorts of violence, but in the title story, the unfortunate protagonist must bear only the pain of a broken heart. Kean found these tales "not for the squeamish," but also noted that Cobb's "quirky, mordant prose survives his penchant for the perverse."

"Quirky" is also the way Texas Monthly reviewer Mike Shea described Cobb's 2006 novel, Goodnight, Texas. Shea, however, also added "likable" to that description. The novel takes place in the coastal town of Goodnight, Texas, where the local shrimp fishermen are having a hard time because of over-fishing and climate change. When an enormous prehistoric zebra fish washes up on the shore, its belly filled with a small horse, local café owner Gusef wants to put it on top of his establishment to attract the tourist trade and save his endangered business. Other characters try to eke out a living and a life in the small town, including the high school dropout Falk, who is Gusef's cook and longs for Una, the waitress at Gusef's diner, and Gabriel, Una's former beau who has lost his job on a shrimp boat and now flirts and more with the students on the school bus he drives. As a hurricane approaches the small town, the characters seek rescue and redemption. Reviewing the novel in Booklist, Ian Chipman noted that Cobb "focuses more on atmospherics than plotting" in this novel that is "vivid yet gracefully understated at times." A Publishers Weekly reviewer had higher praise for Cobb's writing, noting that he "expertly exploits the claustrophobic and incestuous atmosphere of smalltown Texas." And for Library Journal contributor Joy Humphrey, the same novel was "superbly written, dark and amusing."



Booklist, September 15, 2006, Ian Chipman, review of Goodnight, Texas, p. 26.

Library Journal, September 1, 2006, Joy Humphrey, review of Goodnight, Texas, p. 134.

New York Times Book Review, July 14, 2002, Patricia Kean, review of The White Tattoo, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2006, review of Goodnight, Texas, p. 133.

Texas Monthly, October, 2006, Mike Shea, review of Goodnight, Texas, p. 60.


Curled Up with a Good Book, (April 9, 2007), Douglass R. Cobb, review of Goodnight, Texas.

Pennsylvania State University Web site, (April 9, 2007), "William J. Cobb, Associate Professor of English."

William J. Cobb Home Page, (April 9, 2007).