Gladys Swan

Gladys Swan's The Tiger's Eye: New and Selected Stories is available on Amazon.com, as is The World of Carnival on Amazon.com.

The Tiger's Eye

The stories in this book have been selected from the six previous collections of short fiction, as well as from recent work, Gladys Swan has published in that genre over the past four decades. Although she also has published novels, poetry, and essays, she finds that she cannot do without the short story-"it is such a beautiful form. I love the challenges it presents in dealing with characters and situations that light upon the cusp of the moment and which must be handled with an eye to economy and unity of effect."


This volume encompasses selections from four decades’ worth of short stories by fiction writer, poet, and essayist Swan (A Garden amid Fires; Carnival for the Gods). She is also a visual artist, and many of these stories unsurprisingly feature other artists, often stalled in their careers, such as the painter hired by a gallery owner in a resort town to produce 12 replicas of a bad still life (because it sells!). These stories also reflect upon the mysteries of artistic inspiration, the ways in which images precede ideas, and how unexpected juxtapositions of people, places, and events—an exiled Albanian houseguest, a Lorca poem, a trip to the bullfights—can open up the imagination. Swan is drawn to characters who are visionaries of a sort, who carry on conversations with a tiger in the zoo or are propelled on exotic journeys by means of a porch swing. These characters, cracked as they may be, awaken others to the possibility of art in their own lives. VERDICT Readers drawn to the short story as an art form will be happy to get to know Swan’s work through this generous collection.—Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA, Library Journal Review

Gladys Swan meshes an affinity for the largest human matters-loss, grief, parenthood, age, falling in and out of love-with an acute eye and ear for the smallest gesture and object. Her ability to conjure up a sense of a life among other lives is masterful and in its quiet way mesmerizing. She knows a great deal but she only reveals what wants to be revealed. The glimpses into a remarkable variety of people and predicaments are at once unsettling and enthralling-a hallmark of genuine art.
—Baron Wormser

Gladys Swan's stories feel as though they were written in a different time, when words mattered more than they do now, and stories were made to last and made to live. I have been an ardent fan of her work for many years now, and this collection proves yet again what an incredible gift she is to the land of letters.
—Bret Lott

Gladys Swan is one of America’s most distinguished writers of fiction, long and short. In The Tiger’s Eye: New & Selected Stories, her excellences are immediately apparent: vibrant, deeply developed, and widely various characters, male or female, young or old or anywhere in between, free-wheeling or hard on their luck or quietly perplexed by life’s demands; prose that is profoundly fine; and dialogue and diction that unmistakably belong to her characters and render them memorable. What other author refers to “the augmenting and deed-drenched past”? Not even Faulkner. Or “the dishevelments of appetite, in fostering circumstance”? Swan’s way is to make music of harsh reality. Her pacing is terrific. M.F.A. students need to be studying her work! All readers, whether they write or not, will learn, if not art, then life from these pages.
—Kelly Cherry

Gladys Swan has been blessed with the gift of an extraordinary empathy, and, what's even rarer, has the imaginative skill and courage to make readers share her largeness of heart, her generous, embracing vision. I've long been an admirer of her work, and now, in The Tiger's Eye, we have her best and richest stories. There's gentle humor in her writing, bittersweet honesty, and the hard-won wisdom that only the finest fiction achieves. The American short story has no finer practitioner.
—W.D. Wetherell

The World of Carnival

In this chapbook, you will find the first chapters of Carnival for the Gods, and the three novels that form a sequence from Gladys Swan’s comic fantasy, first published in the Vintage Contemporaries Series. The World of Carnival, continues with its original inhabitants and their struggles against the odds: Alta and Dusty, who dream big; the midget Curran, who undertakes a journey at the behest of the acrobat Elise, whose son has gone mad (Small Wonder); the Kid, who, after a long search, sets out to find the Seventh City, picking up along the way a melancholy Jew, who grew up there (The Dreamseekers). And, finally, a return to Alta, who finds herself drawn back to the circus to follow another set of dreams (Down to Earth). The series of novels explores the relations between life and art, reality and illusion, the openness to possibility and the capacity for the renewal of energies within a culture. It is the writer’s major work, and it is her dream that the sequence may one day be published.



“Gladys Swan has written a tough-talking, free-wheeling, high-flying study of ideas . . . ‘an inquiry into the nature of the peculiar.” With a fine irony, Carnival for the Gods places us front-row- center at the greatest show on earth: ourselves.”

—Kelly Cherry, Author of In the Wink of an Eye and The Lost Traveler’s Dream.

Carnival for the Gods is a book of holy and unholy struggle, but it’s not a struggle to read. Swan controls action, meditation, and an impressive number of memorable minor characters that entice the reader to follow the carnival through the exquisitely-drawn desert landscapes.”

—Prairie Schooner

Carnival for the Gods is an artful, curious book, adventuresome and compelling.”

—Chicago Tribune.

“. . . an enchantment worth the price of admission.”

The New York Times, Charles Johnson, Author of Middle Passage and Dreamer.

“Much of the beauty of Gladys’ Swan’s fiction inheres in her skill at balancing earthiness with cosmic vision.

Sewanee Review Thomas E. Kennedy, Author of In the Company of Angels.

Information about the Author

Gladys Swan has published two novels, Carnival for the Gods (Vintage Contemporaries Series) and Ghost Dance: A Play of Voices, nominated by LSU Press for the Pen/Faulkner Award. She has published six collections of short fiction, the most recent being A Garden Amid Fires. Her short fiction has appeared in such literary magazines as the Kenyon Review, Sewanee Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, Manoa, Ohio Review, and Prairie Schooner, where she was awarded the Lawrence Foundation Prize for Fiction. In 200l, she received the Tate Prize for Poetry from the Sewanee Review. She was awarded one of the first Open Fellowships from the Lilly Endowment for a study of Inuit art and mythology and has held residencies at Yaddo, the Fundacion Valpariso in Spain, and the Chateau de Lavigny in Switzerland, and the Martha’s Vineyard Writers’ Residency. She has received various fellowships for residencies in painting at the Vermont Studio Center, where she has also been a Guest Writer.

"Carnival of the Imagination: An Interview with Gladys Swan" by Joyce Townsend in Numéro Cinq


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