Hribal, C.J. 1957-

views updated

Hribal, C.J. 1957-


Born 1957, in Chicago, IL; married; children: Tosh, Roman, Hania. Education: St. Norbert College, B.A.; Syracuse University, M.A., 1982.


Home—Milwaukee, WI. Office—Department of English, Coughlin Hall 261, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881. Agent—Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber Associates, Inc., 146 East 19th St., New York, NY 10003-2404. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]


Writer. University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, teacher; Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, 1990—, began as associate professor, currently professor of English. Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, Asheville, NC, staff member, 1989—. Has also worked as a garbage collector, a hotel desk clerk, and a book store clerk.


New Voices Award, for Matty's Heart; Loft-McKnight literary fellowship, 1986-87; National Endowment for the Arts literary fellowship, 1986-87; Bush Foundation artist fellowship, 1987-88; grant, Wisconsin State Arts Board, 1994; Associated Writings Program Award for short fiction, 1999; Sternig Award for short fiction; Guggenheim Fellowship, 2003.


Matty's Heart (short stories), New Rivers (St. Paul, MN), 1984.

American Beauty (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1987.

(Editor and author of introduction) The Boundaries of Twilight: Czecho-Slovak Writing from the New World, New Rivers (St. Paul, MN), 1991.

The Clouds in Memphis (novellas and short stories), University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 2000.

The Company Car (novel), Random House (New York, NY) 2005.

Contributor to periodicals, including Chicago Tribune, Hungry Mind Review, and TriQuarterly.


C.J. Hribal began his literary career in 1984 with Matty's Heart, a collection of short stories set in rural Wisconsin. The book features such tales as "Lake Poygan and the Politics of Departure," wherein a woman abandons her lover at a lakeside spot; and "Stephers," in which an adolescent girl relates what Anthony Arthur, writing in Western American Literature, described as "her story of initiation." Both the title tale and "Kitchens," meanwhile, concern Matty, a woman who has been held hostage in a restaurant robbery. Arthur concluded his review by calling Matty "a fine and vigorous creation." Welch D. Everman in a North American Review appraisal, lauded Matty's Heart as a "well-written, intelligent example of regional writing at its best." In addition, he declared that "Hribal writes about rural Wisconsin and articulates that experience in a way that should be useful not only to residents of that region but to every reader."

Hribal's next book, the novel American Beauty, concerns a teenage girl, Dorie, who exploits her beauty and sexuality to the detriment of her personal integrity. The heroine, who hails from a Wisconsin farm, blithely trades sex for cash, and casually enters into sexual relationships with both men and women. Chicago Tribune Books reviewer John Blades, who called American Beauty "an undeniably virtuosic work of empathetic imagination," described Dorie as "a narcissistic girl, whose classical physical beauty has irreparably disfigured and deadened her soul." He added: "With her unregenerate vanity and amorality, Dorie seems to invite all the unhappiness and indignities Hribal inflicts on her." Carol Ames summarized American Beauty in the New York Times Book Review as "a wrenching story," and a Kirkus Reviews critic called it "a tough, generous, promising first novel." A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that American Beauty is a novel of "compelling immediacy."

In 1991 Hribal served as editor of The Boundaries of Twilight: Czecho-Slovak Writing from the New World, a volume comprised of both short stories and poems, judged by a Publishers Weekly critic as a volume of "consistently high quality." The volume includes such stories as Laura Pappano's "The Martha in My Red," wherein a couple's enduring marriage enables them to overcome what the Publishers Weekly reviewer described as "the mundanity of their circumstances," and Ludek Snepp's "Days on the Edge of Razorblades," in which a man hosts some friends from Czechoslovakia and "inadvertently falls in love." Among the notable poems in the collection, which includes works by more than fifty writers, are Paul Martin's "What I Know about My Grandmother" and Susan Firer's "1956, the Year My Sister, Using her Ill Health Once Again, Blackmailed My Parents into an Accordion." Edward Ifkovic, writing in MultiCultural Review, praised The Boundaries of Twilight as "a vital, significant volume, an important contribution to the literature of North America." Ifkovic also thought Hribal "an excellent editor" and affirmed that he "purposely and successfully avoids … sentimental pieces of ‘nostalgic simplicity.’"

Hribal followed The Boundaries of Twilight with The Clouds in Memphis, a book comprised of three novellas and two short stories, most of which deal with individuals coming to terms with the repercussions of death. In the title tale, a divorced woman despairs when her son is killed in an automobile accident caused by a drunk driver. In "War Babies" the sister of an accident victim tries to come to terms with her grief by imagining the events that resulted in her sibling's demise, while in "Consent" a real-estate developer plunges himself into a moral dilemma while reflecting on a drowning that occurred at one of his development sites. Another entry, "And That's the Name of That Tune," concerns a grown son who recalls his father's barroom exploits.

In 2005 Hribal published The Company Car, "a worthwhile exploration of marital relationships and family life," observed Maureen Neville in the Library Journal. While driving to his parents' home to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary, Emil Czabek reflects upon his often tumultuous upbringing, which saw the family of nine move from the suburbs of Chicago to a ramshackle farm in Wisconsin. "The novel quickly becomes two stories: that of Emil's seemingly endangered marriage to free-spirited (possibly adulterous) Dorie, and the raucous history of Wally and Susan, their progeny, their dreams and failures," wrote a Kirkus Reviews critic. The Company Car received strong reviews. A contributor in Publishers Weekly called the work a "dense, heartfelt saga," and Carol Hoggas, writing in Booklist, remarked: "Hribal's loving paean to the American dream is as comforting and familiar as the classic fifties-era sitcoms it richly evokes."



Booklist, April 1, 2005, Carol Hoggas, review of The Company Car, p. 1343.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1987, review of American Beauty, p. 1097; December, 1993, review of The Boundaries of the Twilight: Czecho-Slovak Writing from the New World, p. 29; April 1, 2005, review of The Company Car, p. 375.

Library Journal, April 15, 2005, Maureen Neville, review of The Company Car, p. 73.

MultiCultural Review, January, 1992, Edward Ifkovic, review of The Boundaries of the Twilight, pp. 38-39.

New York Times Book Review, January 3, 1988, Carol Ames, review of American Beauty, p. 19.

North American Review, June, 1985, Welch D. Everman, "The Region of Writing," review of Matty's Heart, pp. 62-64.

Publishers Weekly, August 28, 1987, Sybil Steinberg, review of American Beauty, p. 67; July 19, 1991, review of The Boundaries of the Twilight, p. 52; April 18, 2005, review of The Company Car, p. 42.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), November 15, 1987, John Blade, "Confession of Teen Girl Disfigured by Her Beauty," p. 3.

Western American Literature, summer, 1986, Anthony Arthur, review of Matty's Heart, p. 168.


Bookslut Web site, (July, 2004), John Detrixhe, "An Interview with C.J. Hribal."

C.J. Hribal Home Page, (January 26, 2007).

Identity Theory Web site, (July 3, 2007), Stephen Schenkenberg, "C.J. Hribal."

Marquette University English Department Web site, (January 27, 2007), "C.J. Hribal."