PERSONAL: Male. Education: University of Iowa, M.F.A.; earned J.D.
CAREER: Writer, illustrator, and educator. San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA, assistant professor of creative writing.
AWARDS, HONORS: PEN/Hemingway Award finalist, 2001, for Esther Stories; Samuel Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction; Rome Prize in Literature, American Academy of Arts and Letters, 2002–03.
Seep: Five Stories, Sierras Press (Iowa City, IA), 1998.
Esther Stories, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2001.
Stories have appeared in anthologies Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize Anthology and in periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly and Paris Review.
SIDELIGHTS: Peter Orner is the author of two short-story collections and a novel. In Esther Stories, the author presents thirty-four short tales, some no longer than two pages. The stories in the first half of the book often focus on how people are affected tangentially by the deaths of others, as in a story about a schoolboy who visits the place a teacher was murdered. In another tale, the death of a landlord's tenant leads to serious reflections of the man's own life. The stories in the second half of the book focus on two Jewish families, one a typical middle-class family and the other a wealthy family living in Chicago. These tales come together in the title story, about a young man who investigates his aunt's decline into mental illness. "Innovative, original and fresh as a breath of perfumed summer air," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor, who went on to call Orner's stories an "extraordinarily fine collection." Molly Abramowitz, writing in the Library Journal, commented that "the emotional probing of the characters is the high point here." In a review in Booklist, Brendan Dowling wrote that "readers will enjoy discovering this talented and insightful writer."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2001, Brendan Dowling, review of Esther Stories, p. 548.
Library Journal, October 15, 2001, Molly Abramowitz, review of Esther Stories, p. 112.
Publishers Weekly, September 24, 2001, review of Esther Stories, p. 64.
Houghton Mifflin Web site, http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/ (January 18, 2005), brief biography of author.