“Reception Theory” by Nathan Alling Long: Read the story that won the 2017 OWT Short Fiction Prize 2

Nathan Alling LongProfessor Max Ludlow has been losing hair for some time, and not being a person oblivious to style —unlike some of his colleagues who groomed their remaining strands into a semblance of a youthful do—he has begun to shave his head.  This gives Ludlow a clean, meditative look, cosmopolitan and ageless—his grey hairs now nearly invisible—but it also exposes a star-shaped scar over his right ear, of which he is self-conscious.  Or perhaps more accurately, of which he is self-aware—that is, not embarrassed, but cognizant that it is there, though he can only see it when looking in a mirror and turning his head to the left.

When he does see the scar, he often thinks how much it resembles an asterisk, which makes him imagine that in his head is a thought and that the scar is marking an informal footnote, offering a caveat or explanation, there at the bottom of the page—or, in this case, literally at his feet.  Sometimes he even glances down at his toes when he thinks this, to see if an explanation might be there. But of course there is never any explanatory note, which he always feels is unfortunate.

Past tense versus present tense (tip 56) Reply

Any sensible person would probably accept that the past tense and the present tense are equally good and which is best will depend on the piece of writing and the author. After all, one needn’t look far for fine novels in the present tense: think Cormac McCarthy, J.M. Coetzee, Hilary Mantel, and many others. But D.D. Johnston is not a sensible person. In this video, he argues for the superiority of the past tense.

read video transcript