This second book of Nancy’s short fiction (15 stories) was the second-place finalist in the 1986 AWP (Associated Writing Programs) short fiction contest and a finalist in the 1988 Flannery O’Connor short fiction contest before being accepted for publication by Coffee House Press. (In its contest versions it was titled Alaskan Gothic, and the contents were somewhat different.) Many of the stories were written while Nancy was enrolled in Vermont College’s M.F.A. writing program, from which she graduated in 1988. Most of the stories appeared in literary journals before being collected in the book.
These stories, like Nancy’s earlier ones, all are either set in or relate to Alaska, its landscape, and its challenges. In them, Nancy consciously worked at creating viewpoint characters to encompass a wide variety of human experience, some drawn from news accounts. One story (“Why I Live at the Natural History Museum”) pays homage to Eudora Welty, and another (“The Lady with the Sled Dog”) to Chekhov. “A True Story,” not a true story, is a bit of metafiction that asks how stories are made.
Alaska’s prominent writer, John Haines, said of this collection: “There are as many ways of responding to Alaska as there are regions on the map and people to live there. Nancy Lord has chosen her place, her inevitable subject, with all its complications—its permanent nature and strangely transitory human effects, its ordinariness as well as its mystery—and has written about it with a matured understanding. We are richer for her work and for her presence among us.”
Kirkus Review: “The collection bears delicate, closely observed witness to a place and to some of the voices that come to terms with it. A writer to watch.”
Library Journal: “The cold, the majesty, the isolation, the escape from a world that is closing in too tightly—it is all here in this haunting collection of short stories set in Alaska.”
New York Times Book Review: “The 15 quiet, deeply personal stories in Survival range widely in their Alaskan settings, from the untrampled beauty of the Brooks Range to urban-ugly Anchorage . . . Nancy Lord writes subtly but eloquently about the natural splendors of the state. However, she uses Alaskan exotica not to set her characters apart but to illustrate the universality of their emotions.”
John Updike (personal correspondence): “These are impressive stories—varied, compassionate, sane.”
Manoa: This book is a fine one to read when you feel yourself wondering what would happen if you chucked it all, took off, went north to someplace where you’d have to deal with the loud sound of your own heart.”
The book's cover art is by Joy Baleisis, formerly of Homer, Alaska and now living in Minnesota.
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