Phillips, Dale Ray 1955-
PHILLIPS, Dale Ray 1955-
Born April 30, 1955, in Burlington, NC; divorced; children: one daughter. Education: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, B.A., 1977; Hollins College, M.A., 1985; University of Arkansas, M.F.A., 1990.
Home—Deer, AK. Agent—Amanda Urban and Sloan Harris, ICM, 40 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
Author and educator. In early career, worked as a house painter, a bartender, a banquet waiter, and as a respiratory therapist in an emergency room. Writer-in-residence at Arkansas Writers-in-the-Schools Program, 1985-89, and South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts, 1998; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, visiting assistant professor, 1988-89; University of Houston, Houston, TX, adjunct lecturer, 1990-91; Clemson University, Clemson, SC, visiting professor, 1993-97.
Pulitzer Prize nomination, 2000, for My People's Waltz.
My People's Waltz (short stories), W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1999.
Contributor of short stories to books, including Best American Short Stories, Houghton (New York, NY), 1989; New Stories and Poems from the Hollins Writing Program, University of Virginia Press (Charlottesville, VA), 1992; and New Stories from the South: The Year's Best, Algonquin Books (Chapel Hill, NC), 1995 and 1997. Also contributor of short fiction to periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Intro 16, and Ploughshares.
Short story writer Dale Ray Phillips is the author of My People's Waltz, a collection of thematically linked stories that were originally published in a number of periodicals. They are narrated by Richard, a traveler who drifts through North Carolina and Arkansas to Texas, relating tales from his childhood up through his turbulent current relationships. In one story, the reader meets an eight-year-old Richard who lives with his grandfather, a retired judge, and his "floozy" in a trailer; another depicts Richard, now slightly older and left in charge of his mother, who is chronically depressed. Harvey Grossinger commented in a review for the Houston Chronicle that Phillips's "debut collection of stories … reveals him to be a nuanced as well as exhaustive chronicler of familial disorder and disjunction, and of the pathology of betrayal, ubiquitous subjects that in the hands of a less assured artist might prove synthetic, parochial, or maudlin." A contributor to Publishers Weekly called the collection "a darkly funny and lyrical narrative," and went on to state that "Phillips's prose flashes powerful unpredictability with every delicious little shock."
When Phillips was first starting to write, he was forced to pay close attention to his grammar prior to sending his work out for consideration. Often he would write in the first person and then go back and change to third person in order to make sure the flow was correct. In order to support himself as he wrote, Phillips worked at a variety of jobs, including as a journeyman house painter, a bartender, a banquet waiter, and as a respiratory therapist in an emergency room, back before certification was required. Teaching was by far the most natural type of work for him, despite the fact that he found it draining. As he recalled in an interview with George Hovis and Timothy Williams for the Carolina Quarterly, "you're reading some student's work, and you see what you don't like in it, and sometimes you see what you don't like in your own work in it. Also, you're thinking about writing. There's a lot of difference between teaching and writing and laying brick and writing.… You're not talking about writing when you're laying brick. Then again, you hear the best stories out there laying brick."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 1, 1999, James O'Laughlin, review of My People's Waltz, p. 1386.
Carolina Quarterly, summer, 2003, George Hovis and Timothy Williams, "Old Times on the Haw" (interview), pp. 63-75.
Houston Chronicle, June 27, 1999, Harvey Grossinger, "Families in Trouble," p. 25.
Publishers Weekly, December 14, 1998, review of My People's Waltz, p. 54.
W. W. Norton Web site,http://www.wwnorton.com/ (November 12, 2004), "Dale Ray Phillips."*