Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in Napa, California. Her stories and essays have appeared in a variety of journals, including Other Voices, Pleiades, The Summerset Review, The Massachusetts Review and Blue Lake Review. She has also published a novel, Lost Sister (2005). A collection of her short stories will be published by Ashland Creek Press in 2013.
"Paradise" was published by Blue Lake Review (November 2011) and previously appeared in The Massachusetts Review.
To read "Paradise" click here
TCR Story of the Month highlights an outstanding work of fiction published online in the preceding twelve months.
TCR Chats with Jean Ryan
A: Since I was a child. I’ve had dry periods that lasted more than a year, but inevitably I am pulled back. Translating ideas and experience into words is how I make sense of the world. Finding the right phrasing is a tremendous challenge—like tuning a musical instrument, perhaps: one just knows when the right chord has been struck. This intuitive knack may be the one thing that can’t be taught in writing classes. Humor, another element I strive for, is also challenging. Like other aspects of composition, it is best approached from the side. Jean Thompson does humor very well.
Q: What was the inspiration for “Paradise”?
A: I had watched a program about intelligence in birds, parrots in particular. One bird had acquired a prodigious vocabulary and this stirred my imagination. I thought it would be fun to work this creature into a story, to use him in fact as a main character. In order to create conflict, the parrot in this tale is malicious as well as brilliant. The extravagance of Palm Springs, its artificial overlay, seemed an apt parallel to the various indulgences that Max enjoyed in his man-made abode.
Q: Who are some of your favorite contemporary writers?
A: I love the immediacy and brevity of short stories and some of my favorite contemporary authors are masters of this form. Among many others, I admire the work of Lorrie Moore, Helen Simpson, Amy Bloom, Antonya Nelson, Jean Thompson, James Lasdun, Marisa Silver, Annie Proulx, Rick Bass and Joy Williams. Russell Hoban’s Turtle Diary is one of my favorite novels, along with J. L. Carr’s A Month in the Country and Rhine Maidens by Carolyn See. In the genre of poetry, I am in constant awe of Mary Oliver.
Q: Favorite classic authors?
A: Virginia Woolf of course. And Anton Chekov. Graham Greene is wonderful, along with George Orwell, J.D. Salinger, John Steinbeck, Harper Lee and E.M. Forster. I also admire Paul Bowles and the eerie suspense he was able to create. My favorite Hemingway work would have to be A Moveable Feast. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is an exquisite novel.