2017 PEN Literary Awards Finalist, 2017 Young LIons Finalist, American Literature, Clare Beams, Creative Writing, Ecotone, Edith Pearlman, Fiction, Joyce Carol Oates, Lookout Books, Short Stories, The Best American Short StorIes 2013, The Pushcart Prize XXXV, The Shirley Jackson Award Nominee, We Show What We Have Learned, Women's Fiction, Writers
If you have not read the debut short story collection “We Show What We Have Learned”, write this name down: Clare Beams. Don’t take my word, take the word of Joyce Carol Oates.
” A dazzling story collection-as if, by rare sort of magic, Alice Munro and Shirley Jackson had conspired together to imagine a female/feminist voice for the twenty-first century that is wickedly sharp-eyed, wholly unpredictable, and wholly engaging.”
Others allude to Cheever and Margaret Atwood. It is her range, clear writing, unpredictable story-telling that makes her nine poignant stories creative and at times surreal. Some of the stories are about the vision for and of women. They are modern and Victorian. The title story “We Show What We Have Learned” is a show stopper. Ms. Beams was a school teacher for six years which may explain the subject.
Like most of the stories in the collection they were previously published in short story venues such as One Story, n+1, Ecotone, the Kenyon Review, the Common, Hayden’s Ferry Review and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. The sole exception is the last story “The Renaissance Person Tournament” which rivals the title story and has a universal feminist message. Like most of the messages, when offered, they are subtle. Ms. Beams is foremost a story-teller whose prose is clean and characters are real (except when deliberately, they are not). These stories are welcoming to all.
Lookout Books, which is associated with Ecotone, includes the renown short story writer, Edith Pearlman. With the addition of Ms. Beams they have added a budding literary star to their stable.
My only question is whether Ms. Beams will continue to be an author of story stories or try to venture into novel-writing. Personally I love the short story form when well executed and I hope, that at least for the time being, she continues along this path. For budding writers it would be well worth your time to pay close attention to Ms. Beams’ craft.