Ruffin, Paul D. 1941-

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Ruffin, Paul D. 1941-

PERSONAL:

Born May 14, 1941, in Millport, AL; son of David and Zealon Ruffin; married Sharon Krebs (a homemaker), June 20, 1973; children: Genevieve Baptiste, Matthew Krebs. Education: Mississippi State University, B.S., 1964, M.A., 1968; University of Southern Mississippi, Ph.D., 1974. Politics: Republican. Religion: Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, woodworking, shooting.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Huntsville, TX. Office—Department of English, Sam Houston State University, Sam Houston Ave., Huntsville, TX 77341-2146. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, educator, editor. Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX, professor of English, 1975—, named Regents Distinguished Professor of English. Texas Review Press, director; Texas Review, editor. Military service: U.S. Army and National Guard, 1959-67; became staff sergeant.

MEMBER:

Texas Institute of Letters, Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for poetry, 1997, for Circling.

WRITINGS:

The Man Who Would Be God: Stories, Southern Methodist University Press (Dallas, TX), 1993.

(Editor, with Donald V. Coers and others) After the Grapes of Wrath: Essays on John Steinbeck in Honor of Tetsumaro Hayashi, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 1995.

(Editor, with George P. Garrett) That's What I Like about the South: And Other New Southern Stories for the Nineties (fiction anthology), University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 1995.

(Editor, with Brooke Horvath and Irving Malin) A Goyen Companion: Appreciation of a Writer's Writer, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1996.

Circling (poetry), Browder Springs Press (Dallas, TX), 1997.

(Editor) So There You Are: The Selected Prose of Glenn Brown, Journalist, Sam Houston State University Press (Huntsville, TX), 1998.

Islands, Women, and God (short stories), Browder Springs Press (Dallas, TX), 2001.

Pompeii Man (novel), Louisiana Literature Press (Hammond, LA), 2002.

(Editor, with Barbara Holland Criswell) This the Matter Is: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Robert Holland, Texas Review Press (Huntsville, TX), 2003.

The Book of Boys and Girls (poetry), Louisiana Literature Press (Hammond, LA), 2003.

Castle in the Gloom (novel), University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 2004.

Here's to Noah, Bless His Ark, and Other Musings (essays), Stone River Press (Conroe, TX), 2005.

The Segovia Chronicles (stories and essays), Louisiana Literature Press (Hammond, LA), 2006.

Jesus in the Mist: Stories, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 2007.

Also author of poetry collection The Storm Cellar, 1987. Contributor of fiction, poetry, and essays to numerous anthologies and hundreds of journals, including Southern Review, Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Michigan Quarterly Review, New England Review, Mississippi Review, Texas Quarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Southwestern American Literature. Author of a regular column, "Ruffin-It," which appears in several newspapers.

SIDELIGHTS:

In his stories set in his native South, American writer Paul D. Ruffin "paints poignant pictures of Southerners leading lives devoid of passion, engulfed by fear or haunted by apocalypse," according to a Publishers Weekly critic. In his collection The Man Who Would Be God: Stories, Ruffin looks to Texas, where the title story follows two cowboys who glimpse something unusual—a white house in the far distance—and compare it to Paradise. "A sleeping world? A cowboy's fascination with revelation? We are unbalanced by the juxtapositions," said Irving Malin in the Review of Contemporary Fiction. Malin went on to praise the stories in this collection as "haunting and memorable."

In 1995 Ruffin coedited a fiction anthology, That's What I Like about the South: And Other New Southern Stories for the Nineties, that offers, as a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted, "a well-balanced arrangement of stories juxtaposed to flow and surprise, a sparkling collection that both illuminates and transcends its geography." The editors gather tales from a number of Southern authors, including Fred Chappell, Kelly Cherry, and Lolis Eric Elie, that deal with themes from the spirit of place to finding one's place in one's family. Frank P. Tota, reviewing That's What I Like about the South in Hollins Critic, felt it was "as varied and mysterious a collection as the states, geographical, intellectual, or emotional, that comprise the South."

Reviewing Islands, Women, and God, Ruffins's 2001 story collection, for the Houston Chronicle, Eric Miles Williamson declared that Ruffin writes so surely about Texas that this collection "is likely to define the literary territory for many years to come." The seventeen stories cover different subjects but in effect constitute "a man's book about the world of men," Williamson commented. "The stories center on the conflicts inherent in the stifled, brutal and often senseless world of masculinity." He cited one story, "The Sign," which opens with a father beating his son. Forty years later the son returns and exacts his revenge "in spectacular and appropriate fashion, not by killing the father but by doing something far worse and more enduring." In its raw imagery, Islands, Women, and God is "an astonishing book," Williamson concluded. "Every page is beautifully written, splendidly rendered and bold. Where weaker writers grow timid and shrivel, Ruffin burrows deep into truths we know but don't admit to knowing."

Though Ruffin has also produced novels, such as Pompeii Man and Castle in the Gloom, he continues to be best known for his short fiction. A Kirkus Reviews critic termed his 2007 publication, Jesus in the Mist: Stories, a collection of "remarkable stories of seekers, idealists, visionaries and the occasional racist, written in an authentic Southern idiom." The same critic observed that Ruffin's characters all "inhabit a space—usually Mississippi—where they can act out a range of emotions on both the domestic and religious fronts." One of the tales, "When Momma Came Home for Christmas and Talmidge Quoted Frost," deals with the proper means of disposing of the ashes of a loved one. In "The Queen," Ruffin tells the story of a retired shipbuilder who lives out a dream of building a boat in his own backyard, while with "In Search of the Tightrope Walker" another retired man, a former profes- sor, attempts to live out a lifelong dream by tracking down a tightrope walker he watched as a young boy.

As a poet, Ruffin has produced several volumes of verse, including Circling, a collection praised by Robert Phillips in a Houston Chronicle review as "full of moments of grace [and] great moments of camaraderie, too."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Studies International, April, 1994, Robert Combs, review of That's What I Like about the South: And Other New Southern Stories for the Nineties, p. 119.

Booklist, April 1, 1993, Joe Collins, review of That's What I Like about the South, p. 1412; December 1, 1993, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of The Man Who Would Be God: Stories, p. 677.

Choice, July-August, 1997, W.B. Warde, Jr., review of A Goyen Companion: Appreciation of a Writer's Writer, p. 1801.

Christian Science Monitor, June 4, 1993, Mary Warner Marien, review of That's What I Like about the South, p. 11.

Hollins Critic, April 1, 1994, Frank P. Tota, review of That's What I Like about the South, p. 15.

Houston Chronicle, August 11, 1996, Robert Phillips, "Poets Find Power, Grace in Rural Settings," p. 21; November 11, 2001, Eric Miles Williamson, "Fine Stories of Men's World," p. 19.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2007, review of Jesus in the Mist: Stories.

Mississippi Quarterly, spring, 1998, Helen S. Garson, review of A Goyen Companion, p. 407.

New York Times Book Review, December 26, 1993, Susan Lowell, review of The Man Who Would Be God, p. 14.

Publishers Weekly, March 8, 1993, review of That's What I Like about the South, p. 72; November 1, 1993, review of The Man Who Would Be God, p. 71.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring, 1994, Irving Malin, review of The Man Who Would Be God, p. 229.

ONLINE

Sam Houston State University Web site,http://www.shsu.edu/ (June 18, 2008), "Paul Ruffin, Regents Distinguished Professor of Literature."