Victor LaValle

34th annual Key West Literary Seminar

SHORTS: Stories, Essays, & Other Briefs
January 7–10, 2016

Victor LaValle is an essayist, short-story writer, and novelist. His debut collection, Slapboxing with Jesus, consists of twelve interconnected short stories set in New York City during the 1970s and 1980s. Winner of the Pen Open Book Award, the San Francisco Chronicle described the book as an “eye-opening glimpse into lives dark and desolate yet alive with an unfathomable endurance.” LaValle’s numerous essays and book reviews have appeared in publications such as GQ, Essence Magazine, the Paris Review, and the Washington Post.

Much of LaValle’s work focuses on social outcasts, the mentally ill, and real or imagined monsters. “I love monsters across the board,” LaValle told NPR’s Terry Gross in a 2012 interview, “whether they’re realistic monsters, like the awful parents of more realist fiction, let’s say, or the awful husbands and wives or the out-and-out Frankenstein, Dracula, Shirley Jackson’s spirits and ghosts.” In spite of LaValle’s interest in horror and what is often referred to as weird fiction, his writing defies genre classification. The New York Times has described his work as “simply too bighearted, too gentle, too kind, too culturally observant and too idiosyncratic to squash into the small cupboard of any one genre, or even two.”

Born and raised in Queens, New York, LaValle is the author of three novels, The Ecstatic, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, Big Machine, which earned him the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence and most recently The Devil in Silver. He has received a Whiting Writers’ Award, a United States Artists Ford Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the key to Southwest Queens. He is married to the writer Emily Raboteau and is an Assistant Professor at Columbia University’s creative writing MFA program.


The Devil in Silver (2013)
Big Machine (2010)
The Ecstatic (2003)
Slapboxing with Jesus (1999)

Online Resources

Victor LaValle’s website
LaValle interviewed on Fresh Air
LaValle Q&A from the NYT

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