Westmoreland, Timothy A. 1966-

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WESTMORELAND, Timothy A. 1966-

PERSONAL:

Born 1966, in Dallas, TX; married; wife's name Debbie. Education: University of Texas, Austin, B.A. (English), 1992; University of Massachusetts, Amherst, M.F.A. (creative writing).

ADDRESSES:

Agent—c/o Author Mail, Harcourt, 15 East 25th St., New York, NY 10010.

CAREER:

Writer. University of Texas, Arlington, astronomy instructor; University of Massachusetts, Amherst, writing instructor.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Writing scholarships from Bennington College, Mount Holyoke College and Bread Loaf.

WRITINGS:

Good as Any (stories), Harcourt (New York, NY), 2002.

Work represented in anthologies, including Scribner's Best of the Fiction Workshops and Best New American Voices 2001. Contributor of short fiction to literary journals, including Indiana Review.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

Gathering, a novel.

SIDELIGHTS:

Timothy A. Westmoreland, who was diagnosed with diabetes when he was seven, studied astronomy but turned to writing and teaching writing after his vision worsened. He had begun to lose his sight at age eighteen, and in spite of dozens of eye surgeries, Westmoreland will eventually be unable to see. His diabetes has also left him with only thirty percent of his kidney function.

Westmoreland grew up near Dallas, Texas, in a family that did not value his intellectual abilities. The rural landscape of Texas figures in his collection Good As Any, as does New England, home to Amherst College, where he teaches creative writing in the school's Excel program. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the eight short stories in his debut collection "bleak, powerful.… Though Westmoreland's spare, elegant and highly textural prose provides some relief, the sadness that permeates almost every one of these stories can be overwhelming."

The stories are about men who have suffered, most through injury and illness, but also emotionally, with the result being that they are intensely lonely and long for someone with whom they can connect. Diabetes afflicts several, and one has a steel rod in his leg. These are working-class people who understand and enjoy fishing and shooting and who eat red meat. But they can also be poetic when they describe something in nature, such as geese flying in formation overhead or the stars in the night sky. The love of a woman is central in some stories, but more often the object of these men's affections is a dog.

In "They Have Numbered All My Bones," Buckley Miller is a dying man who recalls the woman he loved long ago. The man in "The Buried Boy" is a diabetic who watches numbly, unable to function, as a boy buried in the sand by his friends is abandoned and panics with the incoming tide. The male character in "Blood Knot" suffers from diabetic delirium while on a fly fishing trip. In the title story, Mitch abandons everything, including his girlfriend Delilah, to care for Rose Marie, his beloved dog who is dying from a terminal illness.

"Darkening the World," also included in Best New American Voices 2001, is about Straw, a happy but unemployed paper-mill worker whose morning laughter annoys his roommate Pork, who thinks Straw needs to experience some negative feelings. Murphy is dying in "Strong at the Broken Places," and his friends want to help him but do not know how. Library Journal's Jim Coan wrote that without expressing sentimentality, Westmoreland "illuminates the world of extreme conditions, but a deep sense of compassion and sympathy for the characters comes through." In a Booklist review, Warrell Beth noted that the final story, "Winter Island," in which characters claim to have seen flying pigs, is an example of the way in which Westmoreland "uses seemingly imaginary events to heighten the sense of disconnection his characters feel from others, from themselves, and from life."

An Austin Chronicle reviewer wrote that Westmoreland "imbues his stories with enough sly humor and hope, however muffled, to make his characters' sad fates fascinating and unexpectedly illuminating." Katherine Wolff said in the New York Times Book Review that Good as Any asks the difficult questions "about human yearning …the meaning of home, and perhaps most essentially, about why men love dogs. Answers lie in Westmoreland's taut scenes and the finality of a few well-aimed guns."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Austin Chronicle, February 15, 2002, review of Good as Any.

Booklist, November 15, 2001, Warrell Beth, review of Good as Any, p. 549.

Library Journal, January, 2002, Jim Coan, review of Good as Any, p. 156.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 27, 2002, Mark Rozzo, "First Fiction," p. R10.

New York Times Book Review, February 3, 2002, Katherine Wolff, review of Good as Any.

Publishers Weekly, August 6, 2001, Judith Rosen, "Keeping It Short," p. 52; November 5, 2001, review of Good as Any, p. 38.*

ONLINE

UTA Magazine,http://utamagazine.uta.edu/ (October 14, 2003), Sherry Wodraska Neaves, "Fiction with Feeling."*

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