Recently I have fallen under the spell of Judy Budnitz's wild imagination. After reading the twenty-three stories in her first collection, Flying Leap, it's clear she writes directly from her intuition. Just as each story asks the reader to suspend belief, each speaks of the undeniable truth of human nature.
In one of my favorites, "Guilt," a man is asked by his mother's sisters to donate his healthy heart to his failing mother.
It begins: " 'What kind of son are you?' asks Aunt Fran.
Aunt Nina says, 'Your own flesh and blood!
'What your mother wouldn't do for you...' Aunt Fran goes on. 'She'd do anything for you, anything in the world.'
'And now you won't give just a little back. For shame,' says Aunt Nina.
In "Average Joe," a man is hounded by various marketing experts because he has come to represent the average man.
"There's a hundred-pound baby in the house, who no one's talking about." So begins "Hundred-Pound Baby," the story of the demise of a marriage as witnessed by a child.
In her second, equally as wonderful collection "Nice Big American Baby", the stories within will captivate the reader.
In "Where We Come From," a pregnant woman repeatedly attempts to cross the border into America so her baby will be an American. And as she tries and fails, her baby continues to grow inside her.
In "Miracle," a woman gives birth to a child and because of the baby's appearance, the father questions his connection to him. And when the baby is "cured," the mother questions hers.
In "Immersion," Budnitz displays the stubborn stupidity of prejudice.
As Budnitz draws the reader into her often strange worlds it is her tone, one of friendly authority, that keeps the reader grounded with one foot in reality. I love this woman's prose and I feel newly inspired in my own writing. Thank you, Ms. Budnitz.
- Originally from Vermont, I now live in North Carolina. My work can be found in recent issues of REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Jabberwock Review, The Emerson Review, Storyglossia, The MacGuffin, Confrontation, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, wigleaf, and Pank, among others, and forthcoming from Gargoyle #57 and REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters. One of my stories has been translated into Farsi by Asadollah Amraee, and many others by Jalil Jafari, two of which have been published in the Iranian journal, Golestaneh Magazine. For two years I worked as an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. Currently, I serve as a mentor for Dzanc's Creative Writing Sessions. I'm working on two novels and a short story collection. In May, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the 2011 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.