Anthony Domestico with David Means at Commonweal:
David Means, a recognized master of the short story, is the author of four collections of fiction, most recently The Spot (2010). Means’s stories display the compressed intensity of poetry, throwing off little lyrical flares every few sentences, as in his description of a car “roar[ing] off in a rooster tail of dust.” Like Alice Munro, he manipulates time in surprising ways—dilating and contracting, telescoping an entire life, with all its dramas and regrets, into a single paragraph. This effect is especially acute when he writes, as he often does, about events of dramatic import and limited temporal scope: a bank heist, a murder, a police standoff. He reminds us of how flexible the apparently rigid form of the short story can be.
Means was born in 1961 in working-class Kalamazoo, Michigan. As he told the New Yorker, “Our neighbor was a paper-mill worker, and a drunk, and I remember feeling that Bruce Springsteen was making songs about the people in my world.” Most of his stories are grounded in a world of closed factories and desperate crimes, and they are peopled by outsiders: tramps and criminals, prostitutes and war veterans, “these stupid sinning willful men who were dying by their own clock.” Means describes himself as a “problematic Christian,” and he finds in such outcast figures—and, more specifically, in the violence they inflict on one another—a space for thinking about grace and redemption.