Tuesday, October 19, 2021

As Richard Buckley left the stage, a personal tribute to his short story form took place in the public library

Friends and family remembered Richard Buckley — one of the most distinctive, charming and successful authors of new short stories ever — on Wednesday at the book launch of his latest collection, Saint Winifred (Scribner, $16). Outside the various stations at the informal event, which was hosted by VIDA and featured readings and short talk by Buckley’s friends and supporters, there was something very “personal” happening in the first-floor library of the Brooklyn Public Library: a bunch of people wearing the brown cords that would become his signature — his favorite pant — were lined up looking to fill their baskets with books. Since 1979, Buckley’s contribution to the short story has become as distinctive and idiosyncratic as his sense of humor. Buckley’s first collection, Family Cuts, published in 1979, was an immediate and global bestseller. It received the Man Booker Prize and was a huge influence on generations of writers working in the genre. At that time, Buckley told the longform podcast Exploring, he was rereading it to provide for himself a flavor of the time he was writing in. He was showing everyone how much the world had changed. It seemed that the Internet would be here forever. And Buckley is now dead.

Buckley died this year at age 76 after complications from pneumonia. He’d gone in December. He gave much of his life to the burgeoning short story form, and even volunteered at the New Yorker for 10 years, helping with production and publishing. The event that afternoon was dedicated to Buckley, to remember him, and to his work. Not in prose, but as far as I am aware, not a single one of his books was turned into a screen movie.

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