Short Fiction and Public Policy

I’ll think about why I like this story later.  Right now I just want to recommend it (and the magazine it was published in: American Short Fiction).  The story is “Carry Me Home, Sisters of Saint Joseph,” by Marie-Helene Bertino (American Short Fiction, Vol. 13, Issue 47, Spring 2010).  American Short Fiction is an outstanding publication–one of the few magazines I read cover-to-cover, every issue, some stories more than once.

Good stories transport you to another place.  Most of the time, when you find your way back, you discover everything is more or less as you left it.  Sometimes, though, even though everything looks right–the dirty dishes are still in the sink right where you left them–you sense that something has changed.  And even though you can’t put your finger on it, you realize things will never be quite the same.  The list of stories that have done that to me is pretty short. “Carry Me Home, Sisters of Saint Joseph” is one of those stories.  Here’s another one (full text is available online):

“Crossing,” by Mark Slouka, The Paris Review (Issue 190, Fall 2009).

So what is the connection between short fiction and public policy?  A good short story can take all the certainty you have about an issue and give you an embarrassing wedgie with it, in front of the entire school, and then leave you duct-taped in your underwear to the flag pole out front.  I’ve never met a logical argument, no matter how well-crafted, or a policy statement, no matter how thorough, that could do that.  There’s a reason politicians trot out stories (and the people that populate them) in election years.

About the author

Brent D. Beal is an associate professor of management in the College of Business and Technology at the University of Texas at Tyler. In his spare time, he enjoys debating religious and political issues, reading and writing short stories, playing Scrabble, and hanging out with his wife and their three kids.

One Comment

  1. Stephanie says:

    Spoken like a true writer (proper visuals included), thinker, reader, etc. It’s really hard to get caught up in the fray, to hate everyone and everything, demand that the world bend to your singular opinion and withdraw to your own insular, provincial world when you actually think about……well, stuff, and people and how what you just read illuminated to you that your life is not the only way to live and think! Writing should activate an internal dialog that makes you want to do something with your thoughts.


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