The Bigness of the World
University of Georgia Press
Lori Ostlund
“All Boy”

“All Boy” is from Lori Ostlund’s debut story collection, The Bigness of the World, (University of Georgia Press) which won the 2008 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.  Stories from the collection have appeared in The Georgia ReviewNew England Review, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner and other journals.   Ostlund received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award in 2009 and she is currently the Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Ostlund said that about her story:  I wrote most of “All Boy” over a two-week period in March of 2008 while housesitting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I had gone there to recover from a botched strike at the ESL school in San Francisco where I taught, and the first morning, I took a walk with a friend, who told me, in passing, about an acquaintance of his, a mother deep in denial about her son, her denial most eloquently and heartbreakingly manifested though her insistence on telling stories about her son that ended with the refrain, “I guess he’s just all boy.” Soon, other images began to pop into my head: a woman in a business suit, whom I had observed helping a homeless woman cut her toenails in a restaurant bathroom in 1988; a former colleague, whose childhood babysitter locked her in the closet.  So, I put Harold in a closet but soon discovered that he liked it there.  Endings are always hardest; I know when an ending is wrong (though often spend time trying to convince myself otherwise), but that doesn’t make the right ending easier to find.  After many months, I realized the obvious: that “All Boy” needed to end back in the closet.


Kirkus, in it’s review, said of the collection: The world is both terrifyingly huge and unbelievably small for the cast of characters in this debut collection from Ostlund.


Publisher’s Weekly (starred review), said of the book: Ostlund’s remarkable debut collection deftly navigates the treacherous shoals of decaying relationships in which the protagonists often escape to faraway lands in order to find themselves, or, at the very least, their partners.

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