November 5th, 2008 12:00 am WW Editorial Staff | Special Section Stories

Keith Lee Morris


You really should read: The Dart League King

South Carolina-based writer/English professor Keith Lee Morris gets Americans—especially the small town variety. The fiction writer’s latest book, a tight weave of stories centered on an ill-fated Idaho bar league dart championship, is full of enraged dealers, do-good mothers and drifting small town souls. But its Morris’ knack for stark, funny dialogue and left-field plot twists that turn his work from caricature to a beautiful and brutal dissection of the drinking buddies you thought you knew. KELLY CLARKE. 12:30 pm Sunday, Nov. 9. Wieden + Kennedy Stage.

What’s your personal writing ritual?
I generally write longhand, ballpoint pen (blue or black), yellow legal pad or spiral notebook (college ruled), in the morning, with cup of coffee—but I have been known to switch this last part around and write late at night with a couple of beers. I then type my draft onto a computer, editing while I go.

What are your favorite themes to write about?
Love-hate relationships with small towns; the enduring qualities of friendship; parents’ fears for their children; early failures in life; and the possibility of redemption.

The most beautiful word in the English language is:
“And”—or at least it’s the most handy, which makes it the most beautiful to me.

What authors made you want to pick up a pen in the first place and why? Or name an inspiring, amazing piece of work.
I always say As I Lay Dying, but I’m tired of saying As I Lay Dying, so I’m going to say War and Peace. Or maybe Crime and Punishment. Something big and Russian.

Fight Club time: If you could fight one author (or critic), who would it be and why?
Well, I’m going to limit myself to authors I’ve actually met, because I think it’s easier for me to determine their pugilistic skills. Let’s see—right off the top of my head I’d have to say Julianna Baggott, author of The Madam and Which Brings Me to You, which she wrote with my friend Steve Almond. Julianna can be feisty, I’m sure, but she’s pretty tiny—weighs no more than 110 pounds by my best estimate, which gives me a 50-pound advantage. I think I could beat her up rather easily, even if she had a knife or something.

Name a book you think is highly overrated. Be honest.
I could take the easy way out and name someone who’s dead. But I’m going to step up to the plate and say that, thinking about all the really ballyhooed stuff in the past several years, I was not as excited about Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated as a lot of people seemed to be.

Dream project:
Make it to the NBA before I turn 50.

Most recent nightmare:
I dreamt that my oldest son’s feet had turned to a substance resembling cardboard. He was pretty upset about it, and I didn’t know what to tell him. It sounds silly now, sure, but I felt pretty awful during the dream.

Your cure for writer’s block:
Don’t write all the way to the last idea in your head. That leaves you someplace to start when you pick up the pen next time.

Pessimistic question: Will you keep writing even after people stop reading?
Will I be alive then? I hope not. But yeah, if so, I hope I’d have sense enough to quit. I mean, it would be kind of like trying to sell whale blubber or ink pots, wouldn’t it?

Optimistic question: Kittens? Discuss.
I love kittens. Especially kittens who still read.

Please paste a short paragraph from a story, poem, article, blog post, etc., you’re currently working on below:
First few sentences of a new novel I’m working on, tentatively titled either The Post-hole Diggers or Happy World:

The view from my balcony on 727 Dauphine Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A: principally it is made up of buildings and cars and people and sky. The buildings are very old—this is the French Quarter, after all, and long, long ago some men and presumably some women, too, if not initially then at least eventually, sailed across the ocean blue and in some roundabout fashion with which I am not familiar arrived at this place, where for reasons unknown to me they decided to set up shop. It must have been very pretty at that time, chock full of oaks and magnolias and lord knows what else, Spanish moss draping everything, perhaps the knees of cypress trees jutting up from the flood plain—if that’s what you call it—of a river that had no name.

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