Lives of the Artists

Dennis Vannatta


  Throughout this collection, Dennis Vannatta distills art and storytelling into their core matter—the human comedy. Vannatta also peppers in his own authorial persona, with anachronistic forays into the Vietnam War, pushing the envelop of storytelling one step further to encompass the entire collection. The stories themselves run from the first cave artist and cave storyteller (who must tell a captivating tale or be killed), through a modern aluminum siding salesman obsessing over an art historian and winding up trapped on an academic panel discussing the Mona Lisa. This salesman, too, must weave a story before the academic panel or lose—not his life certainly, but all self-respect. Both caveman and salesman inject emotion into their stories to find redemption. Just so, Vannatta’s persona injects Vietnam throughout this collection as if to say that story-telling can heal even the grossest of wounds: war.


ISBN, trade paper: 978-1-931982-11-5, $13.95          Sale $7.00

ISBN, library edition: 978-1931982108, $25.00           Sale $12.50

About the Author: 

Dennis Vannatta has published stories in many magazines and anthologies, including THE QUARTERLY, ANTIOCH REVIEW, and PUSHCART XV.  Two earlier collections were published  by White Pine Press: THIS TIME, THIS PLACE (1991) and PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD (1994).  He currently teaches English at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

 Excerpt from the Book:

     Storyman sat with his feet dangling off the edge of the bluff watching the second scout approach along the line of willows far below. Women and children rushed down the trail toward the scout, along with three or four men who hung back, not wanting to appear too excited, probably.
      Storyman looked away. He had no hope that the second scout would bring news that would save him.
      The first scout had arrived late the previous afternoon, breathless from his run and great joy. The red deer had crossed the river at Elbow Ford, a day’s walk from the clan camp. They would follow the river, eating the sweet currants and the nuts from the beech trees, until the river brought them to the hunters waiting to trap them between the bluff and the river bank.
      In his mind’s eye Storyman tried to see the fight: the young deer awkward on spindly legs, the does more beautiful than a woman, the great bucks carrying their racks of antlers broader than the span of a man’s arms. They’d nibble at the fruit of the beech trees, already split by the first frost of autumn. Then, naked and screaming and spear-armed, the hunters would be on them. Some of the deer would die so that the clan could have a great feast, then cure the remaining meat for the long winter months ahead. Some of the men would die, too.
      Storyman strained to picture it, but since he had never been allowed to witness the great hunt, it was hard, hard.
    What did the deer feel when, eating the nuts they’d plucked with such delicacy out of the split beech fruit, death was suddenly upon them?