Brad Watson (writer)

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Brad Watson, 2017

Brad Watson is an American author. Originally from Mississippi, he has worked and lived in Alabama and Boston, and now lives in Wyoming where he is an associate professor at the University of Wyoming. Watson has published four books--two novels and two collections of short stories--to critical acclaim.

Education and career[edit]

Watson was born on born July 24, 1955 in Meridian, Mississippi. After briefly trying his luck in Hollywood, he attended Meridian Junior College and then Mississippi State University, graduating in 1978 with a degree in English,[1] and the University of Alabama,[2] where he obtained an MFA in writing and American literature. After working as a newspaper reporter and editor and at an advertising agency, in 1988 he returned to the University of Alabama to teach creative writing; he also worked for the university's public relations department.[2] While at Alabama he published Last Days of the Dog-Men (1996), which had taken him ten years to write and won him the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction.[3] Amy Grace Lloyd, writing for the New York Times twenty years later, called it "a near-perfect story collection".[4] In 1997 he moved to Harvard University and lived in Boston until 2002.[5] He was a writer in residence at the University of West Florida, the University of Alabama, the University of Mississippi, and the University of California, Irvine. Since 2005 he has taught at the University of Wyoming,[2] where he is a professor of creative writing and literature in the Department of English.

Watson's 2002 novel The Heaven of Mercury was nominated for the National Book Award.[6] His 2010 collection of short stories Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives received positive reviews in The New York Times[6] and the Boston Phoenix;[7] its stories contained "divorces, miscarriages, an argument that ends in bungled gunplay, a joint-custody visitation, even a touch of incest", and Watson himself considered some of them some of the funniest stuff he'd ever written.[8] His work has appeared in The New Yorker.[9]

His 2015 novel Miss Jane is set in Depression-era Mississippi; its main character, Jane Chisolm, is inspired by one of his great-aunts, a woman with a urogenital condition that made her incapable of having vaginal sex and rendered her incontinent for life. The novel was praised by critics,[10][11][12][13][4] with Silas House saying it "takes Watson's writing to new heights".[3]

Subject matter and style[edit]

Watson is frequently called a Southern writer, and acknowledges his heritage and his love for family and friends, particularly after moving to Wyoming in 2005.[5] At community college in Meridian, he became inspired by William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, and Flannery O'Connor.[14] He is praised for his portrayal of Southern issues and problems (racism and segregation being one of the subject matters of Heaven of Mercury), but commented also on stereotypical simplifications of the South in other parts of America:

For all the ways [the South] is struggling and, yes, deficient, or failing, flailing, it is also a place full of wonderful people, and possibly one of the most diverse places in the country. Not that everyone gets along. There is ignorance, there is racism. There are also more proud people trying to change that than might be apparent from the results at the polling booths. But writing the book, I was just thinking about these people, trying to make them real people in the reader’s mind. Here’s an anecdote, though. I was at a tea party or the like at a famous university in the early stages of researching Miss Jane, and I asked the host--who was a pediatrician, for goodness sake--if he could speculate on what might have been my great aunt’s condition. His response was, "You're from Mississippi, right? Is there any history of incest in your family?"[3]





  1. ^ "MSU alumnus, award-winning fiction writer Brad Watson visits next week". August 20, 2015. Retrieved April 25, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d Campbell, Travis. "Brad Watson: A Biography". Mississippi Writers and Musicians. Retrieved April 23, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d House, Silas (July 20, 2016). "'Something was wrong with Aunt Jane': Brad Watson on the uncommon woman behind his new novel, writing difference and the appeal of 'fly-over' country". Slate. Retrieved April 25, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b Lloyd, Amy Grace (July 22, 2016). "A Second Mississippi Novel by Brad Watson". The New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b Hoops, Jana (July 17, 2016). "Author Q&A: Brad Watson". The Clarion-Ledger. Retrieved April 25, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Silverman, Jacob (April 22, 2010). "Dream Catcher". The New York Times. Retrieved December 4, 2015. 
  7. ^ Chamandy, Susan (23 March 2010). "Otherworldly". The Phoenix. Boston. Retrieved 4 December 2015. 
  8. ^ Johnson, Drew (March 31, 2010). "The Rumpus Interview with Brad Watson". The Rumpus. Retrieved April 25, 2017. 
  9. ^ Watson, Brad (April 6, 2009). "Visitation". The New Yorker. 
  10. ^ Miles, Jonathan (June/July 2016). "Rising Above: National Book Award finalist Brad Watson’s new novel is a testament to the power of the spirit". Garden & Gun. Retrieved April 25, 2017.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. ^ Steelman, Ben (June 24, 2016). "Brad Watson's novel ‘Miss Jane’ chronicles a spinster’s passionate life". Star-News. Retrieved April 25, 2017. 
  12. ^ Siriam, Aditi (July 11, 2016). "Rising Above: National Book Award finalist Brad Watson’s new novel is a testament to the power of the spirit". Washington Post. Retrieved April 25, 2017. 
  13. ^ Battersby, Eileen (November 5, 2016). "Miss Jane by Brad Watson review: Making strange in hardscrabble Mississippi". The Irish Times. Retrieved April 25, 2017. 
  14. ^ Peterson, Christine (July 3, 2011). "UW teacher, author, wins fellowship and awards for book". Casper Star-Tribune. Retrieved April 25, 2017. 
  15. ^ "2002 National Book Awards Finalists". The National Book Foundation. Archived from the original on 2010-06-20. 
  16. ^ Gose, Susan Gray (March 22, 2011). "UW Professor Brad Watson nominated for award". WyoFile. Archived from the original on 2011-10-04. 
  17. ^ "Brad Watson; 2011 - US & Canada Competition; Creative Arts - Fiction". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on 2011-04-16. 

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