“The Man Who Shot My Eye Out Is Dead"

Truett C. Killian's picture

Chanelle Benz Signs Her Debut Short Story Collection at Harvard Book Store

Rarely will you see monks, western outlaws and abusive stepfathers in the same place. All of those characters and more can be found in Chanelle Benz’s debut short story anthology, “The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead.” On Jan. 31, Harvard Bookstore welcomed Benz for a signing where by her former professor, Dana Spiotta, joined her.

Benz’s new book, “The Man Who Shot My Eye Out Is Dead,”  is an anthology of short stories each containing strikingly unique characters and narratives. The stories’ settings are rather diverse, ranging from England in the 16th century, to post Civil War Texas. The rhetorical style of each story varies as well; some stories are told in the first person, while others are written academically — complete with footnotes.

“The Man Who Shot my Eye out Is Dead” received praise on Goodreads.com, where one reviewer compared her literary style to that of Jorge Luis Borges. Dana Spiotta, professed that Benz is “a fearless and brilliant writer,” and she praised Benz for her ability to “throw things into the air and make conflict.”

Benz earned her bachelor of fine arts degree in acting from Boston University, where she met Spiotta. When discussing the evolution of her writing style, Benz said that her formal acting training helped her immensely as a writer. Specifically in studying iambic pentameter, Benz said she learned the verse of words, which helped her write herself.

Benz had written throughout her entire childhood, ever since her great-aunt, a headmistress, taught her how to read at age four. After college Benz went to New York City to act, but after auditioning for various plays she “just didn’t feel like a creative person anymore.” During a writers’ conference at Colgate University, her mentor took her aside and said to Benz, “you’re a writer.” From then on, she dedicated more time to her craft.

On the topic of writing style Benz said she reads various primary documents from the times she is writing in, so that she can grasp the dialect and personality of the characters she creates. During the signing I approached her to ask for more writing advice, and she stressed to me the need to set time aside to write everyday.

The signing itself was a part of a recurring series at Harvard Book Store, where new authors speak about their works and writing style. Upcoming authors include Stephen Kinzer, Julian Gewirtz, and Andrew Krivák; a complete list of future signings can be found here. The store offers discounts on authors books when they come to speak, and “The Man Who Shot My Eye Out Is Dead” was on sale for 20 percent off on Tuesday.

Harvard Book Store is a privately owned independent bookstore located at 1256 Massachusetts Ave. The store has been in operation since 1932, when Mark S. Kramer founded it with just a small loan of $300 from his parents. The shelves host a diverse array of books, including a large downstairs section dedicated to used titles.