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Word Patriots

Mark Seinfelt

Word Patriots – Donald Anderson’s “Fire Road”

This week on Word Patriots my guest is Donald Anderson, author of the contemporary short-story cycle, “Fire Road.” Donald was born in Butte, Montana in 1946 and he is a dedicated practitioner of the short story form. His fiction and essays have appeared in “The North American Review,” “Fiction International,” “Epoch,” “PRISM international,” “Western Humanities Review,” “Columbia,” “Michigan Quarterly Review,” “Connecticut Review,” “Massachusetts Review,” and elsewhere. Since 1989, he’s been Editor of “War, Literature & the Arts: an international journal of the humanities.” He’s editor, too, of “aftermath: an anthology of post-vietnam fiction” (Henry Holt, 1995), “Andre Dubus: Tributes” (Xavier University Press, 2001), and “When War Becomes Personal: Soldiers’ Accounts from the Civil War to Iraq” (University of Iowa, 2008). A new book “Gathering Noise from My Life: A Camouflaged Memoir” is due out this fall. In 1996, Anderson received a Creative Writers’ Fellowship Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He holds an MFA from Cornell University. A former Air Force officer, he now lives in Colorado, where he directs creative writing at the United States Air Force Academy. The title story of his collection “Fire Road” was awarded First Place in the Society for the Study of the Short Story 2000 Contest, and the collection itself won Iowa’s prestigious John Simmons Short Fiction award in 2001. The judge that year was Susan Power, the author of “The Grass Dancer,” who wrote, “‘Fire Road’ is fascination—the perfect marriage of imagination and language. This collection is provocative, gorgeously crafted, a delectable feast for the mind and the heart.” Frederick Busch wrote of the cycle: “Donald Anderson dares strong emotion and straight talk. His book is populated by memorable characters to whom he is unswervingly loyal in both their cruelty and their generosity. He compels us to look directly into madness, and into the grievous world of our time, as well as happy individual enchantments.” In “The Last Puritan,” George Santayana writes: “Homer is merciless, covers up nothing, adds nothing, simply tells you the awful truth. Yet he walks on the sunny side of the world: it’s tragedy in the sun light, despair at high noon, death in the bloom of youth. And yet you feel that the sun will keep on shining just the same and that the next morning will be just as beautiful and just as cruel.” I think almost the same thing could be said of “Fire Road.” The cycle’s likeable central figure is the human, all-to-human Stephen Mann. Life throws a lot of punches at Stephen (as it does at us all if we live long enough), and no automaton he experiences fully all the pangs of doom, nostalgia, toil, alarm, fury, gesture, and loss. Many of the stories find him hard-pressed and up against one or another of the darker facts of life, facing yet another of the countless hazards, hurts and personal 9-11s that punctuate all our lives. Passionate and zealous, a man on fire, he often confronts his demons head on but also on occasion turns tail and avoids his responsibilities and feelings, becomes as insensitive and uncaring as a vinyl manikin, a frosty figure of ice, yet only for a time, for he faces and beats back the slings and arrows when he writes—for Mann is an author, though he finds himself writing technical manuals and ads as often as stories. Like Gary Cooper in “High Noon” he has got to go back to face what he fears and flees. He confronts his despair and longing on the page. The page becomes his boxing ring. If you would like to know more about my books, please visit my website: See also the Amazon page for “Fire Road”: and the website for “War, Literature & the Arts: an international journal of the humanities”: .