SLU professor's award-winning book of stories question reality
From the Watertown Times on November 27, 2021
Professor of English Pedro Ponce has published a book of stories that explore human reality and possibility through the power of storytelling.
The book, “The Devil and the Dairy Princess,” which was published by Indiana University Press, includes 10 stories that are described by the publisher as “perfect for any reader who enjoys literary realism or speculative fiction.”
Inspired by the television show The Twilight Zone, Ponce was eager to explore how story structure can encourage readers to question and alter human reality and possibility. “I think of this book as stories about stories brought to life through the flesh and blood of different characters,” said Ponce. “This type of storytelling can often be seen as the opposite of realistic fiction—abstract experiments in language and structure that don’t involve ‘real’ emotions and situations but I don’t think this is the case. We arguably build the world and our views of it story by story, starting with the earliest narratives we hear as children. To play with story structure—to question and even revise it—takes us deeper into human reality and possibility. I hope readers will appreciate this perspective on the power of stories.”
In 2020, the book won the Indiana Review’s Don Belton Fiction Prize which “recognizes intelligent sense of language, assumes a degree of risk, and has consequences beyond the world of its narrators.”
“I found The Devil and the Dairy Princess to be strikingly original,” said Charles Yu, the author of Interior Chinatown, who served as the prize judge. “Each piece is distinctive, innovative, and full of fresh surprises. Yet the collection as a whole is cohesive in tone and voice, evocative, playful, haunting spaces both dreamy and nightmarish.”
An instructor of several English courses at St. Lawrence, Ponce hopes to share his experience writing this book with students.
“The process of assembling the collection taught me a lot about how to put together a book—what gives a book coherence, especially one made up of distinct episodes? I look forward to opening up this process to my students, particularly in Advanced Fiction Writing and senior seminars, where we study and practice the craft of turning individual pieces into publishable manuscripts.”
At St. Lawrence, Ponce regularly teaches Techniques of Fiction, Methods of Critical Analysis, and Advanced Fiction Writing. His research interests include narrative theory, conspiracy theory, and dystopian literature, and he is the author of several works including Stories After Goya, Alien Autopsy, and Superstitions of Apartment Life. His work has appeared in several journals including Alaska Quarterly Review, Gigantic, PANK, and Copper Nickel, and his stories have been anthologized in New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction and Boundaries Without: The Calumet Editions 2017 Anthology of Speculative Fiction. He is a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts fellow in creative writing and holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Denver, an M.F.A. in Fiction from Western Michigan University, and an M.A. from The Johns Hopkins University.