Skip to main content

Monday Reads: Eating Naked by Stephen Dobyns

(Check HERE for my Inspiration Blogfest Entry)

I picked up the collection of short stories “Eating Naked” by Stephen Dobyns at a sale two years ago and then promptly forgot about it. Now that I have tried to sort my books into some sort of order (read separate the travel from the recipe books, and the short story collections from novels!) this book caught my eye.

I did not like the first story, “A Happy Vacancy” finding its ending sort of ‘preachy’. The premise was interesting: a serious poet and professor is killed by a pig (being transported for a movie shoot) falling from the sky, and how his wife comes to terms with his death. I loved the story (and the writing) right up to the end, when I felt it was an “explanation paragraph” too long. Literary short stories which talk too much at the end of what the story is about (just in case the reader didn’t get it?) have never been my favorite.

 Dobyns is a well-known writer with dozens of poetry collections and novels under his belt, is a Pushcart prize-winning short story writer who has taught creative writing to folks since before I was born, so I don’t know if I have the right to call anything by him ‘preachy’. But as a reader, I’ve found I have to drop some books I don’t like overmuch so I can get on with reading ones I actually love.

I was about to put the book down in my ‘to be given away’ pile, when I began reading “The Chaucer Professor”. The premise hooked me again, and I could not put it down to the end, and this time the story was delightful, funny, ironic, subtle. It stripped the masks off the characters, revealing complex, contradictory layers underneath. It whetted my appetite for more.

The other stories are gems, nearly all of them, and I’m in awe of how Dobyns takes an often absurd, ridiculous situation and proceeds to make of it a meditative story, profound and thought-provoking. I re-read the first story, and I still don’t like the ending, but I learned a valuable lesson: when reading a collection of short stories, sample a few stories before you decide whether you like it.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  • Damyanti says:

    Janna, Phatichar, thanks. I have to be honest when I'm blogging. 🙂

    Yes, Lynda, me too. It is just that the first story put me off…and I should sample more before I dismiss a collection from my reading!

  • phatichar says:

    Couldn't agree more! Just like how one can't judge a book by the cover, one can't dismiss a short story collection just by reading one.

    Nice, honest post. 🙂

  • The few short story collections that I have read have all varied widely.

  • jannatwrites says:

    I like that you gave your honest opinion of the stories. It sounds like overall it was an interesting read 🙂

%d bloggers like this: