photo credit: Marco Soave

Ken Kalfus is the author of two novels, The Commissariat of Enlightenment and A Disorder Peculiar to the Country, which was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award. He's also published two collections of stories, Thirst and Pu-239 and Other Russian Fantasies, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award.

Short Story Collections

Three Stories
(Madras Press, 2010)

reviewed by Alex Thornber

PU-239 and Other Russian Fantasies

Thirst (1998)

Interview with Ken Kalfus

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Ken Kalfus: I would guess one, two or three months each, plus revision time, over a period of years, while taking breaks from my novels.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

KK: I like to think everything will get published at some point, and I like to think I will keep writing stories and collecting them from time to time. I see these three stories, collected in chapbook form, as part of a larger collection down the road.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

KK: These are my three most recent short stories. They were published in Harper's Magazine and Agni. Their order was determined by considerations of mood, voice and content.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

KK: I'm sorry, I don't understand the question's significance.

TSR: Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?

KK:  In the course of learning how to write, an author creates in his mind the idea of the perfect reader, the one who is most open to his interpretation of the narrative, who is most receptive to his images, who most gets his allusions and jokes, building her bit by bit. The invention of this reader is never completed.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

KK: Are you that reader?

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

KK: Fine.

TSR: What are you working on now?

KK: A novel.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

KK:  The Short Stories of Vladimir Nabokov, The Road, by Vassily Grossman, and There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby," by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
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Find out what other authors, from Aimee Bender to Sana Krasikov, said about their collections, what the word "story" means to them, and how it feels to know that people are buying your books! More interviews >>>