Susan Steinberg, author and English professor at USF, has landed a spot on the Summer 2013 reading in O, Oprah’s magazine, for her book, “Spectacle.” As Steinberg’s third published collection of short stories, it features her most experimental writing yet. “I was surprised to see the book on O Magazine’s Summer reading list; experimental short fiction doesn’t always show up on such lists,” admitted Steinberg, adding, “I’m happy that the book will reach more readers.”
“Spectacle” is Steinberg’s first linked collection of short stories. Most of the stories in “Spectacle” share an anonymous first-person narrative dealing with some sort of profound loss. “Loss is at the core of the conflicts I tend to write,” she said. Conflicts include bad girls, broken hearts, infidelity, abandonment, violence, grief, and abuse. “Some ideas and themes stem from personal experience — but that said, they are definitely fictions,” Steinberg said.
Her previous works, “The End of Free Love” (2003) and “Hydroplane” (2006), also received attention. The writing process for “Spectacle” however, was much different. “I wrote a lot of it while I was on a year-long academic sabbatical,” she said. During her sabbatical, Steinberg traveled to residencies in upstate New York, New York City, and small towns in New Mexico, and Vermont. “I wrote for the entire year. I’d never before this had the opportunity to focus uninterruptedly on my work for such a long period of time.”
This break allowed Steinberg to see more possibilities for the collection. “I was willing to take more risks, both in terms of content and form.” Specifically, she added, “I tried out new forms and stylistic techniques for each story, as well as experimented with the structure of the whole collection.”
“Spectacle” features inventive language and syntax, and is stripped of the usual conventions of fiction writing, like character description and plot, according to a description in SF Gate. “Perhaps the best way to describe ‘Spectacle’ is not as a story collection but as a series of prose poems,” stated Carmela Ciuraru, author of SF Gate article, “‘Spectacle’ by Susan Steinberg.” “That’s because Steinberg is as innovative as two other notable Susans of the literary world, Wheeler and Howe, both of whom are relentlessly inventive, formally and stylistically.”
Steinberg already has had a long list of achievements as a fiction writer, including appearances in “McSweeney’s,” “Conjunctions,” “The Gettysburg Review,” “American Short Fiction,” “Boulevard,” “Quarterly West,” “Denver Quarterly,” “Columbia,” “The Massachusetts Review,” and other journals and magazines. On top of that, she was the recipient of the Pushcart Prize, which awards “the best of small presses,” and the National Magazine Award.
“I’m hopeful that the inclusion of the book reflects a shift in the literary world,” Steinberg concluded, “an openness to different styles and genres.”