Inside Creative Writing
: Visit Robert Olen Butler writing one of the stories included in Had a Good Time
on the Web.From the acclaimed Pulitzer Prizewinning author, a captivating and enchanting book of stories inspired by old postcards
In his Pulitzer Prizewinning book Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
, Robert Olen Butler examined America through the unusual perspective of the eyes of Vietnamese postwar immigrants. Now, in his widely acclaimed Had a Good Time
, Butler rediscovers America using a fascinating kaleidoscope of postcards from a bygone era.
For many years Butler has collected picture postcards from the early twentieth centurynot so much for the pictures on the front but for the messages written on the backs, little bits of the captured souls of people long since passed away. Only Robert Olen Butler, who has been called a “master of enveloping his reader in the consciousness of a character” (Boston Book Review
), could use these brief messages of real people from another age to create fully imagined stories that speak to the universal human condition. In “Up by Heart,” a Tennessee miner is called upon to become a preacher, and then asked to complete an altogether more sinister task. In “The Ironworkers’ Hayride,” a young man named Milton embarks on a romantic adventure with a girl with a wooden leg. From the deeply moving “Carl and I,” where a young wife writes a postcard in reply to a card from her husband who is dying of tuberculosis, to the eerily familiar “The One in White,” where a newspaper reporter covers an incident of American military adventurism in a foreign land, these are intimate and fascinating glimpses into the lives of ordinary people in an extraordinary age.
Charged with sincerity, wit, and an eye into the stuff of human relationships, Had a Good Time
proves once again that Robert Olen Butler is “our preeminent practitioner of first-person narrative” (Chicago Tribune