Aug. 9, 2017 – Congratulations to Dr. Aaron Tillman, who recently published Every Single Bone in My Brain, a collection of short stories. Tillman is an Associate Professor of English as well as the Director of the Honors Program at Newbury. This fall, Tillman will be teaching HU100 for the second year.
Newbury is extremely proud of Tillman’s accomplishments. Every Single Bone in My Brain features 14 short stories, many of which have previously been featured in literary journals.
According to Braddock Avenue Books, the independent press that published Tillman’s book, Every Single Bone in My Brain is “edgy and thoughtful, comic and wise” and “is a witty, wry, and altogether enthralling debut of short fiction.”
Tillman self-describes the collection with, “Although each piece is different, there are unifying themes. In their own unique ways, the stories all grapple with the pressures and uncertainties that complicate personal and cultural identities—especially for those who are compelled to search for answers. The humor in each piece, along with the magical realist elements that emerge in select stories, help to shed light on the characters and the circumstances that make life both irresistible and, at times, impossible.”
Part of the inspiration for the stories stems from authors such as Sherman Alexie, Karen Russell, Nathan Englander, Gish Jen and others who Tillman says he admires for their use of “humor or magical realist elements to highlight and examine complex identities and anomalous cultural positions, often in the short story form.”
The collection includes a story of a day at work for a sociology professor after teaching a lesson on deviance; a story of someone whose constant smiling often gets misinterpreted; a story of two boys at the synagogue on Yom Kippur; the title story, “Every Single Bone in My Brain,” about a man with lethal levels of electricity constantly passing through his body; and many more.
According to Tillman, “When writing the [title] story, I was drawn in by the metaphorical potential of someone who has an undeniable difference that is not necessarily evident to the eye, yet has a powerful influence over self-perception and behavior. I wanted to make that difference as magically real as possible.”
The title comes from a line in the song “Lazaretto” by Jack White: “My veins are blue and connected / And every single bone in my brain is electric.” Tillman explains, “It fit so well with what I was working on and helped other elements in the story come together. I also like the sound of the line, which is partly why I made it the title of the collection. That and I hoped it might compel people to read the story, which is one of the longer and more magical pieces in the collection.”
This story, and others in the collection, explore the idea that “if a person feels different, or believes that others view him differently, then it can lead to all sorts of interesting scenarios.”
Tillman further explains, “Some stories are more satirical or magical or allegorical, while others might have humor, but are pretty well grounded in conventional realism. In nearly all cases, the actions of the characters are driven by something that’s internally unsettled; there are questions about how they fit, or believe they are meant to fit, in an often bewildering world. It leads to some bad choices and, I hope, some interesting stories comprised of flawed, but endearingly human characters.”
Tillman’s first story was published in 2002, and now his debut collection of short stories is available for purchase. He says, “In a very real sense, the book has created some opportunities to share the work on a wider scale; to read from and talk about books and writing—things I love to do. It also makes the abstract and often isolating process of writing more tangible and more of a shared experience. Overall, I am just enormously grateful and hopeful that people will read and enjoy the book!”
Tillman’s stories range from barely two pages to around 30, each evoking thought and discussion of the themes, which is one of the reasons Tillman says he is drawn to short story writing. “It’s really one of my favorite literary genres. You can start and finish a story over a cup of coffee…or before bed. And just like that, this complete thing is now living in your mind where it can hang out on its own, or interact with other, fully or half-formed things, perhaps even influence the way you think about the world. And if you want, you can read the same story again and it takes on more color and complexion, more definition to help you understand and relate to circumstances and events both inside and outside the text. If everyone read a story a day, the world would be a more empathic and interesting place.”
Congratulations again to Dr. Tillman; Newbury is grateful to have professors who are passionate and involved within their fields.
About Newbury: Newbury College is a private, independent college located just minutes from Boston in the Fisher Hill neighborhood of Brookline, Massachusetts. Founded in 1962, Newbury College offers bachelor and associate degree programs in over 20 career-focused majors. Committed to personalized and experience-based teaching, Newbury inspires students to become independent thinkers, valuable collaborators, and global-minded citizens.
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