Thomas Wharton, "Bestiary"

It's December 4. Thomas Wharton, author of The Logogryph and Icefields, pities both the ants and the fungus.

How would you describe your story?

THOMAS WHARTON: "Bestiary" is a collection of short anecdotes drawn from true stories about unusual, usually tragic encounters between humans and other animals. I think maybe it's my elegy for the vanishing wild things of this planet.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

TW: Worked on it over the last couple of years. It's a completely different sort of beast, pun intended, from what I usually write. I cried a lot more than usual over the pages. Don't know whether that's a good sign or not.

What kind of research went into this story?

TW: A lot of delving into historical texts for curious true stories about animals, although some of the anecdotes are drawn from current events. Like Eduardo Galeano in Children of the Days, I'm looking for an image or moment out of the past, or out of the present, that can deliver a short sharp shock to the reader.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

TW: Poe said it best when he talked about a short story delivering a complete "effect" in one sitting. Kafka said a story (well, okay, he said "book") should be an axe for the frozen sea within us. Which means a great short story, I guess, is a single precisely aimed axe blow. If it wakes or loosens something in the reader it's done its job.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?


What's on your Christmas list this year?

TW: Santa, please bring me a book contract.

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Michael Hingston