Archive for the 'Fire Ants' Category

Gerald Duff published in Clapboard House, recalls past meeting with Eudora Welty

Friday, June 11th, 2010 by Andrew

Clapboard House, an online magazine focused on Southern writing, recently published “You Will Need One Egg,” by NewSouth author Gerald Duff, in their Eudora Welty tribute issue. Honoring the 101st anniversary of Welty’s birth, Clapboard House called for submissions responding to a Welty quote on the writing of fiction:

“Greater than scene is situation. Greater than situation is implication. Greater than all these is a single, entire human being, who will never be confined in any frame.”

“You Will Need One Egg” is a story Duff modeled after unique characters in Welty’s short stories “Petrified Man” and “Why I Live at the PO.”

“My first-person narrative is my modest attempt to copy what Miss Welty achieves so brilliantly in her two toweringly delightful tales,” Duff said. “In the process, I learned anew what genius resides in her writing and how inspiring and inimitable her work can be.”

Duff’s knowledge of Eudora Welty doesn’t completely rely on her published works. Years ago, he had the chance to share an hour of drinks with the author at the famed Peabody Hotel Lobby Bar in Memphis, Tennessee.

“It was delightful to listen to one of America’s great short story writers chat about funny events from her past, interesting people she’d met, uniquely Memphian cocktail drinkers in the Peabody Lobby Bar, and why she liked to tell stories,” said Duff. “I recall her saying, ‘I like to see how the line of character plays out in events and situations, how what a person is won’t allow him or her to do anything other than what they are bound to do. And I like to show them never realizing that as they move to the steps of the dance of time and circumstance.’ I’m not able to quote Miss Welty precisely, but that’s the essence of what she said. I only wish I’d had a recorder to capture it truly.”

Gerald Duff is also the author of the NewSouth-published Fire Ants and Other Stories.

Fire Ants is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online retailer.

Gerald Duff discusses Fire Ants and fiction at South Carolina Book Festival

Thursday, March 11th, 2010 by Andrew

NewSouth author Gerald Duff recently traveled to Columbia, South Carolina to discuss his collection of short stories Fire Ants and Other Stories at the fourteenth annual South Carolina Book Festival. Held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center on February 27-28, Duff was one of many authors participating in the festival, appearing on two panels and participating in a “Brunch with the Authors” event.

One panel, entitled “Book Club Picks,” saw Duff joined with novelist Dale Neal and scholar and wine writer David Shields. Among other topics, Duff and the panelists discussed the question of how authors research background for their work and how conscious of the need to be true to facts a writer of fiction must be. “We all agreed,” Duff said, “that, though admirable in themselves, facts must never stand in the way of the story. Where you need to lie about facts, you must do such in the service of a larger truth.”

The second panel,”Beyond the Novel,” concerned the differences in form between drama, poetry, and prose fiction. Duff quoted the statement from William Faulkner that every short story writer is a failed poet and that every novelist is a failed short story writer. Duff said, “All three of us on the panel—a dramatist, a poet, and a short story writer—deferred to Mr. Faulkner.”

This is the fourteenth year for the South Carolina Book Festival, which generally draws crowds of nearly 5,000 book lovers, and Duff noted the strength of this year’s programming. “The crowds at all sessions were large, lively, and literary,” he said, “and I left the South Carolina Book Festival energized about the reading and writing of fiction.”

Read more about the festival at the Free Times.

Duff’s next appearance is in April at the Wisconsin Book Festival where he’ll also read and comment upon Fire Ants.

Fire Ants is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online retailer.

Fire Ants, Others Praised on LibraryThing Website

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 by Jessica

Fire Ants has recently been reviewed on LibraryThing. Fire Ants, a collection of short stories by Gerald Duff, won a rave review for Duff’s ability to “capture the southern voice honestly.”

LibraryThing member Banoo writes that Duff’s “words cover you like a worn quilt on a cool, humid southern night. Slipping into this book is effortless and more than a little welcoming.” He goes on to praise the depiction of the characters: “His people are real. Some are slightly damaged, broken by hard use over long years, or hungry for something lacking in their environment, or just plain damaged. I couldn’t help but think of Faulkner.”

Other NewSouth titles also cited on LibraryThing include Shlemiel Crooks (LibraryThing), Oracle of the Ages by Dot Moore with Katie Lamar Smith (LibraryThing), and Chicken Man by Michelle Edwards (LibraryThing).

LibraryThing is a community of over 700,000 book lovers where intellectual discussion of and a passion for books is encouraged. Allowing for readers worldwide to discuss their favorite works of literature, Steve Cohen of Public Libraries magazine has proclaimed it “the future of online catalogs.”

Gerald Duff’s No Man’s Land Finalist for Michigan Literary Fiction Award

Monday, December 15th, 2008 by Brian Seidman

Author Gerald Duff‘s novel-in-progress No Man’s Land has been named a finalist for the Michigan Literary Fiction Award. Gerald is the author of the novel Coasters and the short story collection Fire Ants from NewSouth Books.

Gerald describes No Man’s Land as “about three generations of women in a family in East Texas, ranging from 1867, just after the end of the Civil War, up to the present day. The novel is told in the voices of the women and focuses on how they view their world and adapt and survive in it. The title comes from a designation given the disputed land between Louisiana and Texas along the Sabine River, for many years a place of lawlessness, brigands, filibusters, and renegades, a territory which was no man’s land. It was women’s land, though, then and now, and they raised their families, civilized the territory, and maintained their integrity as individuals and as members of the Holt family. My novel takes advantage of the stories possible in such a setting and time.”

The Michigan Literary Fiction Awards aim to give recognition to new books by previously-published authors of literary fiction.

The Texas Institute of Letters named Gerald Duff’s short story collection Fire Ants a finalist for the Jesse Jones Award for Best Book of Fiction in 2007. Fire Ants and Coasters are available directly from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Gerald Duff Interviewed; Fire Ants Reviewed by Ploughshares

Monday, October 6th, 2008 by Lisa Harrison

Max Arbus of Atlanta’s Voice of the Arts radio station 1690 AM recently interviewed author Gerald Duff (Fire Ants, Coasters) on the program Conversations. The topics they discussed included Southern literature as a distinct genre, racial stereotypes in fiction, and depictions of sexuality.

In the interview, Gerald discussed the special suitability of the short story genre to Southern fiction. He described the short story as “well-suited” for the presentation of the eccentric, off-beat characters typically employed by Southern authors. In addition, the short story allows the author to present a situation that may not be resolved. Gerald noted, “I often find myself having characters that are talking to each other from different perspectives, and they are never going to finally agree.”

Gerald also talked about the depiction of race in Southern fiction, saying, “You shouldn’t depend upon simplistic kinds of ways of presenting whites and blacks in the South interacting.” Rather, the portrayal in current fiction has become one of complex human interchange with less stereotying, a postive development, according to the author.

Listen to the full interview at the Voice of the Arts website.

Gerald’s book Fire Ants recently received a very positive review from Ploughshares magazine, which praised the collection for its diversity and the strength of the characterizations.  “What’s particularly impressive about the collection is its wide range of voices and settings,” reads the review, “and Duff’s ability to infuse wry humor into awkward moments, or into entire stories. … Fire Ants is a good addition to the Southern cannon, and will be enjoyed by anyone looking for an unexpected and satisfying read.”

Read the entire review at Ploughshares website.

Gerald Duff will be participating in the Kenyon Review Literary Festival in Gambier, Ohio, November 7-8, 2008.

Fire Ants is available from NewSouth Books, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Flash Fiction by Gerald Duff in Clapboard House Magazine

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008 by Ashley

The online magazine Clapboard House features this month a “flash fiction” story by NewSouth author Gerald Duff. In Duff’s story “Win/Place/Show,” a teenage boy and his aunt and uncle gamble at a dog-racing track in Arkansas. While the boy longs for Florida, and something else he cannot quite articulate, his aunt spends the afternoon considering her husband’s infidelity and the precarious nature of human relationships.

From the author:

When I lived in Memphis for several years, at times I accompanied a friend to the greyhound racetrack across the Mississippi River from the city called Southland Greyhound. I’m not a gambler or a lover of dogs, but I liked to watch the people who went to the races in West Memphis, where the track is located. It came to me one hot steamy night at the dogtrack that the people who bet on the greyhounds did their choosing of the likely winners by either studying past performances of the animals as reported in a track publication or they looked at the parade of dogs before each race and placed their bets upon the basis of estimating the energy and promise of individual animals or they decided, as I did, by choosing on the basis of what the dogs were named. My way was the least likely way to win, of course. But how can you resist picking a dog named “RoverGotOver” as opposed to “My Rusty?”How you bet (whether to win, place, or show) speaks to your boldness, your optimism, your chance-taking, your character. Gambling is about an act of faith and belief, often betrayed.

In my story, which is about marital betrayal, heartbreak, and the dispelling of dreams, the way the characters place their bets and speak to each other is the tip-off to their natures. I wanted to show this situation, find a way to give it tension, and give it resolution, all in about three pages. My problem was one of working within compression, setting a scene, sketching an environment, and having one character show some significant change. If a work of fiction succeeds, the reader must feel some meaningful change has taken place. Aristotle said it, and I believe it

I decided to use present tense, rather than past, in order to heighten immediacy, and to shift to future tense at the end of the story to show the significant change to come. I used three characters and presented the environment of the moment by having the crowd at the dogtrack scream with one voice, as their hopes ride on the racing success of a group of dumb animals.

One character had to show change, and that I attempted to show by having the nephew in the story forecast by the narrator as lying in bed at his aunt’s and uncle’s home listening to these “kind” and “loving” relatives fight over the betrayal and loss of trust between them. I made the narrator completely omniscient in point of view and utterly cold in describing what takes place. No one gets any sympathy.

I meant for the story to capture something of the ethos of Memphis and the New South: that of corporations, commerce financial and emotional, and the breakdown of old verities and familial relationships. I spent as much time writing this story as I typically do in writing one ten times longer.

Gerald Duff is the author of the acclaimed novel Coasters (NewSouth, 2001), which chronicles the ups and downs of the middle-aged, divorcee Waylon Mcphee’s move back home to the company of his widowed father. Duff’s recent short story collection Fire Ants (NewSouth, 2007) juxtaposes striking characters struggling for redemption against the back drop of various Southern locales, from the marshes and pine barrens of East Texas to the row houses of Baltimore, and in time from the Civil War to the present day. The Texas Institute of Arts and Letters named Fire Ants a finalist for the Jesse Jones Award for Best Book of Fiction in 2007.

Read the full text of “Win/Place/Show” at the Clapboard House website. Clapboard House is an online literary journal that samples short stories and poetry that depict the South, its culture, and its people.

Both Fire Ants and Coasters are available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite online and local booksellers.

Southern Living Says Texans are Reading Fire Ants

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008 by Ashley

Southern Living magazine includes NewSouth author Gerald Duff’s short story collection Fire Ants as one of the books Texans are reading in their August 2008 issue. In their “Texas Living” section, the magazine notes:

Earlier this year the Texas Institute of Letters named this collection of stories as a finalist for Best Book of Fiction of 2007. Gerald writes with such passion about his native land—the Texas Gulf Coast—along with other cities such as Memphis and Baltimore. His stories are set in time periods ranging from distant past to present. These may be the only fire ants you’ll ever love.

Fire Ants is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite online and local booksellers.

Gerald Duff Reflects on Virginia Festival of the Book

Monday, April 14th, 2008 by Brian Seidman

Gerald Duff, author of the short story collection Fire Ants, describes a recent session at the Virginia Festival of the Book:

I recently attended the Virginia Festival of the Book where I participated in a reading and book signing session devoted to short story collections, Along with my book Fire Ants, short story collections by Nin Andrews and Cary Holladay were the focus of the session and questions afterwards by members of the audience.

Among other excellent questions, one query had to do with what the first sentence of a short story must do as compared to the initial sentence of a novel. Each of us three writers addressed the topic. I suggested that the first sentence of any work of fiction must lead the reader to want to read the second one, and so on, or the work fails. But in the short story in particular, the first sentence must pose a question which the rest of the story must answer. In other words, if the situation of imbalance implied in the first sentence is not satisfactorily addressed in such a fashion that a rebalancing is not accomplished by the end of the story, the reader will not be satisfied psychologically by the work.

As an example, I cited the first sentence of the title story of Fire Ants, in which the narrator begins by stating “She had kept the bottle stuck down inside a basket of clothes that needed ironing.”

The reader must want to know who “she” is. Why is she hiding a bottle? What’s in the bottle? And since this is a work of fiction, the reader knows that bottle must be drunk from somewhere along the way. That drinking must have an effect on action. What will that effect be?

Unless the reader has these questions answered in a narratively satisfying way by the time the story ends, the short story will certainly be flawed and perhaps fail.

In that session at the Virginia Festival, the questions raised by the audience can be as interesting and productive as the stories being presented.

Gerald Duff’s Fire Ants is available directly from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Fire Ants Finalist for Jesse Jones Award

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008 by Brian Seidman

Fire Ants, the new short story collection by Gerald Duff, is a finalist for the Jesse Jones Award for Best Book of Fiction in 2007, from the Texas Institute of Letters. The winner of the award will be announced April 19 at the organization’s annual banquet in Dallas, Texas. Gerald’s earlier novel, Coasters, was also nominated for the Jesse Jones Award.

The stories found in Fire Ants range in locale from the marshes and pine barrens of East Texas to the row houses of Baltimore, and in time from the Civil War to the present day. Gerald Duff conjures up portraits of people captive to private delusions and bound to visions of what might be or might have been. Two children conspire to find a way around a madman, a middle-aged loner kidnaps a cheerleader to watch her dance, a blind man revisits how he lost his sight and found his way in a seaport bordello, a mother trades her body to raise her son’s bail, and a ruined songwriter tries to convince himself that he still believes in Memphis. Highly comic and deeply serious, the tales Duff gives us trace precisely a conflicted terrain of love, hate, and family.

Gerald Duff’s Fire Ants is available directly from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Author Gerald Duff Sends Notes from On the Brink Conference

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008 by Brian Seidman

Thoughts from our author Gerald Duff on a recent conference:

I’m just back from the On the Brink conference at Jacksonville State University in Alabama, a wonderful experience. This year’s theme statement was “Maybe I can explain your devil to you,” a quotation from Flannery O’Connor. I was there with several other writers, including Carolyn Jourdan, Wayne Caldwell and Ravi Howard.

After I had done my reading from my collection of short stories, Fire Ants, a question came from a member of the audience. “What is a signifier of Southern literature?” she asked. “What marks a work of literature as Southern?”

I answered by saying that among other things, a work of Southern literature typically deals with what characters express through silence, misinformation, subterfuge, and subtext. My growing up in the South, in East Texas in particular, taught me that when someone makes a statement or asserts a judgment that I had to be careful. What is said on the surface is seldom all that is meant. When something is not spoken of, when silence reigns, that does not mean communication is not taking place. When someone, particularly one of my female relatives, said for example, “I just saw Lucille and she seemed not as spry as usual. Bless her heart,” my relative didn’t mean she was sorry Lucille was ailing. She was glad.

When a thing is said, the saying of it means it ain’t necessarily so. When a subject is avoided, it isn’t because it’s unimportant. It’s crucial. When someone tells you that all is well, we’re talking deathbed status for the subject in question.

Carolyn Jourdan, author of the wonderfully funny and wonderfully Southern memoir Heart in the Right Place, emailed me the day after the conference to say “Your analysis of what is the hallmark or signifier of Southern literature knocked my socks off. Silence … misinformation … subterfuge … and subtext … Man, a world of hurt is contained in that. What a great and healing insight your summation brings to the life of anyone raised in the South.”

I appreciated what Carolyn said, I’m honored to have her say it, and I’m not speaking subtextually when I say that! Thanks, Carolyn. I mean it!

Gerald Duff’s Fire Ants is available directly from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.