Benedict writes stories about people struggling to
keep their dignity and humor against big odds, mixed
with fast-paced, dark tales of giant hogs and drug
lords. Often funny, often violent. A controversial
writer who delivers memorable writing advice and
talks frankly about his writing and himself.
Examples of readings
in show: a
young man busts a beloved older man out of a nursing
home -- a giant, dangerous white hog attacks two
teenagers -- a judge's wife waltzes into a farmhouse
and asks to buy a piece of the family furniture
Born and raised on dairy farm near Lewisburg 1964.
Married to writer Laura Philpot Benedict, one
daughter, one son.
Town Smokes, Ontario Review Press,
Princeton 1987; The Wrecking Yard,
Doubleday 1992; Dogs of God,
Doubleday 1994; Four Days, screenplay,
Cite Amerique Films, Montreal, 1999, distributed by
Paramount Home Video. Stories and essays published
Zoetrope: All-Story, Ontario Review,
etc. Frequently anthologizes; e.g., The Oxford
Book of American Short Stories, the Pushcart
Prize collection, the O. Henry Awards anthology,
and the New Stories From The South series.
Education and Career:
AB Princeton 1986 (studied with Joyce Carol Oates);
MFA University of Iowa 1988. Contributing editor
Pushcart Prize series. Instructor/professor Oberlin
College (OH), Ohio State University, Princeton
University, Hope College (MI), Hollins College
(VA). Screenwriter, opera lyricist.
Nelson Algren Short Story Award, Chicago Tribune,
1986; Steinbeck Award (Britain); Literary Fellowship
from the West Virginia Arts and Humanities Council,
1994; Literature Fellowship in Fiction from
the National Endowment for the Arts, 2000;Town
Smokes, The Wrecking Yard, Dogs of God
all named Notable
Books by New York Times Book Review. Work
compared to William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy,
Breece Pancake, Joseph Conrad, James Dickey.
-"Benedict has managed to make a major contribution
to almost every prose publishing niche worth
inhabiting�. [His attractiveness is based on]
elemental good-old boy wit, self-effacing charm, and
ability to produce beautiful language." (Brad Vice
in The Novel and Short Story Writer's Market,
Writer's Digest 2000).
-"Benedict searches out the moral dimension in the
hardscrabble lives of rednecks and country people,
and transcends the folksy bromides they espouse. He
discerns the confusion and ambiguities in their
seemingly uncomplicated lives. Benedict's range is
expansive, his vision focused, and his voice true."
about writing from In Their Own Country: "[Stories]
are not satisfactions. Often, stories work best
when they deny us their expected or hoped-for
satisfaction and give us some other experience
instead of that. The writer as moralist [is]
obligated to observe carefully and truthfully and
record what the writer observed. That's sort of the
highest calling I can imagine for myself, just to
Excerpts from In Their Own Country:
I remember, I think it was The Times, the New York
Times review of Dogs of God that said something
like, "One fears for the sanity of the writer who
dared to look the devils in the eye" or something
like that, and I figured, about the time I've got
people worried about my sanity, I must be doing
Robertson Davies is a writer I admire a lot, a
Canadian writer, a really great novelist and
essayist. And he saw the role of the writer as
moralist. Not to moralize or proselytize or set out
any moral standard. But the writer as moralist was
really obligated to observe carefully and truthfully
and record what the writer observed. And that seems
to me to be the highest calling I can imagine for
myself, is just to observe truthfully. And try not
to lie about things.
That said, of
course, I'm making stuff up and writing fiction. But
I'm just trying to observe with as clear an eye as I
The one thing I try not to do in my fiction is
over-intellectualize. I mean, I do it a lot in my
own life. I'm sitting around in a room just thinking
myself into a big hole, you know. But my characters
don't do that. And they have recourse to their
bodies, a lot. They exist in their bodies rather
than solely in their heads.
Everybody's a really good storyteller, at least when
they're asleep. Because your dreams are you, right?
You generate your dreams. They come out of things
you know. You recognize people in them. You
recognize places in them.
And you have
some kind of control of them, in that, without you,
they don't exist. And they're utterly convincing.
And they terrify you. Or delight you. You can laugh
in your dreams. You can scream. You can cry. You can
have sexual adventures. And at the same time, the
dream is using the material of your brain in some
way to shape itself.
You don't know
what's going to happen, but it's you that's doing
If you've ever
had a dream where you're told a joke or someone has
told you a joke, and when you hear the punch line,
you laugh, because it's a surprise to you. But then
you wake up, and you think, How could it have been a
surprise? I told myself that joke. I mean, there's
nobody in there but me.
very much what writing is like for me when it's
going well. There is this fully-realized world that
is utterly convincing to me, that I recognize parts
of, although they're often recombined. You know,
there'll be some of my grandmother's house joined to
some of my parents' house, joined to some of my own
house. Just like in dreams. And the characters are
often people I recognize, although they shift and
transmute and change and take on different aspects
in the course of the writing. And they'll say
things. And they'll surprise me. It is like I'm
dreaming them or they and I are participating in
some common dream.
Contemporary Authors Online, The Novel and Short
Story Writer�s Market, The Southern Review,
The Works of Pinckney Benedict
from The Wrecking Yard
O. Henry Collection short story, Buckeyes
Hollins University English & Creative Writing
music performed by: