Falco, Edward 1948–

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Falco, Edward 1948–

PERSONAL: Born November 25, 1948, in New York, NY; son of Joseph (in business) and Edith (a seamstress) Falco; married Jane Braley, June 14, 1980 (divorced, September, 1985); married Lisa Norris, June 19, 1993; children: (first marriage) Susan; (second marriage) Will Stauffer-Norris. Education: State University of New York at New Paltz, B.S., 1971; Syracuse University, M.A., 1979.

ADDRESSES: Home—Blacksburg, VA. Office—Department of English, 411 Shanks Hall, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061.

CAREER: Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, part-time instructor in English, 1979–84; Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, instructor, 1984–88, assistant professor, 1988–90, associate professor, 1990–98, professor of English, 1998–, chair of creative writing committee, 1989–2001. Adjunct instructor in English, Onondaga Community College, 1979–82, and LeMoyne College, 1982–84.

AWARDS, HONORS: Emily Clark Balch Prize for short fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, 1986; John Atherton scholar in fiction, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, 1988; Mishima Prize for innovative fiction, St. Andrews Review, 1989; Governor's Screenwriting Award, Virginia Film Office, 1991; Virginia Commission for the Arts grants, 1991, 1995; Walter E. Dakin Fellowship, Sewanee Writers' Conference, 1992; Hampden-Sydney Playwriting Award, 1992; Richard Sullivan Prize in short fiction, 1995, for Acid; Pushcart Prize, Pushcart Press, 1999.


Concert in the Park of Culture (prose poems), Tamarack Editions (Ithaca, NY), 1984.

Plato at Scratch Daniel's and Other Stories, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 1990.

Winter in Florida (novel), Soho Press (New York, NY), 1990.

Home Delivery (play), produced by Hampden-Sydney College, 1992.

Sea Island (hypertext poems), Eastgate Systems, 1995.

Acid (short stories), Notre Dame University Press (Notre Dame, IN), 1995.

A Dream with Demons (hypertext novel), Eastgate Systems, 1997.

Self-Portrait as Child with Father (hypermedia novella), Iowa Review Web, 1999.

Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha (play), first produced in Blacksburg, VA, by the Virginia Tech Theatre Department, 2001.

Radon (play), first produced in Blacksburg, VA, by the Virginia Tech Theatre Department, 2002.

Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha: New and Selected Stories, Unbridled Books (Denver, CO), 2005.

In the Park of Culture (short fiction), University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 2005.

Wolf Point (novel), Unbridled Books (Denver, CO), 2005.

Also author of the plays Welcome to Castle in the Air and Possum Dreams. Work represented in anthologies, including Anthology of Magazine Verse; Yearbook of American Poetry, 1980; Fountain of Youth, 1983; Time Enough for the World, 1986; Best American Short Stories, 1995; Anthology of Magazine Verse, 1997; Best American Erotica, 1999; The Pushcart Prize, 1999; Best American Mystery Stories, 2000; and Blue Cathedral, 2000. Contributor to periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly, Missouri Review, Playboy, Triquarterly, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, Iowa Review, International Poetry Review, and Southern Review. Editor, New River (online journal).

SIDELIGHTS: Edward Falco is a writer who composes in a variety of forms, from the traditional to the experimental. The interplay between art and life and the struggle between freedom and domesticity are repeated themes in his writings. His first novel, Winter in Florida, was released in 1990, and his plays have been produced on college campuses. Although plays and novels are among his accomplishments, he has a stronger connection to poetry and short stories. His accomplishments as a poet and short story writer comprise the majority of his publications and have earned him a number of awards, including a 1999 Pushcart Prize. Most often recognized for his stories, which have appeared in many major periodicals and numerous anthologies, Falco told Doug Lawson in a Blue Penny Quarterly interview that he lets the content of his particular writing inspiration direct the form in which he expresses his thoughts. Ultimately, however, Falco strives to combine these two traditions. "What I want most … is to find kinds of writing that contain both the narrative power of fiction and [the] linguistic intensity of poetry," Falco explained to Lawson.

During the 1990s Falco released two collections of short stories, Plato at Scratch Daniel's and Other Stories and Acid. The characters in the tales in Acid range from a scared five-year-old to an elderly couple facing issues of mortality, and from college students to soap opera stars. A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised Falco's ability to present compelling portraits. In a "swift, plain and forthright style," Falco empathetically and sensitively tells "of the bizarre twists that seemingly ordinary lives can take," stated New York Times Book Review contributor Bruce Allen. Though the stories have somewhat dark and gritty overtones, they are not entirely without hope and faith, according to Brian Evenson in the Review of Contemporary Fiction. Evenson further noted that Falco creates powerful story endings, but the critic felt that his repeated use of similar strategies to close his tales sometimes makes his stories "less convincing." Among the stories in the collection are "Acid," which involves a religious bookstore owner and the dilemmas and emotions he faces when a young girl uses the drug acid in his presence; "Smugglers," which follows a Midwestern twenty-two-year-old who agrees to smuggle cocaine; and "The Artist," about an artist whose past included drug dealing. In describing the last story, Falco stated to Lawson: "In part, it's about how his art functions to allow him to live with something horrible. And in part it's also about the conflict between domesticity and wildness, between order and disorder. So both themes come together there."

While Falco often addresses his primary themes and story inspirations through short stories, he has not remained tied to that format. He maintains great affection for short fiction and poems, and also has a fondness for emerging computer-driven forms of fiction. He has enjoyed his efforts as a pioneer in the exploration of "hypertext" and "hypermedia" writing. His work in these formats includes his hypertext poetry collection Sea Island, his hypermedia novella Self-Portrait as Child with Father, and his hypertext novel A Dream with Demons, which combines a somewhat traditional novel with hypertext poetry. These works are interactive, allowing the reader to determine the sequence of the reading experience. As such, "traditional notions of narrative are impossible; as is any conventional sense of closure," Falco commented to Lawson. He also noted: "This [hypertext] is unlike any kind of traditional poetry or fiction, but it is closer to poetry in that the reader has greater responsibility for constructing the completed work and construing its meaning."

Falco's third collection of short stories is Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha: New and Selected Stories. According to Kevin Greczek in the Library Journal, the stories are "spare accounts" that focus on men who are in one way or the other "full of rage, anger, and dysfunction" or "struggling not to relapse." Booklist critic Joanne Wilkinson commented that the author "excels at depicting the darkness that lurks within, yet he addresses this gritty reality with a soaring lyricism."

Commenting on his novel Wolf Point in an interview with Curled Up with a Good Book contributor Luan Gaines, Falco noted that the setting "is drawn from a place in the Thousand Islands [in upstate New York] called DeWolf Point, where I used to vacation; and the main character is approximately my age and there are parallels between his life and mine—though none of the dramatic events of the story ever happened to me, and I am, in most important ways, very different from my character." Wolf Point revolves around Tom Walker, who takes a trip to Thousand Islands to practice his hobby of photography. On the way there, he picks up two hitchhikers, Jenny and Lester, who mean to rob him but end up not going through with the crime. As a result, Tom agrees to drive them to their destination and learns of the girl's past of sexual abuse, as well as her boyfriend's drug addiction and equally troubled life. As the trip progresses, Jenny flirts with Walker and Lester begins to get angry, which portends an ominous outcome. Booklist contributor Andrea Japzon enjoyed the author's "clean and precise prose," adding that "the reader will experience the novel both as thriller and social commentary." A Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that "Falco gets considerable mileage probing Walker's psyche as he contemplates past mistakes."

Falco once told CA: "I have been writing since I was a teenager, but I didn't start producing anything worthwhile until I discovered the prose poem in my early thirties. The prose poem led me quickly to the short story, and it is in that form that I had my first national-level successes…. I have worked hard to develop my writing skills in the various genres available to creative writers. I have studied the form and practiced the writing of poems, prose poems, short stories, novels, and plays. For a long time now, however, my ambition has been to compose a kind of writing that merges the intense, lyrical power of poetry with the broader and sustained narrative power of fiction."

He continued: "I have produced my best and most successful work in the short story and the prose poem. These two forms work at opposite extremes. The prose poem abandons the constraints of narrative fiction and assumes most of the properties of poetry, though it is composed in paragraphs, giving it the look, if not the feel, of prose. My models here are Charles-Pierre Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, and the Gertrude Stein of Tender Buttons as well as the work of many contemporary poets, critics, and fiction writers who are influenced by the ongoing revolution in critical theory generated by the seminal work of Roland Barthes and others.

"My short stories, on the other hand, are essentially conservative in form. I strive to create characters to whom something significant happens. Content is my principal interest. I feel that I have learned the possible forms of the traditional story, the ways a story can travel through conflict to resolution, and I attempt to use the short story form to create a narrative that has the power to move its reader. The great model here is Anton Chekhov. Though I love the short story and the prose poem, neither of these forms has proven fully satisfying by itself, and I have just recently started work on a long narrative that I hope will be able to contain both the short story and the prose poem—as well, perhaps, as the play, the essay, and the poem in verse. The task I have set myself is to use both these and other kinds of writing to engage readers emotionally and intellectually, while shaping a voice that is my own, one that allows me to articulate and give form to the concerns that move me as a writer and as a human being. I see myself at the beginning of a long road."

More recently Falco told CA: "Since the early '90s, I've devoted a lot of my energy as a writer to exploring the possibilities of hypertext, or digital writing, by which I mean writing that is designed to take advantage of the new and unique possibilities for writing arising from the advent of the computer. I've been particularly interested in the new navigational possibilities that arise out of the computer's ability to link words to images or sounds or other words or fields of words. While exploring digital writing, however, I have continued to write traditional prose—short stories and plays—most consistently."



Blue Penny Quarterly, May 26, 2002, Doug Lawson, "Typing with Edward Falco," author interview.

Booklist, February 15, 1996, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Acid, p. 990; April 15, 2005, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha: New and Selected Stories, p. 1430; October 1, 2005, Andrea Japzon, review of Wolf Point, p. 34.

Hudson Review, autumn, 1996, review of Acid, p. 483.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 1996, review of Acid, p. 98.

Library Journal, April 1, 2005, Kevin Greczek, review of Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha, p. 90; September 1, 2005, Edward B. St. John, review of Wolf Point, p. 129.

New York Times Book Review, April 21, 1996, Bruce Allen, review of Acid, p. 26.

Publishers Weekly, April 27, 1990, review of Winter in Florida, p. 53; June 15, 1990, review of Plato at Scratch Daniel's, p. 65; December 18, 1995, review of Acid, p. 47; August 15, 2005, review of Wolf Point, p. 29.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 1996, Brian Evenson, review of Acid, pp. 195-196.

Studies in Short Fiction, fall, 1997, review of Acid, p. 531.


Best Reviews, http://thebestreviews.com/ (July 24, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha; (August 13, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of Wolf Point.

Book Reporter, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (October 6, 2006), Joe Hartlaub, review of Wolf Point.

Curled Up with a Good Book, http://www.curledup.com/ (October 6, 2006), Luan Gaines, "An Interview with Edward Falco."

EastGate Systems, http://www.eastgate.com/ (October 6, 2006), brief profile of Edward Falco.

Edward Falco Home Page, http://www.edfalco.us (October 6, 2006).