“How did it happen that [one] can write two bad novels and then a third which is a great deal better [one that is accepted by the first publisher to see it and then goes on to win the National Book Award for Fiction]?
This is an interesting question, one which, however, I do not pretend to be able to answer. I can only report that something did happen and it happened all of a sudden. Other writers have reported a similar experience. It is not like learning a skill or a game at which, with practice, one gradually improves. One works hard all right, but what comes, comes all of a sudden and as a breakthrough. One hits on something. What happens is a period of unsuccessful effort during which one works very hard—and fails. There follows a period of discouragement.
Then there comes a paradoxical moment of collapse-and-renewal in which one somehow breaks with the past and starts afresh. All past efforts are through into the wastebasket; all advice forgotten. The slate is wiped clean. It is almost as if the discouragement were necessary, that one has first to encounter despair before one is entitled to hope. Then a time comes when one takes a pencil and a fresh sheet of paper and begins. Begins, really for the first time.”
—Walker Percy, “From Facts to Fiction” in Signposts in a Strange Land, edited by Patrick Samway (The Noonday Press, 1991)
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WHY THEY CRIED
"... demonstrates real insight into the way we live now."
"Reminiscent of George Saunders and James Thurber, Why They Cried is a great collection of modern tales."
–Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief and co-founder of One Story
"Jim Hanas has a remarkable talent for imagining and crafting uncanny little worlds that make me vaguely nervous. And yet I never want to leave."
–Rob Walker, co-founder of Significant Objects
"A tender and smart assembly of fiction about people trying to communicate—with each other, the world—and all the ways they fail. Fail better, fail beautifully."
–Fiona Maazel, author of Last Last Chance
Jim Hanas is the author of the short story collection Why They Cried (Joyland eBooks/ECW Press) and director of audience development at HarperCollins Publishers.