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I was a revolutionary, p.23

I Was a Revolutionary, page 23


I Was a Revolutionary

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  “You couldn’t even leave me when you were miserable.”

  “I would have.”

  “Because you’re a coward.”

  “I am not.”

  “You’re craven and you always were.”

  It’s the small laugh after she says this that sends me out of the chair, my hand reaching back as I rise. The force of the slap sends her to a crouch, holding her face. I’m saying her name, touching her shoulder—“Linda, are you okay? Linda, I’m so sorry”—when she springs from the floor, her arm flailing wildly. The book strikes me across the side of the head and sends me backward a few steps. We are looking at each other, silent, stunned, and below us the book lies open on the floor, pages sticking out ajar, half torn from the binding.


  Over the course of nine years working on this book, I’ve amassed a Tolstoyan-length catalogue of debts to people and institutions that deserve to be thanked, and this is just a fraction of that roll.

  First and foremost, thank you to my family, which I mean in the broadest sense of the word, without whom I’d simply be lost and lonesome.

  Thank you to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing, and the Steinbeck Center at San Jose State University, all of which supported this project in its colicky infancy.

  I’m supremely grateful to the Corporation of Yaddo, the Lighthouse Works Foundation, the Joshua Tree Highlands Artist Residency, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Jentel Artist Residency Program for giving me time and support and community. I am particularly indebted to the Lannan Foundation, which gave me a long residency in Marfa, Texas, at a moment of acute pecuniary and existential distress.

  Thank you to my agent, Renée Zuckerbrot, who told me that if I never wrote another book she wanted to represent this one and worked indefatigably to ensure a short story collection about radical Kansans found a nice home.

  Thank you to my incredible editor, Cal Morgan, who is always right but gracious and kind enough to engage in patient, thoughtful debate so that I can come to that realization myself. Thank you to everyone on the HarperCollins team, who worked so hard to bring the best possible version of this book into the world.

  I am very grateful to the editors and magazines where some of these stories first appeared: Michael Ray at Zoetrope, David Daley at FiveChapters, Travis Kurowski at Story, Adeena Reitberger at American Short Fiction, Jodee Stanley at Ninth Letter, as well as Jon Parrish Peede and W. Ralph Eubanks at VQR.

  Thank you to friends who read excerpts of this book and who were willing to engage in protracted discussions about it over the years: Hendree Milward, Harriet Clark, Kevin Gonzalez, Nate Brown, Kathleen Sachs, Monika Gehlawat, and Charles Sumner. I am particularly grateful to Ted Thompson and Stuart Nadler, who read the insane Ur-version of this collection and lived to tell the tale (and found ways to help me fix it). Thanks to Chris Brunt for the careful read of “A Defense of History” at a crucial juncture. Thanks to Marilynne Robinson for eviscerating the very first draft of “The Burning of Lawrence” and urging me to give my characters the dignity of human complexity. Thanks to Tim O’Brien for walking me line by line through “I Was a Revolutionary” and reminding me that fiction is for getting at the truth when truth isn’t sufficient for the task.

  I would like to thank C. Dale and Janet D. Shearer for their generous financial support in helping me to obtain the images contained in the story “A Defense of History.” And thank you to the various sources of those images: the New York Times, the Kansas State Historical Society, the Nebraska State Historical Society, Wikipedia, and the Library of Congress.

  Thank you to the many historians whose sedulous work over the last 150 years informed and inspired the fiction of this book.

  I would like to thank Eric Tribunella and the faculty, staff, and students in the English Department at the University of Southern Mississippi, in particular my colleagues in the Center for Writers at USM: Steven Barthelme, Angela Ball, Monika Gehlawat, and Rebecca Morgan Frank, as well as my editorial teams at Mississippi Review, currently the wonderfully dynamic duo of Allison Campbell and Caleb Tankersley.

  And lastly, thank you, Kansas, for all that is beautiful and ugly in your complex history. Your nobler instincts inspire me.


  A native of Lawrence, Kansas, and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, ANDREW MALAN MILWARD is the author of the story collection The Agriculture Hall of Fame, which was awarded the Juniper Prize in Fiction by the University of Massachusetts. He has served as the McCreight Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, a Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, and has received fellowships and awards from the Lannan Foundation, Jentel, and Yaddo. He lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he teaches at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers and is the editor-in-chief of Mississippi Review.

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  The Agriculture Hall of Fame


  Cover design by Milan Bozic

  Cover illustration © by A. T. Willett / Alamy


  I WAS A REVOLUTIONARY. Copyright © 2015 by Andrew Malan Milward. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.


  Photograph on title page by GeriDagys Photography/iStock Photos

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data has been applied for.

  ISBN: 978-0-06-237731-9 (hardcover)

  EPub Edition AUGUST 2015 ISBN 9780062377333

  15 16 17 18 19 OV/RRD 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1



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  Andrew Malan Milward, I Was a Revolutionary



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