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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) 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:

Home—Tacoma, WA. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, novelist, and educator. Flathead Valley Community College, adjunct instructor, 1976-83; University of Montana, adjunct professor, 1990—. 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; Pacific University low-residency MFA program, 2005—.

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; Blue Spruce was named one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly, 1995; Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award for Blue Spruce, 1996.

WRITINGS:

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

Home Fires (short stories), University of Illinois Press (Urbana), 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 (novel), Scribner (New York, NY), 2000.

The Inhabited World (novel), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2006.

Contributor to 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, Graywolf 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; Love Stories from the New Yorker, edited by Roger Angell, Random House, 1997; The New Montana Story, Riverbend (Helena, MT), 2003; and The Best of Montana's Short Fiction, The Lyons Press (New York, NY), 2004. Contributor to periodicals, including Antaeus, Montana: Magazine of Western History, Poets and Writers, Publishers Weekly, New Yorker, and Sewanee Review. Founding editor of CutBank.

SIDELIGHTS:

David Long has won much critical acclaim for 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. "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 offered a similar vision in his next collection, Blue Spruce. Most of the stories included in this book 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 the 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 of 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."

"David 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 unosten- tatious 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." Upchurch 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."

"Long is a writer of extraordinary sensitivity and grace," remarked Dennis Dodge in Booklist, and his first novel, The Falling Boy signals the "arrival of an important talent." With this story, Long "captures the texture of a generally uneventful life and creates a keenly observed and poignantly accurate portrait of the human condition," observed a Publishers Weekly critic. Set in the familiar territory of Sperry, Montana, the novel tells the story of construction worker Mark Singer and his relationship with the Stavros family. At age twenty-two, Singer marries Olivia, third of the four Stavros sisters. Married life with Olivia is not as pleasant as he had hoped, however, as she is emotionally withdrawn and prone to mood swings. Ten years later, he is dissatisfied with his marriage but locked into the responsibilities of two children and a mortgage. When eldest Stavros sister Linny returns to town, Singer finds in her a vibrant, seductive presence that he cannot resist. The two embark on a furtive affair, and as the novel proceeds, Long relates how this ill-considered act affects Singer, Olivia, Linny, and the rest of the Stavros family. Reviewer David Sowd, writing in the Library Journal, named it "an honest and unflinching moral examination of marital infidelity" and a "finely crafted novel." The Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded: "Unpretentiously profound, this is a memorable novel."

The Daughters of Simon Lamoreaux traces the lifelong effects of a young woman's mysterious disappearance on the people who knew and loved her. In 1973, prep school senior Miles Fanning plans to meet his sweetheart, Carly Lamoreaux, after choir practice. Carly, however, does not make the meeting with Fanning, and simply vanishes, never heard from again. Stunned by her disappearance, Fanning never quite manages to come to terms with the tragedy, living in a constant state of vague guilt and unresolved emotions. Nearly twenty-five years later, Fanning has become a successful businessman and owner of a record label. He has married, but his emotional troubles have caused friction between himself and his wife. Unexpectedly, he receives an e-mail message from Julia, Carly's younger sister, which jolts him back into the trauma of years before and forces him to revisit issues he had never been able to put to rest. Julia is determined to reconstruct her sister's life and find out what happened to her. She relates stories of the Lamoreaux family before and after Carly vanished, including the slow dissolution of her father's religious faith, and ultimate personal destruction, in the aftermath of his daughter's disappearance. "Long's ability to engender sympathy for a rigidly rectitudinous man whose stoic grief and despair slowly erode his belief in salvation is accomplished with lyrical, haunting simplicity," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Fanning explores the intersections of Simon Lamoreaux's life with his daughters, and helps Julia put together a plausible reconstruction of Carly's last days and ultimate fate. In the process, he discovers that Lamoreaux's wife had a male admirer among the church congregation, and that this individual is inextricably linked to Carly. Library Journal reviewer Robert E. Brown noted that the novel is "not a conventional ‘mystery,’ though it has that element, along with a lot of tension and some eerie vibes." Bonnie Johnston, writing in Booklist, called the book a "captivating story about the healing potential of love in the face of tragedy."

Evan Molloy, the protagonist of The Inhabited World, is a ghost who finds himself still anchored to the physical world, confined to the house where he committed suicide ten years earlier at age forty-two. His awareness is dim and his memories of the events leading up to his death are vague and disjointed, and he has difficulties recognizing why he has become a ghost. Though he can see and hear the living who have moved in and out of his house over the years, he cannot appear to them or help them in any way. Now, he has taken a particular interest in the most recent occupant, a young woman named Maureen Keniston who is trying to end an affair with a married man. As he helplessly watches Maureen's turbulent emotional struggles, his own memories become clearer. He remembers his early childhood and adult years, his work as a business consultant, and his first love, Claudia, who became his wife. He also remembers an affair with a coworker, Frannie, and the devastating impact it had on his marriage. Slowly, he reconstructs the events that led to his decreasing mental stability and the reasons for his ultimate self-destruction. In doing so, he begins to understand why he still haunts the world he once knew. Long couches his story in terms of "the simple tale of two lost souls figuring out what they need from this world," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. He "displays a perceptive acuity to the ravages of depression in this wistfully poignant and sensitive novel," commented Carol Haggas, writing in Booklist.

Long once told CA: "I think of myself as a short story writer, though I also do some nonfiction work for magazines. Most of my stories are set in Montana, my home since 1972. 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."

Remarking on his transition from a short story writer to a novelist, Long once told CA: "I … feel that I've made a permanent switch to novelist (not to rule out the occasional short story now). The Falling Boy, my first novel, is set in Sperry, Montana, in the 1950s and early 1960s. It's the story of a cafe owner, Nick Stavros, and his four daughters, especially Olivia, the third-born, and her marriage." Commenting on his writing in general, Long stated: "In the stories from The Flood of '64 and my other works, I've tried to break down the cliches about Montana. The majority of the stories take place in Sperry, which is a small city in a mountain valley—closer in some ways to the Pacific Northwest than the Montana that lies east of the mountains. It's not that bleak a place, honest." Long also noted the importance of "affirmative endings" in his work. "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, review of The Flood of '64, p. 17.

Best Life, July-August, 2006, Kyle Smith, "Quick Reads," review of The Inhabited World, p. 52.

Booklist, February 15, 1995, George Needham, review of Blue Spruce, 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; July 1, 2006, Carol Haggas, review of The Inhabited World, p. 30.

Boston Globe, July 23, 2006, Gail Caldwell, "A Self-Made Ghost Revisits His Haunted Life," review of The Inhabited World.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2006, review of The Inhabited World, p. 431.

Library Journal, February 1, 1995, Ann H. Fisher, review of Blue Spruce, 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; June 15, 2004, Nancy Pearl, "Thicker than Water: Sisters in Fiction," review of The Daughters of Simon Lamoreaux, p. 112.

Los Angeles Times, November 25, 1982, Art Seidenbaum, review of Home Fires, p. 27; March 9, 1995, Richard Eder, "Big Sky Country Breeds Tales of Desolation, Not Defeat," review of Blue Spruce, p. E6.

New York Times Book Review, July 5, 1987, Greg Johnson, review of The Flood of '64, p. 15; April 23, 1995, Lisa Sandlin, review of Blue Spruce, p. 26; September 24, 2006, Terence Rafferty, review of The Inhabited World.

Publishers Weekly, January 16, 1995, review of Blue Spruce, p. 435; April 28, 1997, review of The Falling Boy, p. 47; March 27, 2000, review of The Daughters of Simon Lamoreaux, p. 49; March 13, 2006, review of The Inhabited World, p. 34.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), March 26, 1995, review of Blue Spruce, p. 5.

Voice Literary Supplement, April, 1995, review of Blue Spruce, p. 16.

ONLINE

David Long Home Page,http://davidlonglit.com (March 10, 2007).

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