Schedule Announced for “Shorts”

Opening night speakers, Hilton Als and Junot Díaz. Photos by Thea Goldberg and Nina Subin

After almost two years of planning, the 34th annual Key West Literary Seminar—“Shorts: Stories, Essays, & Other Briefs”—is now just four weeks away. We are excited to unveil the complete schedule for one of the most eagerly anticipated programs in our history.

It all begins with the John Hersey Memorial Event on Thursday night, January 7, at the historic San Carlos Institute. Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz and New Yorker theater critic and White Girls author Hilton Als take the stage at 7:00 for a special keynote conversation. Under the headline “Baldwin’s Children,” Díaz and Als are expected to touch on themes of home, exile, love, and belonging in short works by writers including Jamaica Kincaid and Octavia Butler, and in the essays and short stories of the great James Baldwin.

“By focusing on the short form,” Als writes, “we talk about how feelings, thoughts, politics, get distilled and compressed. Does the short form allow for greater or less intensity on the page, and in the reader’s imagination?”

That question will be explored throughout the weekend in a dynamic series of talks, readings, conversations, and interviews featuring twenty of today’s most accomplished practitioners of the short form. Highlights include a conversation with novelists and short-story writers Joy WilliamsKaren Russell, and Thomas McGuane (beginning from Williams’ observation that “a story is devious”); a talk by Gish Jen titled “Art, Culture, and Self”; a short-story reading by Ron Rash; and a dialogue between poets Claudia Rankine and Kevin Young on the roots of their verse in contemporary art, music, and culture.

Gish Jen, photo by Romana Vysatova / Thomas McGuane, photo by Bruce Weber / Ann Beattie, photo by Sigrid Estrada

The program also promises in-depth interviews of Ann Beattie and Antonya Nelson led by Daniel Menaker, the former fiction editor of the New Yorker, where their first stories were published. The tables turn for Saturday night’s John Malcolm Brinnin Memorial Event, as James Gleick interviews Menaker about “the inside story” of short-fiction’s most famous publishing outlet, the New Yorker.

As part of a series of “Readings in Conversation,” Jim Shepard and Molly Antopol will read from each other’s work and talk about their historical research; while Yiyun Li and Victor LaValle will discuss their fictional characters and the temptations of identifying with them. Two-time U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins will deliver a rare lecture, “Visible Games: Poetry in the Aftermath of Rhyme and Meter”; and Thomas McGuane will talk with Seminar executive director Arlo Haskell about Panama and Ninety-two in the Shade, the iconic and era-defining short novels McGuane set in Key West. Finally, solo readings by Brad Watson and Kelly Link will give audience members an intimate look at recent and unpublished work including Watson’s forthcoming Miss Jane.

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