McNally, John (Raymond) 1965-
McNALLY, John (Raymond) 1965-
PERSONAL: Born November 8, 1965, in Oak Lawn, IL; son of Robert (a roofer) and Margie (a factory worker; maiden name Triplett) McNally; married Amy Knox Brown (a writer). Education: Southern Illinois University, B.A., 1987; University of Iowa, M.F.A., 1989; University of Nebraska, Ph.D., 1999.
CAREER: Writer and educator. University of South Florida, Tampa, visiting assistant professor, 2000-01; George Washington University, Washington D.C., visiting writer, 2001-02; Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, assistant professor of English, 2002—.
AWARDS, HONORS: University of Iowa Writers Workshop James Michener fellowship, 1991-92; Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing Djerassi fiction fellowship, 1998-99; Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Margaret Bridgman scholarship, 1999; University of Iowa John Simmons short-fiction award, 2000, and Nebraska Book Award, 2001, both for Troublemakers; George Washington University Jenny McKean Moore fellowship, 2001-02.
(Editor) High Infidelity: Twenty-five Great Short Stories about Adultery by Some of Our Best Contemporary Authors, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1997.
Troublemakers (short story collection) University of Iowa Press (Iowa City, IA), 2000.
(Editor) The Student Body: Short Stories about College Students and Professors, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2001.
(Editor) Humor Me: An Anthology of Humor by Writers of Color, University of Iowa Press (Iowa City, IA), 2002.
(Editor and author of introduction) Bottom of the Ninth: Great Contemporary Baseball Short Stories, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 2003.
The Book of Ralph, Free Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor of fiction and nonfiction to magazines and anthologies, including With Love and Squalor: Fourteen Writers Respond to the Work of J. D. Salinger, (Broadway Books, 2001); The Iowa Award: The Best Stories, 1991-2000, edited by Frank Conroy, 2001; Open City, Chelsea, North American Review, New England Review, Florida Review, Idaho Review, Punk Planet, Colorado Review, and Columbia.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel and a collection of short stories.
SIDELIGHTS: John McNally's first fiction collection, Troublemakers, consists of ten short stories and a novella about lower-middle-class men and boys driven to what Rob Thomas called in his review for the Capital Times, "desperate acts.... usually hilarious, or at least head-scratchingly bizarre. Even if you've never waited in a dry reservoir for an imaginary Styx concert, played in an 'air band,' or tried to sell a trunk-load of bootleg Tootsie Rolls to get out of a jam, you'll recognize the human impulses behind them." Three stories are connected: "The Vomitorium," "Smoke," and "The Grand Illusion," and take place in the 1970s on Chicago's southwest side. Hank, the narrator, is a good kid at heart who hangs out with Ralph, "a juvenile delinquent so loopy," according to Thomas, "that his anti-social ways are almost endearing." In fact, several of McNally's narrators bear a similar relationship to the other characters in the stories. Although personally involved, they are the ones watching with what Thomas called "a look of mingled awe and disdain on their faces.... Troublemakers confirms McNally's status as a major and exciting new talent."
As editor of four collections of short stories, McNally has received equally enthusiastic reviews. In High Infidelity: Twenty-four Great Short Stories about Adultery by Some of Our Best Contemporary Authors, McNally chose stories by well-known authors such as John Updike, Bharati Mukherjee, Margaret Atwood, and T. Coraghessan Boyle, to name just a few, as well as some less-seasoned but talented ones. All the stories are about forbidden relationships. In his introduction, McNally writes: "Adultery, I suspect, has been with us since the dawn of man. I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn of hieroglyphics on cave walls documenting infidelities and indiscretions, sketched by some woebegone or cuckolded Cro-Magnon," then mentions many infamous infidelities throughout history. Mark Graham noted in his review for Rocky Mountain News that McNally gathered these stories from "major and obscure magazines and anthologies, so it is unlikely that any reader will have read many of them." Beginning his story, Russell Banks writes: "By the time I was nineteen years old I had broken all but three of the Ten Commandments. I had made no graven image, had killed no one, and had not committed adultery." He then proceeds to reveal how he broke the latter.
Humor Me: An Anthology of Humor by Writers of Color grew from McNally's frustrations while preparing a course on humor in American literature and found almost no representation of minority writers. This representative work encompasses different genres such as poetry, cartoons, drama, and fiction. McNally notes that not all those represented identify themselves as humorists; that race is not the central theme; and that the role of humor is broadly represented, flowing around such universals as ambition, ladder-climbing, and sex. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented: "Given McNally's multigenre approach, the lack of bigger names here—cartoonist Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks) comes immediately to mind—make this book feel like an academic exercise, despite McNally's best intentions."
The title of The Student Body: Short Stories about College Students and Professors is self-explanatory. In his introduction, McNally writes: "University campuses, small and large, are treasure-troves of material for fiction writers." And in this collection are stories by a diverse group of authors such as Stephen King, Thisbe Nissen, Marly Swick, and Ron Carlson. The book is divided into two sections, one from the students' perspectives, the other from the educators'. Kristine Huntley commented in Booklist: "In [Richard] Russo's gracefully told tale, a 70-year-old nun joins an advanced creative writing class and uses her story to tell the tale of her life, which is as rife with subtext as any novel.... [Dan] Chaon and Amy Knox Brown weigh in with stories of fraternity brothers, Gillian Kendall writes of a professor's deeply buried passion for her student, and Tom Whalen's attractive female student wanders through a myriad of lecherous professors. This excellent collection captures both the passion and isolation in academia."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 1997, Donna Seaman, review of High Infidelity: Twenty-four Great Short Stories about Adultery by Some of Our Best Contemporary Authors, p. 1796; September 15, 2001, Kristine Huntley, review of The Student Body: Stories about College Students and Professors, p. 197.
Capital Times (Madison, WI), October 13, 2000, Rob Thomas, "Creating Chaos Is Hilarious Fun in Bizarre Tales of Troublemakers,"p.9A.
Library Journal, March 15, 2002, A. J. Anderson, review of Humor Me: An Anthology of Humor by Writers of Color, p. 81.
People Weekly, August 18, 1997, Francine Prose, review of High Infidelity, p. 40.
Publishers Weekly, September 11, 2000, review of Troublemakers, p. 66; February 11, 2002, review of Humor Me, p. 169.
Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO), July 27, 1997, Mark Graham, "Anthology Gives Adultery Its Due," p. 2E.
School Library Journal, March, 2001, Emily Lloyd, review of Troublemakers, p. 282.
Creighton University Nebraska Center for Writers Web site,http://mockingbird.creighton.edu/ (July 16, 2002), "What the Critics Say about John McNally."