Dispatches | May 11, 2007

Alex Mindt must be blessed. 

First of all, he has a new short-story collection, Male of the Species (Delphinium) which just hit bookstore shelves on May 8. 

Second, his book was an Entertainment Weekly “Pick of the Week” a couple of weeks back.  The EW review gives the book an A.  Incidentally, the title story, “Male of the Species, was first published in TMR in 2001.

Here’s the other reason I know Alex is blessed. He’s the only author I can think of  whose story we rejected and then unrejected.  That story was the second we published by Alex; it appeared in TMR  28:3 (2005).

The story was first called the “Birdwatcher.” It made the rounds for a while and ended up with a staff member (not me), who rejected it.  But several of us had liked it a lot.  We still had a copy hanging around the office, and after rereading and discussing it, the editors decided to “take back” our rejection. 

I had the embarrassing pleasure of notifying Alex, in December 2004, that we really did want his story after all.  I still have his e-mail response: “Well, you just made my Christmas that much better.  Yes, yes, and agian yes. [He was clearly so surprised that he misspelled again]  You may publish my story.  I have to laugh about the journey this story has taken with you.  But I’m glad it has (in this quirky, roundabout way) been accepted.”

“The Birdwatcher” underwent a name change and was published as “Karooo.”   Now it’s part of Mindt’s grade-A collection.  I asked Alex to tell me about the book from his perspective.  Here’s his response in part: “I wanted to write a book that was distinctly American.  The stories are set in Washington State, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Nebraska, Iowa, Texas, North Carolina and Vermont.  I have lived all over the U.S., and I wanted to honor all the places I’ve been with the voices of the people who inhabit our country.”

Both of the stories that we published by Alex featured totally convincing female protagonists.  In fact, when we first read “Male of the Species” we figured that Alex must be Alexis because the woman’s voice was pitch perfect.  Alex’s stories are about families, in all their complexity; they’re peopled by characters that are about as real as characters get.  He says the role of the father interests him particularly:

“I think we are in the middle of the biggest transition in the history of our species.  Fathers more and more are nurturers.  At my daycare center nearly half of the primary care-takers are fathers.  This is, to me, an astounding shift, and one I welcome.  It’s a direct result of feminism, and I think it’s great.  Feminism broke up my family.  When I was two, my mother divorced my father, primarily, she says, to escape the shackles of a paternal institution.  It caused a lot of pain, yes, but doesn’t most change and growth?  I grew up under the tutelage of a strong woman, and I grew up to marry a strong woman, and I expected her to have her own professional life.  What a profound change!  My mom went to college to “get a man.”  We laugh at that now.  Well, I wanted to examine how this shift is affecting fathers.” 

Post-feminist dads (and moms) in America: that’s Alex Mindt’s turf, and in his hands it’s good and fresh.  If you didn’t get a chance to read “Karrooo” the first time around, don’t miss it now.