Tony Earley crafts an elegant reinvention of the past The line between fiction and nonfiction is often blurred and in most cases arbitrarily drawn. In his new book, Somehow Form a Family, a collection of essays that reads like the cohering fragments of a memoir, Tony Earley walks gracefully along that line, writing about growing up in the South in the 1970s, the eccentricities of love in most families, and the essential longing to connect with a community that any writer feels but is rarely able to satisfy. "All writers are spies in their own country," Earley said in a recent phone interview. "We are afflicted or blessed with this strange sort of consciousness in which we are always looking in from the outside. I can remember being a kid walking through the playground, imagining myself as I did it, conscious of my every move, always feeling different and never comfortable in any group. Perhaps that's why we become writers, to deal with that longing." Earley, a North Carolina native and an associate professor of English at Vanderbilt University, is the author of the 1994 short story collection Here We Are in Paradise and the highly acclaimed novel Jim the Boy, published in 2000. A few years back Granta magazine named him one of America's best young authors, and shortly after that announcement, The New Yorker featured him in an issue that focused on the best new fiction writers in America. The last three stories in Here We Are in Paradise depicted Jim Glass and his family. From those stories, Earley developed the idea for the novel Jim the Boy, a work whose style has been compared to both Ernest Hemingway's and E. B. White's. Being compared to Hemingway would not come as an unwanted surprise to most young contemporary fiction writers, but a comparison to E. B. White, in our deconstructed new world where any writer worth his ink seems destined to have a distant, ironic voice, may not seem a compliment. Earley, though, is happy with the comparison and thinks he understands its source. "I started it," he said. "It's flattering, but the comparisons probably came from my epigraph to the novel from White's Charlotte's Web

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