Horrocks, Orozco collections reviewed in the NYT

The Sunday New York Times held a couple of pleasant surprises: Two writers who’ve been interviewed here at Bark were reviewed positively in the Book Review. Check out this review of University of Idaho prof Daniel Orozco’s Orientation, and this take on Caitlin Horrocks’ This is Not Your City.

Here’s a passage from Horrocks’ Bark interview, addressing the differences between writing a novel versus a short story:

“The main difference is that I have no clue what I’m doing on the novel. There was a point that I felt that way with stories, of course, but I’ve had years, practice, lots of good workshops and good readers, to help me figure things out. I haven’t decoded the form, but it’s a forest I’m used to hacking my way through.

“My novel project feels like a jungle without any clear paths at all. I don’t know which plants are poisonous or which animals might eat me. There are weird noises in the distance. I don’t have the right kind of shoes. It’s always raining, and I’d like to cower under some leaves and just research forever, but I know I have to step out, start tromping, and get muddy.

“I heard the writer Peter Ho Davies refer to a story as a rock that you could cup in your hand: hold it up to the light, feel the whole shape of it at once. The novel was a giant boulder you could only walk around, seeing small slices of it at a time. I like this image a lot. I just need to keep reminding myself that I can get around the whole rock that way, with more steps and more patience. And through the jungle? Picture the rock in the jungle. Then it all fits.”

Here’s the entire interview.

Here’s a passage from Orozco’s interview:

“When I teach a fiction writing class the one unit/topic I skip is “theme.” I went to Catholic school when I was a boy, taught by nuns who would teach theme. They’d walk around the room and ask “What’s this story about?” and you’d answer and they’d say “No, wrong.” So you’d offer another answer and they’d say “Close!  But no.” And so, theme was a like this one key they held in their hand, and if you guessed the right theme, you would have the key to unlocking the story.

“I’ll tell a student that story is experiential, not thematic, that story engages via human action and reaction, not via idea. I’ll tell her not to write about, say, the plight of the elderly on America, but to write instead about the summer her grandfather fell down the stairs and broke his hip and had to move in with her family. I’m belaboring this point, I guess: that for me, what a story is about arises from what happens in it. A writer works on a story every day for months, with the primary goal of telling a human story that engages emotively. Doing just that–immersively, ongoingly, daily–the preoccupation or theme or worldview will emerge unbidden.”

Read the full interview here.

Congrats to both.


  • I really like the rock in the jungle image. We often discuss the topics of story vs. novel and essay vs. book in my writing group. Three of us have gone through an MFA program and it seems like EWU is one of the few that actually adresses the long forms of prose. Most programs prepare you well for being a short story writer or an essayist, but you’re kind of on your own–other than maybe during your thesis work–for book length work.

  • Shira Richman says:

    We should have an America’s Top Writer and appoint you as the judge. Or maybe that’s what this whole thing is already.

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