AMHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts English professor John J. Clayton is pitching a literary double-header this year: appearing are both his prize-winning collection of stories, "Radiance: Ten Stories," and his novel "The Man I Never Wanted to Be." Clayton will read from "Radiance" April 11 at the Jeffrey Amherst Bookshop and April 19 at the Jewish Community of Amherst.
"Radiance" won the first annual Ohio State University Award in Short Fiction and will be published by OSU in May. Renowned writer Frederick Busch, who judged the contest, wrote, "This is a book about victories – of the soul, and of our language."
"The Man I Never Wanted to Be" will be published in December by Permanent Press.
Clayton has published two previous books of fiction: a novel, "What Are Friends For?" (Little Brown), and a collection of stories, "Bodies of the Rich" (Illinois). Both received highly positive reviews in The New York Times and elsewhere. Clayton’s stories have appeared in many major periodicals, including Agni, Esquire, Playboy, Tri-Quarterly, Shenandoah, Sewanee Review, Massachusetts Review, Ploughshares, and others. They have been reprinted in O. Henry Prize Stories and Best American Short Stories. His "Talking to Charlie," the opening story of "Radiance," won second prize in the 1995 O. Henry Prize Stories.
Clayton’s fiction has often been anthologized. He has been fiction editor of Agni and editor of his own anthology, "The D.C. Heath Introduction of Fiction," which is now in its fifth edition.
Clayton says his stories and novels fuse social-political, psychological, aesthetic, and spiritual concerns. They contemplate the loss of social idealism and meaningful work, the loss of love, domestic violence, emotional chaos, and emptiness. Busch says: "All of these characters are bruised. They are often enough triumphant, though … because they have an astonishing belief in the spirit."
Besides his fiction, Clayton has published an award-winning critical study, "Saul Bellow: In Defense of Man," and a psychological study of the modern novel, "Gestures of Healing." He has also written feature articles for The Washington Post Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Newsday, and other periodicals.