We shall pass through this world but once.
If there be any kindness we can show,
or any good thing we can do, let us do it now.
Let us not defer it or neglect it, for we shall not
pass this way again.
-- Stephen Grellet
TIGER BURNING BRIGHT: STORIES, 2008
Arlene Sanders is one of the freshest new voices in American fiction today. In TIGER BURNING BRIGHT she paints her characters with brush strokes both bold and demure, but always with the precise control of the true artist, aiming always for the frangible heart of the human condition. At the core of this collection is an aching knowledge of the isolation of those who still carry, with fierce courage and despite their loneliness, the fire of hope within them. And there are characters who will make you afraid to turn off the lights. I guarantee that once you finish this remarkable book you will not be able to get the lyrics to “Ten Cents a Dance” out of your head.
—Lorian Hemingway, Critically acclaimed author of WALK ON WATER, WALKING INTO THE RIVER, and A WORLD TURNED OVER
TIGER BURNING BRIGHT is a fiercely honest and profoundly resonant collection of stories. It marks an impressive debut by a perceptive, penetrating writer who possesses a keen literary arsenal: a sharp eye for detail, a highly-calibrated ear for the cadences of modern living, and a rich understanding of human emotions. The stories themselves are often deeply disturbing, sometimes violent—but each contains an underlying generosity of spirit. Ms. Sanders’ unique voice builds upon the work of such modern masters as A. M. Homes and Joyce Carol Oates, yet adds a distinctive and captivating Southern flavor to the mix. Her lonely, grappling anti-heroes and anti-heroines are both easily recognized and highly sympathetic. This is a fine volume of sharp, sinewy prose that deserves to be read and savored widely. Fans of the literary short story will be grateful for the time they spend in the haunting, hallowed world that Ms. Sanders has deftly created.
—Jacob M. Appel, Award-winning author and playwright, author of THE MAN WHO WOULDN'T STAND UP, winner of the Faulkner-William Wisdom Award for the Short Story, the North American Review’s Kurt Vonnegut Prize, and numerous other awards
These stories have everything—sex, violence, addiction. But at their heart, they are about relationships: an old man and his new housekeeper who barely speaks English; an educated woman living alone and the redneck who comes by her place “to fix the gutters and to ask [her] out;” a woman and her bottle of Scotch; a sexual predator and his victims; a thirty-year-old woman who decides she needs a husband and the convict she chooses to “fix up” like the antique furniture she restores. In spare, powerful prose, Ms. Sanders shines a light both unflinching and tenderly forgiving on these characters and the world they struggle to live in.
—Mark Farrington, Author of the novel MANION IN DARKNESS
Populated with fragile and remarkable characters, these passionate stories will delight readers who remain open to all of life’s possibilities, both wonderful and tragic.
—Marcia Preston, Author of THE BUTTERFLY HOUSE and many others
Tart and funny in spots, tender and thoughtful throughout, TIGER BURNING BRIGHT is a marvelous collection that often speaks of matters close to the heart.
—Tim Wendel, Author of the novels CASTRO’S CURVEBALL and RED RAIN
In this hard-hitting short-story collection, Ms. Sanders brilliantly illustrates the passions that drive us, the addictions that deter us, and the (too-often) misguided ways we struggle to live free.
—Eduardo Santiago, Author, TOMORROW THEY WILL KISS
Ms. Sanders has created a parallel universe where all desires—from the noble to the criminal—are inevitably acted out. These briskly paced stories skillfully delineate the human character given full rein to its passions and impulses. These simply told stories deftly dance the line between romantic and disturbing. Ms. Sanders’ characters are victims and victimizers; people who usually know what they want and go after it. In the subsequent glory or wreckage lies the tale.
—Phil Wagner, Editor, ICONOCLAST MAGAZINE
The thirteen stories in this collection explore the loves, desires and demons of women. “If Evening Comes,” a gutsy plunge into the psyche of a woman scorned, paints a horrifying portrait of clinical depression. In “Cherries in the Snow,” a woman who hasn’t been kissed in 30 years goes out on a date. The title story, “Tiger Burning Bright,” reveals the all-consuming role of alcohol in the female protagonist's life and offers stunning insight into the mind of an alcoholic. Empathy and compassion for the flawed human beings who inhabit these stories make this an outstanding first story collection.
REVIEW OF TIGER BURNING BRIGHT
by Laurel Johnson
Arlene Sanders is an award winning writer living in the Appalachian Mountains. Critics have described her work as perceptive and penetrating, unflinching and tender. Any praise she receives for this exceptional group of stories is stark understatement.
Her self-described quiet, introverted nature and the raw beauty of Appalachia suffuse this first book with controlled power. Each of the fourteen short stories is distinct in plot and flavor. The characters are crisply drawn; some are fragile and appealing, some disturbing or frightening. Each story, every character, all the small moments are skillfully created to stunning effect by a gifted wordsmith.
For example, I chose an excerpt from "Tiger Burning Bright." Kathleen is the main character, an artist who knows her weakness and embraces it:
"I was never in denial about my alcoholism. I know I'm an alcoholic, but I don't want to tell the world about it and certainly don't want to go to Alcoholics Anonymous. AA is for people who want to stop drinking, and I don't want to stop. Alcohol has served me well and I'm not about to give it up. Alcohol had been like an angel singing to me in the most seductive voice imaginable. One night, he opened his wings and closed them around me -- then turned into a tiger that devoured me."
These are memorable stories I won't forget any time soon -- not the ones that chilled the marrow of my bones, or the touching tales of longing and delight. Arlene Sanders is a literary force of nature. If you read only one book of short stories this year, make it this one. Highly recommended for mature readers who appreciate and celebrate excellent writing.
One of the nicest things for me about publishing my first book is this chance to
thank people who helped me along the way:
I am grateful to Mark Wisniewski—brilliant author and editor, mentor nonpareil.
To Stephen King, whose On Writing gave me permission to write fiction and
explained how to do it.
To the three artists who, above all others, taught me to see and inspired me to
recreate what I saw—however inadequately—in the writing of fiction: Diane Arbus,
Ingmar Bergman, and Annie Leibovitz.
For the extraordinary talent of Tom Jenks.
And the fine vision and exquisite sensitivity of Jan Bono.
To Professor David Everett, brilliant and dedicated Director of the M. A. in Writing
Program at Johns Hopkins.
To Professors William Black, Mark Farrington, Marc Lapadula, Ed Perlman and
Tim Wendel for the highest standards of excellence in teaching in the M.A. in
Writing Program at Johns Hopkins.
With special thanks to Professor Mark Farrington, my supremely competent,
supportive and patient Fiction Advisor at Johns Hopkins.
For access to the genius of Marc Lapadula—with kudos to Jami Lapadula, his
gorgeous and gracious wife. Professor Lapadula teaches at Johns Hopkins and
To Professor John T. Irwin, Decker Professor in the Humanities in The Writing
Seminars at Johns Hopkins.
To the indefatigable Dan Wickett, literary superhero, champion of emerging writers
To Lorian Hemingway, brilliant, talented, compassionate, steadfast in her stellar
support of emerging writers.
Special thanks to David MaGee and Henry Oehmig at Jefferson Press for
believing in my work.
To David Jones for designing the cover of Tiger Burning Bright.
To Phil Wagner and Iconoclast Magazine for publishing the title story,
“Tiger Burning Bright,” and to Paul Fahey and Mindprints for publishing my first
Warm and special thanks to Tom Franklin, William Gay and Wyatt Prunty.
For Pushcart Prize nominations by Rosa Martha Villarreal at Tertulia Magazine
for “Fire and Ice,” by Mary Carroll-Hackett at The Dos Passos Review for
“Wish You Were Here,” and by David MaGee at Jefferson Press for "Tiger
Burning Bright" and "Auction."
To Authors Guild for all the wonderful things they do for writers.
To Otis Chandler for building a warm and welcoming home at Goodreads for
readers and writers all over the world.
To Stephen D. Kelly—an enormously gifted writer whose name you will get to
know and whose sharp and insightful critiques improved my writing.
To Dr. Stefan Schreier, my oldest and most valued friend, for all the years of
simply being there for me.
To Dr. Milo Wolff, author of Schroedinger's Universe and the man with the highest
I.Q. in this universe.
I have deep appreciation for supporters who gave me encouragement and
invaluable criticism, or who simply opened a door and let me in:
Jacob M. Appel, Aydin M. Akgün, The Authors Guild, Yvonne Battle-Felton,
Susan Anthony and the late Frank Anthony, Sven Birkerts at AGNI, Matt Boswell,
Debra Booth, Sonny Brewer, George Brosi at Appalachian Heritage,
Susan Burmeister-Brown and Linda Swanson-Davies at Glimmer Train, ByLine
Magazine, Joyce Carper, Sara Cochin, Celeste Crenshaw, Joseph Holmes Dague,
Sue Eisenfeld, Thomas Gabriel-Ventimiglia, Jacqueline Gaulin, Jordan Gilles,
Crystal Hendricks, Tanya Taliese Holmes, Laurel Johnson, Brooke Kenny,
Eugene Kim, Mary Sue Koeppel and Robert B. Gentry at the Writecorner Press
E. M. Koeppel Short Fiction Awards, Nathan Leslie, Theresa Monsey,
Chris Murphy, Shannon O’Neill, Ché Parker, Janelle Patton, Richard Peabody,
The Poetry Society of Virginia, Poets & Writers Magazine, Marcia Preston,
Michelle Richmond, Brett Alan Sanders, Jason Sanford at storySouth,
Eduardo Santiago, Carol Shaughnessy, Daniel Talbot, Charles Talkoff,
Ruth C. Taylor, Christina Tucker,Virginia Commission for the Arts,
Mary Carolyn Voght, Edythe Wise, Writer’s Digest and Howard G. Zaharoff.
And a special place in my heart for the editors who published my work:
Cairn, Ian D. Wallace
Cantaraville, Cantara Christopher and Michael Matheny
The Dos Passos Review, Mary Carroll-Hackett
The Dublin Quarterly, Peter Anny-Nzekwue, Niall Keane
The Edgar Literary Magazine, Sue Mayfield-Geiger
The GSU Review, Jody Brooks, Chris Bundy
The Iconoclast, Phil Wagner
The MacGuffin, Elizabeth Kircos, Nausheen S. Khan
Mindprints, Paul Fahey
New Works Review, Brett Alan Sanders, Jonathan Sanders and Tim Healy
Perigee, Robert Judge Woerheide, Susan Fellows
Pindeldyboz, Whitney Pastorek, Wells Oliver, Josh Kron
Sanskrit, Denise Anatrella
Slow Trains, Susannah Indigo
Sound and Literary Art Book, Michael Goodwin, Teresa Pershing
Southern Hum, Jessicca Vidrine
Sugar Mule, Marc L. Weber
Taj Mahal Review, Santosh Kumar, Karunesh Kumar Agrawal
Terra Incognita, Robert J. Lavigna
Tertulia Magazine, Rosa Martha Villarreal
Willard & Maple, Jim Ellefson
Writers Post Journal, Jacqueline Druga-Johnston
I thank you, my readers, for your loyalty, your letters, and your gracious gift of
simply being there for me and my work.
Most of all, I am grateful for the love and devotion of Bick, Claire and Maria—
the most brilliant and beautiful daughters a mother could ever have.
God bless you all.
Blue Ridge Mountains