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Introducing our longlisted authors: Joseph O'Neill

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Joseph O'Neill

Meet the authors longlisted for the 2020 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award

Introducing our longlisted authors: Joseph O'Neill

Joseph O’Neill was born in Ireland, grew up mainly in the Netherlands, and worked in London as a barrister. He now lives in New York. O’Neill is the author of four novels, most recently The Dog, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize, and Netherland, which won the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Prize for Fiction and the Kerry Fiction Prize. His short stories have appeared in the New Yorker and Harper’s, and his first short-story collection, Good Trouble, was published last year. Recently he has been publishing journalism about American politics in the New York Review of Books and the New Yorker. O’Neill has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts award, and a Cullman Fellowship. He teaches at Bard College.

He is longlisted for the story: The Flier

A man – already suffering from an undiagnosed illness – one day develops the ability to fly. This unprecedented, unwanted talent quickly becomes source of fear, shame and loathing, which he must navigate despite increasingly feeling he is a bystander to the events unfolding in his life. This is a daring story about finding yourself on the dark side of a dreamlike situation.

What inspired you to write the story? Is it drawn from personal experience?

This story began with a mild pang of irritation about the prominence of superheroes in American culture, and then turned into an investigation of the apparently widespread hunger for a reality that accommodates flying humans. The political side of my brain would dismiss this hunger as downright dangerous. The fiction writer in me, however, was much more curious about the spiritual or mystical dimension of our attraction to the superhuman.

How does writing short stories differ from writing full-length fiction, and what do you enjoy about writing in the genre?

When I’m writing a short story, there’s light at the end of the tunnel right from the beginning. Writing a novel is a much more obscure and perilous undertaking. You’re betting years of your life on it, for one thing.

How do you write? Longhand or typed? Why does your chosen method work for you?

I write fiction on a computer in Cambria font. I have a powerfully visual relationship with words, and I feel that I can evaluate my writing much more accurately if it’s in a typed format. I also love the delete function on a computer.

Which short story collection by another author would you recommend?

John Cheever’s Collected Stories are extraordinary, especially the work of his last two decades. They’re such fun to read, and so skilful.

What’s your favourite short story of all time? Who would you cast to read it?

I have lots of favourites. Parker’s Back, by Flannery O’Connor, is one them. Holly Hunter, who is from Georgia, would be a perfect reader.

Who would you cast to read the story you have entered?

Paul Giametti would be great.Steve Buscemi, too.

What are you reading now?

The Meaning of Partisanship, by Jonathan White and Lea Ypi.

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