Short Story Prize
The Shortlist: Q&A with Roderick Moody-Corbett
There are five names on the shortlist for this year's CBC Short Story Prize. Before we announce the winner, we want to introduce you to the finalists and their stories.
Roderick Moody-Corbett's story "Parse" is one of the five stories on the shortlist. He tells us about his fascination with long sentences, how a fiction class with Tamas Dobozy changed his life, and his favourite Canadian writer.
Tell us about yourself.
I live in Calgary, and am currently pursing a PhD in English Literature (with a creative writing focus) at the University of Calgary. I’m in my second year, which is quite wonderful and insane.
What do you usually write?
I write fiction and nonfiction. Right now I’m trying to finish up a collection of stories. I’m also doing some research for a longish nonfiction piece I hope to write over the summer.
Have you submitted to the competition before?
Once before. About four years ago. It concerned an aortic aneurysm. The story, I mean. Not the submission.
What is your story about?
Crudely, my story is about trying, and failing, to say goodbye to someone, or somewhere, you love.
What was the inspiration for your story?
I’m not sure this story has an easy catalyst.
How long did you work on the story? How many drafts did you write?
I wrote this story, the first draft, anyway, quite quickly. Then I played around with point-of-view, rhythm, and syntax. I can’t remember how many drafts I wrote. Likely dozens. I work very slowly. As a general rule, premature ejaculations are no less embarrassing for their being literary.
Your story is told in one long sentence. What were the challenges of writing such a piece? Why did you decide to write it this way?
I guess I’ve always been intrigued by long sentences. The writers I cut my teeth on—David Foster Wallace, Thomas Bernhard, Roberto Bolaño, Donald Antrim—are masters of the form. With “Parse” I basically wanted to write something slightly recalcitrant. Sinewy, urban. I recently read an essay on László Krasznahorkai (whose War & War is one of the best books I read last year) by James Wood where he likens one of Krasznahorkai’s sentences to “a lunatic scorpion trying to sting itself.” I think this perfectly describes the maniacal lust towards a long sentence.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
My first year at Memorial University I took an intro fiction class with Tamas Dobozy. Not to sound like too much of a sycophant here, but this altered me. I can’t quite explain it. I left those classes feeling wildly engaged. I was eighteen. Suddenly, like a good young idiot, I knew exactly what I wanted to try and do with my life. The how, why, and where could wait.
Name one of your favourite Canadian writers. What is it you love about their work?
Yikes. Just one? Probably the Canadian writer I read with greatest pleasure is Mark Anthony Jarman. I have something of a substance abuse problem with 19 Knives. Right up there with Barry Hannah’s Airships and Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son. The opening sentence of “Burn Man on a Texas Porch,” which runs about half a page, is maybe my favourite Canadian sentence.
How does it feel to be shortlisted for this prize?
In a word, great.
Roderick Moody-Corbett is in the running for the CBC Short Story Prize.
The winner will be announced on March 26. The Grand Prize is $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, a writing residency at The Banff Centre, and publication in Air Canada’s enRoute magazine.
Photo credit: Michael G. Khelmnitsky