“Sweet Talk” is the title story in Stephanie Vaughn’s reissued collection Sweet Talk (Other Press) with an introduction by Tobias Wolff. Vaughn’s collection was originally published by Random House in 1990 and several stories first appeared in The New Yorker, where Wolff first encountered Vaughn’s work. Wolff says: “All these years later I still feel the startled pleasure I experienced then at the freshness of her vision and voice, her effortless mastery of the form, her affectionate wit…” Wolff reintroduced Vaughn to a new generation of readers when he read one of her stories for The New Yorker podcast.
Stephanie Vaughn went through the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and did post-graduate work at Stanford University, where she was a Stegner Fellow. She teaches at Cornell’s MFA program where she mentored Junot Diaz and Tea Obreht. .
Vaughn said this about “Sweet Talk:” The story came to me after I’d made two car trips from coast to coast and come to understand just how revelatory a long road trip can be if you are traveling with your beloved. Then there were all of the Americana moments you find at the rest stops. There’s often a plaque informing you that the white pioneers and settlers passed along the same routes on their way west. The man and woman in the story are reversing the American history trip, going west to east, driving through three thousand miles of heartland and history as they argue and have sex and then fall silent and then perk up and go at it again. Even now, even with the Interstates, a road trip across North America is a kind of test of who you are and who your beloved is, too.
Publishers Weekly said of the book: “Most powerful are the stories about Gemma, including “Kid MacArthur” and “Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog” in which Vaughn’s clear-eyed, scalpel-sharp and affectionate observations of a distinctive childhood are delivered in graceful, honest prose. “